Player: Dwayne Haskins
Experience: 3 Years
Free Agent Status: Restricted
2021 Salary Cap Hit: $850,000
2021 Season Breakdown:
For the first time in many years for Dwayne Haskins, the 2021 season saw him doing a lot of observing, rather than playing. While he was never a consistent starter during his brief two-year tenure with the Washington Commanders in 2019-2020, he did receive a good deal of playing time, to the tune of 13 starts.
But his time in the nation’s capital proved to be brief, waived by the end of his second season, a very rare fate for a former first-round quarterback. He went unclaimed off waivers, no team willing to pick up the rest of his rookie contract.
While he purportedly had offers to join multiple teams, he says he chose to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers in early January last year on a Reserve/Future deal for a veteran-minimum salary that included no signing bonus, seeing an opportunity there.
In the end, he spent all but one game serving as the number three quarterback and a healthy scratch. The only game in which he dressed was the Detroit Lions game, when Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 the day before the game. Mason Rudolph started, and Haskins dressed as his backup, but did not play.
During the season, as well as after, members of the coaching staff and front office spoke of Haskins, and the decision to sign him, as a no-risk, high-reward proposition. It cost them nothing to sign him (if he didn’t make the team, he would have generated no dead money), but if they could actually get the most out of him, he has the talent to be a franchise quarterback.
Of course, that has been said of many, many players across many positions over the course of the history of the game, and few have actually turned the corner and became the players they were expected to be when they were first drafted, whether with their original team or another team that saw a redemption opportunity in him.
Free Agency Outlook:
Regardless of how things actually turn out, the Steelers have already stated their intentions to tender Haskins, who is a restricted free agent, to keep him under contract. As a former first-round pick, the Steelers will be protected against another team signing him to an offer sheet, as said team would have to be willing to part with a first-round draft pick in order to do so.
Safely secured under contract, Haskins will enter the offseason in a purported open competition to take over the starting job from the retiring Roethlisberger. While Mason Rudolph, who is in his fifth season with the team, would be the favorite, if Haskins is actually the sort of player they imagine he could be—which, again, he probably is not—he should be able to overtake Rudolph over the course of the offseason.
Of course, they will also be bringing in two other quarterbacks, through some vehicle or another. Could Joshua Dobbs be one of them? Could a rookie undrafted free agent be one of them? Maybe they’ll be Russell Wilson and Malik Willis.