Last weekend the New England Patriots (2-5) worked out former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Today the Patriots went ahead and signed the failed Steelers receiver to the team’s practice squad, this according to Field Yates, NFL Insider for ESPN.
It’s a curious signing because Moncrief has done nothing since 2018, when he was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The cynical New England Patriots hater might wonder if Moncrief was inked to gain intelligence on the New York Jets (New England’s next opponent), as he spent time with the 0-8 Jets earlier this season.
That is, after tryouts with the San Francisco 49ers and the Jets, Moncrief signed with New York in late August before head coach Adam Gase released him a week later. He was subsequently added to the practice squad until the Jets finally parted ways with him for good in mid-October.
Not only did Moncrief fail to make an impact with the wide receiver needy Jets, it’s hard to ignore that the former third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts hasn’t produced much of anything since he signed a one-year “prove it” contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018 and had 48 receptions for 668 yards and three touchdowns.
Donte Moncrief vs. the New England Patriots
Moreover, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick got a first-hand look at Moncrief’s recent struggles in Week 1 of 2019 when the Pats crushed the Steelers 33-3. Moncrief played a pivotal role in Pittsburgh’s offensive ineptitude that evening. Despite Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger targeting him 10 times, he had just three catches for seven yards—and four drops. He went on to add just one more catch in 2019 before the Steelers finally released him in November, absorbing a seven-figure cap hit, thanks to the two-year, $9 million contract he signed in the spring of 2019.
But it was a move the Steelers had to make, as it preserved an anticipated 2020 third-round compensatory pick (later used to select outside linebacker Alex Highsmith), which the team was scheduled to lose after the Philadelphia Eagles released ex-Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort. (In effect, Fort getting released by the Eagles canceled out Pittsburgh’s 2020 third-rounder until Moncrief’s release restored the pick by getting the Steelers back on the minus side of the free agency ledger.)
As for New England’s current situation at wide receiver, well, the position has been a problem all year, beginning with seventh-year wideout Marqise Lee opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns. Now Julian Edelman is on injured reserve, while 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry has yet to return from a concussion suffered in Week 7.
But New England is more likely to get help from Isaiah Ford, 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, who was acquired from the Miami Dolphins in a trade consummated at the trade deadline. Ford, 24, is a former seventh-round draft pick of the Dolphins (2017) who has 41 career catches for 428 yards.
Cleveland Browns Host Kyle Markway
In other news from the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns had tight end Kyle Markway in for a visit on Wednesday, this according to the NFL’s workout/visits report.
Markway signed with the Steelers in late August (after having him in for a workout a few days earlier), only to release him when cutting down to the 53-man roster. The University of South Carolina product has consistently attracted interest from a variety of NFL teams since he went undrafted this spring, but injuries—including a knee injury suffered during training camp at Heinz Field—have hindered his development.
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