Player: B.J. Finney
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights
2016 Salary Cap Hit: $450,000
2016 Season Breakdown:
Originally going undrafted following the 2015 NFL Draft, B.J. Finney already came to the team with a reputation for a somewhat famous video of himself emotionally announcing to a gathering of friends and family that he would be signing with the Steelers, of whom he is a fan.
With a story like that, Finney was a ready-made fan-favorite, but it’s not exactly as though his play on the field wasn’t deserving of similar recognition. Although he lacks some athleticism—which I concede has improved—he displays quite a bit of the traits that you would like to see in a lineman.
After spending a stretch of his rookie season on the practice squad, Finney made the 53-man roster in year two and in part due to injury became the top interior reserve. With Ramon Foster dealing with a pectoral injury in Week Four, he had to start against the Chiefs, and he played a very solid game, helping the team run successfully against a quality defense.
Finney also started against the Bills later in the season and helped Le’Veon Bell make team history while racking up nearly 300 all-purpose yards. He also started the season finale at center while some starters rested, but had his struggles with Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton.
One thing I noticed that was substantially different from his play in the regular season to even his work in the 2016 preseason is what I mentioned earlier, that his lack of athleticism seemed to be less of a hindrance. He also was able to pull effectively multiple times in his second start. I can’t imagine any informed observer not being pleased with his second-year development.
Free Agency Outlook:
First of all, let’s be honest here. I know there has been quite a bit of discussion among the fan base in recent years about finding the successor to Foster. Many of them are even actively searching for his replacement. But the reality is quite simply that Foster is not only still playing at a high level, he is playing some of the best football of his career.
The former undrafted free agent may have turned 31 this year, but he has shown no signs of slowing down—not that he was every particularly fast to begin with—and he still has two years left on his most recent contract at an extremely affordable rate.
This is my way of saying that we are not talking about B.J. Finney right now as a future starter in the foreseeable future, but rather as a potential quality backup. Perhaps by the time he is set to hit unrestricted free agency in a few years the situation might be different, but it is not right now. the Steelers’ interior offensive line is stacked and there is no place for him among the starters.
That is not to say that he does not have the capability of being a quality starter, as he gave the team some quality starts—specifically his two starts at guard, less so his start at center—but right now his future is being a player who can come off the bench and fill in without missing a beat, which is an incredibly valuable asset to have. That is why they made no hesitation in extending him his exclusive rights deal for $540,000 as a second-year player.