Steelers Sign RFA Wide Receiver/Kick Returner: Report

Ray Ray McCloud

Jason Miller/Getty Images Ray-Ray McCloud #14 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is brought down by Jacob Phillips of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on January 03, 2021.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media, the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed wide receiver/kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud III to a one-year contract. He is expected to compete to retain his job as the team’s kickoff returner. Along the way, he’ll also return punts, provide depth at the wide receiver position, and possibly run a handful of jet sweeps in Matt Canada’s offense.

Last year, McCloud appeared in all 16 games for the Steelers and returned 28 kickoffs for a total of 648 yards (23.1-yard average) with a long-gainer of 49 yards. He also returned 29 punts for 298 yards (10.3-yard average), with a long of 57 yards. McCloud was named to PFF’s All-Pro Team as second-team kick returner.


Ray-Ray McCloud’s NFL Journey

The Steelers originally signed Ray-Ray McCloud in August 2020 after a tryout.

He is a former 2018 sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills and played for the Carolina Panthers in 2019.

Before coming to the NFL, McCloud starred at Clemson University, which also produced former Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant.

At Clemson he caught 127 passes for 1,226 yards and four touchdowns over the course of 40 games. He also authored 50 punt returns for 485 yards and a touchdown and was named second-team All-American punt returner by Pro Football Focus in 2017, as well as Honorable Mention All-ACC in 2017 as an all-purpose player.

He finished his college career eighth all-time in Clemson history in punt return yards. The Tampa Bay native posted a 4.53 40-yard dash time at the 2018 NFL Combine.

McCloud is the third of their own free agents that the Steelers have inked in the past three days. On Monday Pittsburgh announced the signing of center J.C. Hassenauer and on Tuesday re-upped with safety-turned-linebacker Marcus Allen. Like McCloud, Hassenauer and Allen were signed to one-year contracts.


Saints Release Emmanuel Sanders

In other news from Wednesday, former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was released by the New Orleans Saints.

Sanders confirmed the move via Instagram, writing: “New Orleans it’s been real. Sucks we didn’t bring a Super Bowl to the city which was the goal when I signed but it was a blessing to showcase my talents in front of you guys.”

Sanders, 33, was the Saints’ leading wide receiver last season with 61 catches for 726 yards and five touchdown receptions.

He was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Steelers (No. 82 overall) out of SMU. He played four years in Pittsburgh before taking his talents to the Denver Broncos in free agency. In 2019 he spent time with the San Francisco 49ers (acquired via trade in October 2019) before moving on to New Orleans.

Over the course of his 11-year career Sanders has played in 158 games and produced 662 receptions for 8,619 receiving yards and 47 touchdowns. He also has 19 rushing attempts for 171 yards and a TD.

By releasing Sanders the Saints will save his $6 million salary. According to overthecap.com, Sanders has earned $63,846,069 during his time in the NFL.

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