On Tuesday afternoon, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool went down at practice with has since been described as a “minor ankle sprain.” With Claypool sitting out Wednesday’s practice session, Washington had the opportunity to work with the first-team “a little bit more,” as he put it.
In turn, that led to Washington speaking with the media for the first time since he reportedly requested a trade on Aug. 6. According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, when he was asked if he had in fact approached the Steelers about being moved he said:
“That’s a private conversation.”
But he was quick to note that he is “happy in Pittsburgh,” and that he “comes to work every day with a smile on his face.”
When Pryor followed up and asked if Washington has talked to his coaches about his role in the team’s offense, he admitted that “it’s been talked about.”
In all likelihood, the Steelers told Washington that the team has no plans to trade him. In part, that’s because he provides valuable depth in case one of the club’s top three receivers—JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson—goes down with an injury. But it also stands to reason that Washington has relatively little trade value, despite the fact that he is in his prime (25 years old) and is scheduled to earn a relatively modest $1,093,821 this season (per overthecap.com).
James Washington’s Career Numbers Are … Modest
The problem is that the former second-round pick (Oklahoma State) has never put up eye-popping numbers. In 45 career games (23 starts), Washington has 90 career receptions for 1,344 yards and nine touchdown receptions. Worse yet, his production declined last season, when he played just 44% of the team’s snaps on offense and produced just 392 receiving yards, down from 735 yards in 2019.
Barring a long-term injury to Smith-Schuster, Claypool or Johnson, Washington’s numbers don’t figure to get much better in 2021, especially since the Steelers plan to run the ball more often this season, thanks to the addition of first-round running back Najee Harris. Never mind the fact that the Steelers now have two pass-catching tight ends in Eric Ebron and rookie second-round pick Pat Freiermuth, all of which promises to reduce Washington’s targets that much further.
The issue—from Washington’s perspective—is that he is set to become an unrestricted free agent next spring. If his numbers don’t improve, it stands to reason that he won’t be able to command a lucrative contract in free agency, and will likely need to sign a one-year “prove it” deal in an effort to secure a more substantial long-term contract the following year.
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Former Steelers Offensive Tackle Claimed by Buccaneers
In other news from Wednesday, NFL reporter Aaron Wilson notes that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have claimed offensive tackle Brandon Walton, one of five players that the Steelers waived on Tuesday afternoon.
Walton was inked to a one-year Reserve/Future contract in January, having originally signed to the team’s practice squad last September. Walton played both left and right tackle at Florida Atlantic but was attempting to make the switch to guard. His spot on the roster became even more tenuous when the Steelers signed former Ohio State guard Malcolm Pridgeon last week.
• Browns Place Former Steelers Wide Receiver Ryan Switzer on Injured Reserve