Onward we go with our player by player look at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Free Agents as we get closer to the beginning of the 2012 free agency period. I have finished my analysis on all of the Steelers restricted free agents and we now move forward to the unrestricted free agents. We will kick off the unrestricted group by taking a look at wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
Player: Jerricho Cotchery
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 8 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2011 Salary Cap Hit: $860,000.00
2011 Season Breakdown: Cotchery signed with the Steelers right as the preseason was getting underway and they got him at a bargain basement price on a one year deal. He did not hit the field until the second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles and injured his hamstring late in the game. The injury kept him sidelined through the first 3 weeks of the regular season and his snaps were very few and far between until the week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals when Hines Ward went down with an ankle injury. From that point on he was used primarily in 4 receiver sets and occasionally in 3 receiver sets. He also did not record his first reception until the week 8 game against the New England Patriots and recorded just 16 regular season catches good for 237 yards in just over 300 snaps on offense. He chipped in 2 touchdowns in the process and was targeted a total of 27 times in the regular season. In the AFC Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos, Cotchery had a 31-yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter to tie the game that eventually went into overtime.
Cotchery is not a burner and is regarded mostly as a possession receiver that works best in the slot. He is an above average route runner that has a knack for finding soft areas of the field against zone type coverages. He can be physical when he needs to when pressed off of the line of scrimmage, but does have issues at times gaining separation. He is an above average blocker who always shows willingness to put his body on a run defender, but is no where close to being as accomplished as Ward is. He can be considered best as a poor man\’s Ward, if you will. He will turn 30 years of age prior to the start of the 2012 season and is regarded as a great asset in the lockerroom and has a strong character. Cotchery\’s days of being a solid special teams contributor are way behind him, but he can return punts in a pinch if needed.
At this point in his career, Cotchery is a 3rd wide receiver at best and probably better suited as a 4th receiver on a depth chart. He is very smart and can make tough catches look easy. He also is good for a drop every now and again though.
Free Agency Outlook: Cotchery is unrestricted and the Steelers will allow him to test the free agency waters. There was a lot of concern last offseason with him concerning his health following his early offseason back surgery, but he seems fully recovered from that now. The hamstring injury that forced him to miss the early part of the season was an unfortunate incident, but he did not have any more issues with it once he returned to game action. His 2011 stats will not turn a lot of heads in free agency more than likely, so he will likely remain unsigned until the initial rush of free agency is over. There is hope of him returning to the Steelers in 2012 and both side seem genuinely interested in that happening. Cotchery his hoping for a 4 or 5 year deal to return to Pittsburgh, but if he does so, it will be at a bargain basement price and in a very limited role. It likely will not be for any more than 3 years either. His status will also be dependent on what ultimately happens with Ward, as it is very unlikely that the Steelers will attempt to resign him if they decide to let Ward return. He would make a great mentor to the young receivers on the roster should he be back and would fit in nicely as the 4th wide receiver on the depth chart. He very well could attract interest from other teams, so I would say that there is at best a 50/50 chance he is back with the Steelers in 2012.
Other 2012 Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Mike Wallace – Restricted Free Agent
Keenan Lewis – Restricted Free Agent
Doug Legursky – Restricted Free Agent
Ramon Foster – Restricted Free Agent
David Johnson – Restricted Free Agent
Ryan Mundy – Restricted Free Agent
Jamon Meredith – Restricted Free Agent
Max Starks – Unestricted Free Agent
Mewelde Moore – Unestricted Free Agent
Byron Leftwich – Unestricted Free Agent
Charlie Batch – Unestricted Free Agent
Dennis Dixon – Unestricted Free Agent
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