Player: Javon Hargrave
Position: Defensive Tackle
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2019 Salary Cap Hit: $2,198,314
2019 Season Breakdown:
Originally drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Javon Hargrave was a small-school prospect who was just so highly productive at his level that he couldn’t be ignored. He was the first player from a small school the team had drafted within the first three rounds in quite a quite, and that ‘gamble’ paid off.
Over the course of his four-year career in Pittsburgh, he registered 168 tackles with 22 for a loss, with 14.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one recovered (for a touchdown), and two passes defensed. He had among the highest ‘win’ rates as a pass rusher among interior defenders last season.
In 2019, he blew away his previous career-high in tackles, registering 60, which is a significant amount both for the position he plays and for the number of snaps he plays, though of course he played more snaps last season than he ordinarily would due to injury.
While he is adept as a pass rusher, his run defense has been long wrongfully ignored, and he displayed some of his best work in this department last year, starting with his career-high seven tackles for loss. While he is capable of taking on double teams, he is most effective as a penetrator, and he can do this not just in a disruptive faculty, but also while making the plays himself.
Hargrave was pretty much everything that the Steelers wanted Steve McLendon to be, the guy they were disappointed with losing in free agency in 2016, and which prompted drafting him. Unfortunately, he is likely to leave in free agency now, and I’m not optimistic about his replacement being his equal.
Free Agency Outlook:
Everybody assumes it’s a foregone conclusion that Hargrave is going to sign with another organization in free agency. I think that’s a pretty safe assumption. And that was long before he hired Drew Rosenhaus to be his agent. It’s not as though the Steelers haven’t worked with Rosenhaus before, but it’s always been in the cards that he would find a bigger opportunity elsewhere.
The simple fact of the matter is that the Steelers’ scheme doesn’t offer a player at Hargrave’s position enough snaps to justify paying him a lot, even if the team actually had the salary cap space this offseason to afford paying him.
They are already paying two defensive linemen eight-figure salaries in Cameron Heyward, a first-team All-Pro, and Stephon Tuitt, who when healthy is every bit as physically gifted as his veteran teammate. Hargrave will earn them a nice comp pick, but unfortunately we’ve seen the last of him in the black and gold.