The Pittsburgh Steelers made a big splash on Tuesday by signing free agent safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million deal. Mitchell brings youth to a defense where the average age of the starters was 33 last year.
I give this signing an A if I have to grade it. Mitchell had a breakout year in 2013 on one of the NFL’s best defenses. He also came at a pretty good price for the Steelers.
There’s no question the Steelers had an issue with the salary cap this offseason. However, by restructuring the contracts of Heath Miller, Ike Taylor, and Troy Polamalu, plus the LaMarr Woodley release, the Steelers have the money. Now they can go and find some solutions to their past two 8-8 seasons outside of the organization.
The only significant option left for the Steelers in free agency is Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones. Jones had a problem with drops early on in his career. However, Jones solved that problem during the 2012 season and had 14 touchdown receptions. Jones is quick and would be a great replacement for Emmanuel Sanders, who is most likely going elsewhere.
Jones’ average salary with the Packers was roughly $3.3 million. There’s no problem with the Steelers giving him between $4-5 million considering Sanders cost them $2.5 million last year. Jones would be a signifcant upgrade to Sanders considering how he has improved as his playing days have gone on.
Sanders seemed to be an unreliable second option for the Steelers on offense. Jerricho Cotchery had a good 2013, but he is a third receiver because of his age and condition. Sanders’ had 67 receptions for 740 yards and six touchdowns last year.
Jones struggled to score last year, but had 817 yards off of 59 receptions in 2013. He only caught three touchdown passes, but he also played two games fewer than Sanders did.
I see Jones as a great fit as long as he does not come with a higher asking price than $5 million a year. Sure, 2013 was Sanders first year as a starter, but Jones’ production was not far off from Sanders last year and in less playing time. Furthermore, the fact that Jones had 14 receiving touchdowns in 2012 proves that he can be that go-to guy when Ben Roethlisberger needs him most. Adding Jones alongside Antonio Brown makes the Steelers more of a threat because of their speed. Brown is not as tall as your average wide receiver, but he has the ability to wear down defenders with his speed and get open. I see the same thing in Jones and feel that he is one option the Steelers could use as a second wideout.