Player: James Pierre
Experience: 3 Years
Free Agent Status: Restricted
2022 Salary Cap Hit: $898,000
2022 Season Breakdown:
The Pittsburgh Steelers did not count on James Pierre being a major contributor in 2022 while arranging their free agency plans. They re-signed Ahkello Witherspoon and then added Levi Wallace as an unrestricted free agent, leaving the third-year veteran to serve as depth.
That’s reflected in the fact that he played zero snaps on defense over the first four games. He began to see time after Witherspoon was injured, and he did end up starting two games while the cornerback room was dealing with a variety of ailments.
On the whole, one could say that he did play better this past season than a year earlier. He made fewer big mistakes in coverage, most notably, but that could also be reflective of having less long-term exposure over the length of full games.
With that being said, he did start to play more in the second half of the season as the defense started to move away from using Arthur Maulet as their primary sub-package defender. He saw double-digit snaps in six of the final seven games. He finished the year with 29 tackles with one interception, four passes defensed, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. And he played nearly 200 snaps on special teams to boot.
Free Agency Outlook:
Just in case anybody is wondering (which they’re not) why James Pierre’s cap hit was $3000 more than Steven Sims’, as we looked at yesterday, it’s because Pierre was actually still playing under his original three-year rookie contract he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020. His deal included a $9000 signing bonus, so the hit was spread out over three years. Hence, $3000 more.
With that being said, I’m relatively confident that the Steelers will extend an original-round restricted free agent tender to Pierre, which would mean that they would only have the right of first refusal to match any contract offer another team gives him. That tender is $2,627,000. The second-round tender is $4,304,000, and that’s too steep a price to pay to worry about losing him.
The only way I could see them even considering that would be if they released Witherspoon and also decided not to re-sign Sutton or add anybody else in free agency, and had a higher opinion of him than most realized. In other words, don’t count on that happening.
In fact, they would be more likely not to tender him at all and allow him to test the open market rather than to tag him at a second-round level, counting on their being able to re-sign him on a cheaper deal, perhaps for around $2 million. After all, how much of a difference is it for an undrafted free agent to have an original-round tender? All you get is the right of first refusal, and in most cases a free agent would present their original team with any offer they receive with the option to match that deal.