Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Steelers Enter Free Agency, Sign Cotchery And Pope

The Steelers are known for not diving too deeply into the free agency pool. Often they simply dip their toes in the shallow end to test the waters to see if they want to swim or not. Aside from the cannonball in the form of Jerome Bettis, their moves have been calculated and generally close to the vest.

This year has been no different.

Manish Mehta tweeted today, Wednesday, that Steelers own free agent was the splash being made: "@TheJetsStream: WR Jerricho Cotchery has agreed to a two-year deal with the Steelers, per source. #nyj"

David Todd of speculated that the contract could be around $3 million. That would make sense: approximate $1 million signing bonus and structure the deal so that the second year salary cap hit is minimal; therefore most of the money is received in the first year.

This signing is also very key to the Steelers wide receiver corps on the whole. The young Steelers receivers can only benefit from his veteran presence. This blog has even referred to Cotchery in the past as "a younger & faster Hines Ward" and that the Steelers absolutely needed to re-sign him.

The veteran wide receiver essentially slid into Hines Ward’s role toward the end of last year. Cotchery is now back to fill that role again. Hopefully, also, to build an even better rapport with Big Ben.

Cotchery only caught 16 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games, but that was because he was hampered a good portion of the early part of the season because of a hamstring injury.

The Cotchery signing is also important because of his red zone prowess. Of the 20 touchdowns he's scored in his NFL career, 11 have come inside the 20-yard line.

I know he doesn't have any Sweat Hogs, but...

Only other splashing sound you may hear would be a jack knife off the diving board in the form of a long-term deal to keep Mike Wallace from swimming away.


Speaking of the red zone...

Tuesday the Steelers signed tight end Leonard Pope. Pope was a draft pivk of the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. He is 6'8" 264 lbs and is a big target in the red zone.

Pope has been with Steelers new offensive coordinator Todd Haley both in Arizona and in Kansas City, so it isn't a huge surprise. The Steelers certainly had a need for another pass catching tight end, especially with Weslye Saunders gone for the first four games of next season. The timing was a bit surprising, but not the signing itself. We could be looking at Todd Haley's first finger prints on the organization as I'm sure he had a say in it.

Does this spell the end for Saunders or David "DJ" Johnson? No, not Saunders. He has too much talent. I'm not sure how/if DJ fits, though, because of two things: the offense Haley will run isn't yet known, and the Steelers have practice squad players and offseason signings Jamie McCoy and Will Johnson nipping at DJ's ankles as well.

Will this amount to a good tight end signing, one who'll contribute to the team? Or is Pope another John Gilmore or Kevan Barlow? Time will tell.