Within the span of approximately 24 hours, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost all three of their unrestricted free agent wide receivers. On Thursday March 17, wide receiver/kick return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud agreed to a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Then on Friday March 18, JuJu Smith-Schuster agreed to a one-year deal with the Kansas Chiefs, much as he hoped.
Later on March 18, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that former Steelers second-round pick James Washington would be signing a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, with his new team subsequently announcing the news on its web site.
The latest Steelers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Steelers newsletter here!
James Washington Provides ‘Depth’ and ‘Experience’
But if anything, dallascowboys.com undersold the team’s first free agent acquisition of the 2022 signing period, advancing the narrative that Washington offers the Cowboys “depth” and “experience” at the wide receiver position.
“Washington was a second-round pick of the Steelers in 2018, but he never had a major impact in Pittsburgh’s offense,” wrote dallascowboys.com staff writer Nick Eatman, after noting that Washington is a native Texan who will be returning to his home state on a one-year contract.
“His best season was 2019 when he caught 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns,” added Eatman, without highlighting how Washington’s career year came when he was catching passes from backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges, the latter of whom is trying to keep his professional football career afloat in the CFL.
More notably, Washington never seemed to develop chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger, which may be part of the reason that he caught just 30 passes in 2020 and 24 in 2021—while falling behind four other receivers on the team’s depth chart last season.
As such, Washington is probably a pretty good risk in terms of signing him to a “prove-it contract”—to see if he can be dramatically more productive with Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
“The plus-side for Washington is that he (has) 11 career touchdowns despite limited snaps and he averaged 14.3 yards per catch in his career, proof that he has big-play potential,” concluded Eatman.
The View From Pittsburgh and Dallas
A check of NFL Twitter reveals that Steelers fans mostly believe that Washington never got a fair shake in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, the typical Cowboys fan is telling him/herself that Washington was “misused” by the Steelers and will be “better than people think,” which may very well be true.
To better the production he demonstrated in Pittsburgh, Washington will have to produce more than the 28.5 catches, 407.25 yards and 2.75 touchdown catches he averaged across his four seasons in Pittsburgh, as per Pro Football Reference.
Washington was drafted by the Steelers No. 60 overall in 2018, after a career at Oklahoma State, where as a senior he won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
As the team’s No. 4/5 wide receiver in 2022, Washington leaves a hole in Pittsburgh’s lineup that will likely be filled via the forthcoming draft.
Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
• Steelers Signing Ex-Patriots All-Pro to Replace Ray-Ray McCloud: Report
• Ex-Steelers, Bears CB Artie Burns Finds New NFL Home: Report
• Steelers Hire Isaac Williams as Assistant Offensive Line Coach
• Ex-Steelers RB James Conner Makes Final Decision on Future With Cardinals