Texans Signing Failed Steelers, Patriots Wide Receiver: Report

Donte Moncrief

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Donte Moncrief, No. 11 of the Pittsburgh Steelers, at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2019.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Houston Texans are signing wide receiver Donte Moncrief to a one-year contract. Moncrief is exhibiting remarkable staying power, especially when one considers how he fared at his last three NFL stops — with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets and New England Patriots.

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Moncrief Had an Underwhelming 2020 …

After a disastrous season with the Steelers in 2019, it appeared as if Moncrief might have trouble getting another chance in the NFL. But he got a tryout with the San Francisco 49ers last August and then a tryout with the New York Jets, who inked him days later.

After he failed to make New York’s 53-man roster (despite the Jets having arguably the weakest wide receiver corps in the NFL), the club released him, only to sign him back to the practice squad. Yet it was just three days before he landed on practice squad injured reserve. The Jets finally cut him in mid-October, around the same time they parted ways with former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

But again, Moncrief landed on his feet, getting a tryout with the New England Patriots in late October 2020, after which New England signed him to its practice squad. Moncrief fared a little better with the Pats, appearing in six games and catching one pass for 15 yards while rushing once for 4 yards. He even managed to spark a Patriots comeback win (against the Arizona Cardinals) by authoring a 53-yard kickoff return.

… And an Even Worse 2019

But the 19 yards from scrimmage that Moncrief produced for the Patriots was more than he produced for the Steelers between September and November 2019. After he suffered a finger injury in training camp that year, Moncrief dropped four passes in Pittsburgh’s season-opening loss to the Patriots and was responsible for Mason Rudolph’s first career interception in the team’s Week 2 loss to Seattle.

All in all, he caught four passes for 18 yards for the Steelers before they waived him in November 2019, a move that preserved an expected compensatory third-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

This story has a happy ending, though, as the Steelers ultimately received that pick and utilized it to draft outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, who figures to start opposite T.J. Watt in 2021, with Bud Dupree having signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency.

Donte Moncrief’s Decline Started in Pittsburgh

Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, Moncrief had a mostly successful NFL career. A third-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2014, Moncrief went on to appear in 53 games for Indy, catching 152 passes for 1,875 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had another successful season in 2018 (on a one-year “prove it” contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars), catching 48 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns.

It’s those seasons that led the Steelers to sign him to a two-year, $9 million contract in March 2019. In 2020, he was the second-biggest “dead money” liability on the team’s cap, taking up $1.75 million in salary cap space.

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