The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Neither Ramon Foster nor B.J. Finney will be with the Steelers in 2020.
Explanation: B.J. Finney is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in March. He has about a dozen quality starts under his belt now over the past four seasons at all three interior line positions, and it’s reasonable to believe somebody will sign him to be a starter. That team could be Pittsburgh if they choose to release the 34-year-old Ramon Foster, who has acknowledged that he understands that’s a possibility. But it’s also a possibility that they release Foster while also failing to re-sign Finney.
The Baltimore Ravens’ offensive linemen have a history of being overpaid in free agency. Just look at the contract that Ryan Jensen got a couple of years ago after making a whopping 25 career starts. Granted, he did start a full season prior to hitting free agency, but Finney’s body of work is substantial enough to garner a very respectable contract that Pittsburgh may not be in position to match.
I bring to mind the offseason of 2014, during which the Steelers expected to lose Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, while counting on retaining Jerricho Cotchery. Even Cotchery thought he would be staying. Then the Carolina Panthers offered up. They had to replace him with Lance Moore, drafting Martavis Bryant and Dri Archer.
The Steelers already hinted at their plans when they allowed Matt Feiler to start at left guard for one game that Foster missed. He will move to left guard in 2020 with the team understanding that its depth, with Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner, is at tackle.
The Steelers are not going to release Foster if they sense that they will not be able to hold onto Finney, and they should get a sense for that well before free agency starts. I don’t think there’s really much of any worry of this happening. It’s very likely that one of them leaves, but frankly, it’s more likely that both stay rather than both leave.
As has often been the case in the past, many are overestimating Finney’s market value. The Jensen comparison can only go so far, for the reason already named, which is that he started for an entire season. Finney just has bits of action here and there. He may get a nice offer, but would he pass up a starting job for his childhood team?