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: Jesse James will follow B.J. Finney in returning to the Steelers shortly on a one-year contract.
Explanation: Things seem to be falling into place for the Steelers this offseason—at least in some aspects—with former players at need positions being let go and providing a golden opportunity to secure some cheap quality depth in advance of the draft. B.J. Finney was signed yesterday, and with Jesse James recently released, he could well return too to replace the retired Vance McDonald.
Just like B.J. Finney, Jesse James signed a deal against an inflated market for more than he was worth, and is now facing a depleted market. As a mid-level veteran, it is just his sort of profile that is getting axed this offseason, meaning that he is probably going to be stuck settling for a cheap contract.
It makes sense, then, to go back where you started, and while he might have had some things to say about his Steelers career after leaving (much of which was far from wrong), I have no doubt that he would very much like to return, especially since the circumstances are different.
The opportunity is clearly there, as the Steelers have no number two tight end right now nor blocking tight end with Vance McDonald’s retirement. Eric Ebron is capable of being the number one pass-catching tight end, but they need a blocker, and there’s no reason he can’t easily see 300-plus snaps.
James has a bit higher of a profile than Finney, though not necessarily by much, which means that he has at least the chance of having a market. Generally, the draft in recent years hasn’t been very deep at tight end, either, especially if you’re looking for someone to block. He found a deal with the Lions two years ago, so there’s no reason to think he can’t find something out there now.
Then there are the remarks that he made about the deteriorating locker room in his final year with the team. One can argue that things have changed since then, but not everybody will agree with that. And perhaps those remarks weren’t received kindly in the building, either, though I doubt that would make re-signing prohibitive if he actually wanted to come back.