The Dallas Cowboys could be a landing spot for one of the top young receivers in the game.
In a list of blockbuster trade ideas compiled by Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, Knox proposed the Cowboys trade a 2023 second-round draft pick for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
Knox explains how Johnson’s desire for a new contract — he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal — combined with the Cowboys’ need for another veteran receiver would make this trade a logical one.
“If the Steelers aren’t willing to lock up Johnson, they could trade him out of the conference and to the Dallas Cowboys, who lost both Amari Cooper (traded) and Cedrick Wilson Jr. in the offseason,” says Knox. “Dallas is talented enough to make a Super Bowl push in the NFC but could use another veteran receiver to remain in the upper echelon. Dallas has CeeDee Lamb, drafted Jalen Tolbert and signed Johnson’s former teammate, James Washington, but presumed No. 2 receiver Michael Gallup is coming off a torn ACL.”
Knox explains how both sides would prosper from the deal — especially considering the Steelers are in possible rebuilding mode with rookie Kenny Pickett very likely taking snaps this season.
“Adding Johnson would help ensure that Dallas’ top-ranked offense keeps rolling,” says Knox. “The Steelers, meanwhile, would get more in return than they would by losing Johnson for a compensatory pick in 2023 free agency.”
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Steelers Not Willing to Pay Johnson Big Money: Report
As Knox also mentions, the Steelers might not be so willing to offer Johnson the three-year, $70 million deal that the Washington Commanders offered Terry McLaurin recently. In fact, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reports that’s exactly the case.
“They aren’t offering him anything near McLaurin or anybody else that got more than $20 million per year,” says Kaboly. “They will offer him something, and it won’t be what he thinks he can get on the market, and he will get paid next year somewhere else. That’s the way I see it working out now. Spotrac projects his market value at $22 million per year. The Steelers aren’t paying a receiver $22 million per year.”
The Steelers recently selected two receivers — George Pickens in the second round and Calvin Austin III in the fourth round — in the 2022 NFL draft. Considering Pittsburgh’s recent draft moves and their affinity for producing quality receivers (Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Juju Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool) in recent years, Pittsburgh could simply find a trade suitor rather than sign Johnson.
Johnson Would Fit Well With Bigger-Framed Cowboys Receivers
Johnson would more than fill the void left by the departures of Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson. The 26-year-old receiver is coming off of his first Pro Bowl campaign after catching 107 passes for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns.
The small-framed Johnson (5-foot-10, 183 pounds) would fit in well as a potential slot option to the bigger-framed CeeDee Lamb (6-foot-2) and Michael Gallup (6-foot-1, 205 pounds). Furthermore, the Cowboys are expected to be without Gallup for the first two or three weeks of the season due to his recovery from ACL surgery.
According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson posted a 74.2 offensive grade and 74.6 receiving grade last season. Among all receivers with at least 100 targets, Johnson ranked 25th in offensive grade and 27th in receiving grade. For perspective, those grades were better than any Cowboys receiver last season with the exception of Lamb.
With the Cowboys looking to load up in their quest for a Super Bowl and the Steelers looking to possibly rebuild, a Johnson-to-Cowboys trade makes perfect sense.