The Pittsburgh Steelers elected to play it safe earlier this offseason when they made the decision to place the restricted free agent tender of a second-round level on fourth-year offensive lineman B.J. Finney, which pays him a salary of around $4 million.
Perhaps that was wise. Finney, who has started about half a season’s worth of games over the course of this first three seasons across all three interior offensive line positions, has played very well at times, and it wouldn’t be a shock if there were somebody in the market for him.
Respected football analyst Matt Williamson thinks there may be a team that will place a call even at the second-round level, which would mean that, if Finney accepts an offer sheet and the Steelers choose not to match it, the signing team would have to give Pittsburgh a second-round pick.
With New Orleans Saints center Max Unger reportedly making the decision to retire, the franchise is looking for a new one for Drew Brees. That’s not a position that you want to mess with too much, especially for a team that was on the cusp of the Super Bowl last season with an aging starter at quarterback.
In a Tweet yesterday, Williamson noted that the free agent market for the center position is slim—especially after Mitch Morse and Matt Paradis quickly signed new deals—but noted that there are some in the draft that they could consider trading up for.
Alternatively, he suggested the name of Finney, saying that he “is legit” and that it “might be worth it” for a team that is making a Super Bowl run at the end of a franchise quarterback’s career. He did mention the second-round tender, so he was aware of that fact when he made the comment.
Very little in the way of Free Agent Centers still available, but some good ones that #Saints could trade up for in Draft…Send 2nd to #Steelers for BJ Finney? Finney is legit…might be worth it for “Win Now” franchise https://t.co/Dns3Whn1sb
— Matt Williamson (@WilliamsonNFL) March 16, 2019
Frankly, I would be awfully surprised if a team were willing to give up a second-round pick for a lineman who hasn’t had a more than two or three consecutive starts in his career. While he has performed well with the opportunities he has been given, and very well may be capable of playing at a high level on a full-time basis, that’s a heavy price tag to find out.
There’s also the fact that most of his playing time in the NFL has been at guard, and he has also performed better at guard than at center. Truthfully, I think that has largely been coincidental and that he could play perfectly well there if it were necessary.
Nevertheless, the point is that, in light of Unger’s retirement and the top centers having already been taken off the market, it’s looking even more like it was a smart decision to put the second-round tender on Finney. It’s the next-highest tender above the original-round tender, and given that Finney was undrafted, the Steelers would only be afforded the right of first refusal with not compensation if he were to sign an offer sheet they didn’t match.