While the point has become moot since the Pittsburgh Steelers signed free agent interior offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, there remains some degree of uncertainty about how and why B.J. Finney ended up leaving in free agency, rather than re-signing with the team he grew up rooting for.
A couple of theories have been proposed, perhaps some even a little more than theories, enlightened by inside knowledge. For example, Gerry Dulac in a recent chat session described his departure as “one of those cases where they weren’t going to stand in his way if he got a better deal but to check back just in case they would think about matching”.
Finney, at 28 and entering his fifth season, ended up signing a two-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks worth reportedly up to $9.5 million. The last and largest contract that Ramon Foster received throughout his career, signing in 2019, was two years for $8.25 million. He collected $4.25 million prior to announcing his retirement earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Bob Labriola, as he always does when discussing free agents who have signed elsewhere, reminds that getting a deal done requires two parties. In Finney’s case, he sees it as a situation in which he has a better opportunity of starting in Seattle than he does in Pittsburgh.
With the Steelers, they have two entrenched, All-Pro starters at center and right guard in Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro. While there is an opening at left guard with Foster gone, Pittsburgh already showed its willingness to move Matt Feiler inside as a possible alternative.
The Seahawks’ entire interior offensive line is a question mark. Center Justin Britt suffered a torn ACL in late October and is obviously still rehabbing from that injury. Both starting linemen, Mike Iupati and Germain Ifedi, are currently on the market as unrestricted free agents. Iupati was a Pro Bowl guard last year. “His chances of cracking their starting lineup must have seemed better to him than his chances of breaking out of the mold as the backup center here”, he wrote.
Either here or there, Finney is not being guaranteed a starting job, but he would have clearly, I think, been in the mix regardless of which team he signed with. As previously reported by Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers were in extension talks with Finney when the Seahawks essentially outbid them and they were seemingly unwilling to match.
What does that say about how they view Finney? Personally, I think it says more about how they feel about their salary cap resources relative to the rest of their offensive line. They believe they have a starting guard in Matt Feiler, who has twice as many career starts as Finney (albeit mostly at tackle), while they also are comfortable with the depth they have at tackle in Zach Banner and Okorafor.
They evidently believe that they can get at least one starter out of those two, and likely also feel pretty good about the quality of the offensive linemen that will be available in the draft class. Everything mentioned in this article—including not wanting to stand in Finney’s way of potentially a more assured opportunity—will likely have factored into his parting company with the team he roots for on Sundays as a fan.