Before we get on to the topic at hand we should note that with the 49ers signing of free agent Mario Manningham, there isn’t much left for the Steelers Mike Wallace. The hoopla at the start of free agency, with all the suitors that he would have banging down his door at 4pm on March 13th; is all just an afterthought now. The Steelers appear, for the time being at least, pretty comfortable with the situation as it is with him. He’ll sign his first round tender at some point and with any luck they’ll be able to get a long term deal done with him before training camp is over.
Everybody knows the Steelers are never big players in free agency and most are pretty content with that mindset. They always keep their eyes on the market for value and depth though and this year is no different. Even if they don’t have much cap room to lure in outside prospects, there is one guy they should be prioritizing, and that’s Jerricho. They’ve talked with Cotchery’s agent and both sides would like to get a deal done but nothing has been agreed upon yet, in principle or otherwise. The Jets have expressed interest in bringing back their former player and Jerricho has said he will keep all options open. We certainly can’t blame him for that, the career of an NFL player is short so you have to get what you can get, when you can get it.
With Hines Ward now in the rear view mirror, the security blanket that the Steelers have had for so long is gone. With so much youth at receiver now, bringing back a veteran like Cotchery should be a priority. Receivers coach Scottie Montgomery has done a great job bringing along Wallace, Brown, and Sanders so far; the future is clearly bright for all 3 of them. Having a veteran presence though, a guy who’s been there done that can’t be overlooked, someone that can relate to the young talent on their level and help be a teacher as well as a contributor on the field. Jerricho is a younger version of Hines Ward and brings additional toughness and fearlessness, a great 3rd down option and safety net should Sander’s foot issues resurface for example. You just never know when injuries will strike and even a unit that appears deep can become an area of need before you know it.
Don’t forget, no matter what happens with Wallace’s contract this year, both Sanders and Brown will be restricted free agents next year. As we’ve seen, RFA’s don’t get much attention in the market but in the event that one of them gets the urge to test his worth the following year, you’ll have insurance already signed and on the roster, in Cotchery.
The Steelers have managed to free up more money by the most recent restructure of Casey Hampton, which puts them between $4.5 – $5 million under the cap after all the restricted free agent tenders are accounted for. They won’t need much more to sign their draft picks, if that’s all they are going do but if they want to go after Jerricho Cotchery they’ll likely need some additional cash on hand. It’s not even that Jerricho will command a huge salary but anything they spend right now pushes them closer to the limit.
Additional funds could come by way of restructures to James Harrison or Troy Polamlu; both of whom wouldn’t have a problem helping out the team in that manner.
Cotchery’s 1 yr. deal last year was for $810,000, basically a bargain for an established player with the 8 years of NFL experience that he has to his name. In a perfect scenario they’d likely prefer to sign him to a 3 yr deal and then reevaluate the situation after that. In today’s NFL though, nothing is for certain but if the Steelers are going to any type of splash, or ripple, in free agency then Jerricho Cotchery should be the man.