While it was not a surprise that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost unrestricted free agent offensive lineman B.J. Finney, some were surprised by the price for which they lost him. According to reports, the fifth-year interior offensive lineman agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks that includes some incentives that could raise the total value a bit.
After Ramon Foster retired, wouldn’t $4 million per season have been a fair price to pay for a starting left guard? So why didn’t the Steelers try to retain him? According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, they did, but the Seahawks outbid them.
He wrote on Twitter late last night that the two parties “had planned to work out an extension, but the team wasn’t ready to reach Seattle’s two-year, $9.5 million deal”. In theory, this means that that Finney could still change his mind, or the Steelers could as well. Deals cannot be finalized until this evening. And we see almost every year that at least one or two players change their minds following an early report on an agreement.
Steelers and B.J. Finney had planned to work out and extension, but the team wasn’t ready to reach Seattle’s two-year, $9.5-million deal. So, Finney’s a Seahawk.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 18, 2020
So, again, until 4PM today, whenever the Seahawks actually finalize a contract with Finney, it’s still a theoretical possibility that he could end up remaining with the Steelers, though I would not expect that to happen at this point.
With that said, I would like to walk back the narrative that has surfaced which suggests that, because the Steelers did not retain him at this price, it’s clear that they were not ‘high’ on him or did not view him as a long-term starter.
Aside from the fact that they were already willing to pay him over $3 million last season knowing that he was still going to be in a backup role, we cannot view this decision in a vacuum. The Steelers were tight against the cap this year, with three linemen hitting free agency in one form or another, and they had options.
Their first option was to re-sign Finney, but it wasn’t their only option. They decided that the difference between Plan A and Plan B wasn’t a big as the salary cap cost they would be facing with the Seahawks pushing to land Finney.
It would not be accurate, I think, to suggest that ‘the writing was on the wall’ last year when the Steelers allowed Matt Feiler to start a game at left guard when Foster was injured. This didn’t guarantee that they would move on from Finney.
What it meant is that they were exploring their alternatives, giving them the largest possible set of data on which to make a decision. They know they have a starter-capable guard in Feiler, and they know they have some depth at tackle. Had their situation been otherwise, you better believe they would have paid up to keep Finney.