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 should look to trade James Washington with JuJu Smith-Schuster now re-signed.
Explanation: Both Smith-Schuster and Washington will now be free agents in 2022. Unless he signs very modestly next year, Washington most certainly is not going to be given an extension or a new deal, not with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool in the pipeline. With Smith-Schuster back, Washington will not play very much. They could at least get something for Washington, possibly even a blocking tight end.
The wide receiver market is weak right now, but teams will probably be more willing to trade for a cheap wide receiver than they would be to sign one on the open market. Washington is simply not going to play very much, so they can at least get some value out of him.
Starting in week six, Washington had only a few games in which he played at least 30 snaps, and one of those was exactly 30 snaps in the meaningless season finale. Claypool will be much further along this year than he was last year, and Johnson seems to be in a better place mentally.
There are wide receiver-needy teams out there. Perhaps even teams who have an extra blocking tight end they might be willing to do a one-for-one trade for. And you know the Steelers are going to draft another wide receiver this year. If you have a guy who is going to play 250-300 snaps and then leave in free agency on a deal that isn’t even going to net you a compensatory pick, then it makes sense to move on.
We’ve been down this road before in terms of wide receiver depth. You can never have too many talented wide receivers, because at some point during the season, you’re going to need them. Darrius Heyward-Bey was starting at one point in 2016. We’ve had Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers and Tevin Jones and Deon Cain logging meaningful snaps.
Washington is far from perfect, but he has gotten better and better each year, and if the Steelers have any hope of getting the deep ball on track, they probably don’t want to lose one of their better threats. He helps add a wrinkle to the offense that they haven’t been able to link up lately, and not due to his own play.