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: The Steelers will lose B.J. Finney in unrestricted free agency.
Explanation: Now with something like a dozen starts under his belt, with multiple opportunities to start at each of left and right guard and center, B.J. Finney is hitting unrestricted free agency in March for the first time in his career, and doing so at the age of 28. There is every reason to believe that he will seek to earn as much as possible, given that this may be his one big chance to cash in.
Mike Tomlin already said that Bud Dupree is a priority for the Steelers. He probably wouldn’t have said something like that if their intention wasn’t at least to place a tag of some sort on him, and in order to do so, that is going to require sacrifices being made elsewhere. That is going to require allowing Finney to walk in free agency.
The Steelers already understand his value, which is why that paid him at the second-round restricted free agent tender. They know he has a market, and that he is going to command some dollars even though he’s never held a starting job.
They also know that they have Matt Feiler able to start at guard whenever Ramon Foster is done, with depth at tackle in Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor, and they will likely add a lineman in the draft as well. There is Derwin Gray, who wouldn’t be the first rookie practice squad player to come into his own later—like Finney and Feiler.
The Steelers shouldn’t be, and likely are not, comfortable with the prospect of either Banner or Okorafor being a full-time starter in 2020. Maybe even 2021. And Foster is almost assuredly going to be gone by then, if not within a few weeks.
Finney is still young enough where you can get several quality years out of him transitioning into a full-time starter. And because he’s never been a full-time starter, he’s not going to command that sort of money. Markets can surprise sometimes, and they may even be able to pay him for what they save by letting Foster go. He earned about $3 million last year, and Foster has a $4 million base salary in 2020.