Last week the New York Jets worked out former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief, this after the San Francisco 49ers did the same.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and NFL.com, the Jets are now planning to sign Moncrief “once he passes through his COVID-19 protocols.”
“He’ll provide depth,” notes Rapoport.
He’ll provide depth, if the Jets get the pre-Steelers version of Moncrief. If not, things could get ugly.
Steelers Signed Moncrief in 2019
If you recall, the Steelers signed Moncrief to a two-year, $9 million contract in March 2019, this after largely successful stints with two different teams.
A third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2014, Moncrief played in 53 games over the course of four seasons in Indy, catching a total of 152 passes for 1,875 yards and 18 touchdowns. Much of that production came with now-retired quarterback Andrew Luck.
Then Moncrief moved on the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he caught 48 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns in 2018 after signing a one-year “prove-it” deal.
But his experience with the Steelers in 2019 was something else entirely. Moncrief dropped four passes in a season-opening loss to the New England Patriots and was the cause of Mason Rudolph’s first career interception when a pass went through his hands during a week two loss to Seattle.
Moncrief went on to catch just one more pass for 11 yards before the Steelers waived him in November of last year, a move the Steelers needed to make to preserve the compensatory pick the team expected to receive for losing running Le’Veon Bell to the Jets—a picked that turned into outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.
Donte Moncrief a Salary Cap Liability for Steelers
But waiving Moncrief just eight months after signing him has had significant salary cap consequences for the Steelers. He’s the team’s second-biggest ‘dead money’ liability on Pittsburgh’s salary cap in 2020, counting $1.75 million this year, despite the fact that he’s no longer on the team.
Only former Steelers linebacker Mark Barron—who is visiting with the Denver Broncos—counts for more dead money this year, at $2.875 million. Those two players together make up more than half of the Steelers’ dead money in 2020.
Should the Jets Trade For JuJu Smith-Schuster?
Considering the need the Jets (still) have at wide receiver—and considering the roster-shattering salary cap issues facing the Steelers next season—there’s a good argument to be made that the Jets should try to acquire JuJu Smith-Schuster from Pittsburgh.
That’s because the Jets need to add offensive weapons to aid in their ongoing evaluation of third-year quarterback Sam Darnold, who is familiar with Smith-Schuster, as they had success playing together at the University of Southern California. And unlike the Steelers, the Jets can afford to extend Smith-Schuster’s contract, something they would likely want to do if they acquired him in a trade.
To be sure, the Steelers may not be inclined to part with Smith-Schuster considering that they have a playoff-caliber team and may be a Super Bowl contender. But if the Jets offer enough draft capital, it might entice the Steelers to make a deal, especially considering the rapid development of second-round pick Chase Claypool, who Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said is ‘going to be a problem’ for defenders all over the league.
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