A week ago, the wide receiver-desperate New York Jets chose to sign former Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts receiver Donte Moncrief. If you lived through Moncrief’s half-season or so with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, you probably weren’t optimistic about Moncrief’s chances of making New York’s 53-man roster. And if you guessed he’d be released on cut-down day, you’d be right. On Saturday the Jets cut Moncrief, along with fellow receivers Lawrence Cager, George Campbell, Jehu Chesson, Josh Malone and D.J. Montgomery.
At the same time, former Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos QB Joe Flacco made the Jets’ active roster, so he will begin the year as one of Sam Darnold’s backups.
Steelers Signed Moncrief in 2019
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Moncrief to a two-year, $9 million contract in March of last year. He had been mostly successful with two previous NFL teams after being a third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2014. During four seasons in Indianapolis he played in 53 games, catching a total of 152 passes for 1,875 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Then Moncrief moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he caught 48 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. So far, so good.
Then came Pittsburgh, where it all went horribly wrong for Moncrief and the Steelers, with a finger injury suffered in training camp perhaps playing a role in the veteran receiver’s struggles. Moncrief dropped four passes in Pittsburgh’s season-opening loss to the New England Patriots and was responsible for Mason Rudolph’s first career interception in a week two loss to Seattle, and that was pretty much the end of the Moncrief experiment in Pittsburgh. He went on to catch just one more pass before the Steelers waived him in November of last year.
Donte Moncrief Remains a Salary Cap Liability
The timing of Moncrief’s release from the Steelers wasn’t random. The Steelers had to cut Moncrief by a set November deadline to preserve the possibility of receiving a compensatory draft pick for losing running back Le’Veon Bell to the New York Jets. As it turns out, they did receive that compensatory pick, which the team used to select outside linebacker Alex Highsmith in the 2020 NFL Draft.
But even now, Moncrief remains a salary cap problem for the Steelers. In fact, he’s the team’s second-biggest ‘dead money’ liability, counting $1.75 million this year. Only former linebacker Mark Barron counts for more dead money this season at $2.875 million.
Should the Steelers Consider Trading JuJu Smith-Schuster to the Jets?
Considering the need the Jets still have at wide receiver—and considering the impending salary cap issues facing the Steelers in 2021—there’s a strong argument to be made that the Jets should try to acquire fourth-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster from Pittsburgh.
Among other things, the Jets still need to add offensive weapons to aid in their ongoing evaluation of third-year QB Sam Darnold, who happens to be familiar with Smith-Schuster, as they experienced significant success playing together in college. And unlike the Steelers, the Jets can afford to extend Smith-Schuster’s contract, should they wish to do so.
While it’s unlikely that the Steelers would be willing to part with Smith-Schuster in a season where they see themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the Jets have the draft capital to entice the Steelers into making a deal.
Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!