Bengals Release Ex-Steelers Offensive Lineman

BJ Finney

Rob Carr/Getty Images Quarterback Devlin Hodges of the Pittsburgh Steelers waits for the snap from center B.J. Finney on December 29, 2019.

On Friday morning the Cincinnati Bengals announced the release of former Pittsburgh Steelers center/guard B.J. Finney. The Bengals acquired Finney in a trade with Seattle in October of last year, sending veteran defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap to the Seahawks in exchange for Finney and a seventh-round draft pick. Yet he went on to appear in just one game for Cincinnati and didn’t play a single offensive snap.


Finney Went from Pittsburgh to Seattle to Cincinnati …

The Seahawks signed Finney, 29, to a two-year, $8 million contract in March of last year, expecting that he would earn a starting job, but he couldn’t break into Seattle’s lineup.

As a result, Seattle traded him to Cincinnati—acquiring Dunlap in an effort to bolster its exceptionally weak pass rush.

The trade was attractive for the Bengals because it allowed them to shed Dunlap’s salary in 2020 and 2021 while acquiring a late-round draft pick in the process. If Finney became a contributor on the offensive line, that would have been a bonus. By releasing him, Cincinnati saves Finney’s $3.1 million salary, though he will count for $1 million in ‘dead money’ on its 2021 salary cap.


… And Now Back to Pittsburgh?

The Steelers didn’t necessarily want to lose B.J. Finney in free agency. At the same time, there was no way they wanted to pay him $4 million a year to remain in Pittsburgh. That was a significant overpay for an undrafted free agent lineman who had never started more than four games in any season.

Yet it should be interesting to see if the Steelers offer to bring him back on a one- or two-year contract at the veteran minimum salary or something close to it.

Certainly, the Steelers are in the market for experienced yet inexpensive depth on the interior of the offensive line, especially in the wake of the retirement of perennial Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey.

At the moment, recently re-signed exclusive rights free agent J.C. Hassenauer is the team’s only option at center and the Steelers need depth at offensive guard as well, as the team is thin behind David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson, the latter of whom projects to start at left guard in 2021.


B.J. Finney’s NFL Career

Finney, who is 6-foot-4 and 318 pounds, entered the NFL in 2015, signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State. After working his way up from the practice squad, he started 13 of 65 games between 2016 and 2019, sometimes at center and sometimes at guard.

In 2019, he played 325 offensive snaps (33%), as well as 58 special teams snaps (13%). That’s the most has played in any year, though he also handled 299 offensive snaps in 2016, 235 snaps in 2017 and 164 in 2018.

Even if the Steelers bring Finney back on a one-year contract, they figure to look closely at the centers available in this year’s draft, not to mention the other interior offensive linemen who will be available as unrestricted free agents.

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