Jerricho Cotchery no doubt played a large role in the Steelers offense last season. Which is why his loss to the Panthers will hurt. Bad. Real Bad. Not only did Cotchery have one of the best seasons of his career, but he was also Big Ben’s safety blanket. He could always be trusted to deliver in the clutch. In fact to many members of Steelers Nation, including me, Cotchery should have been the number 2 priority this offseason, behind only Jason Worilds. It’s going to be tough not having him on the field in black and gold. The fact that Cotchery should have been a priority for the Steelers FO this offseason, and maybe he was, doesn’t change the fact that the Panthers gave him a five year deal worth $3.5 million this year. Although I think $3.5 million is only a little bit to high of a price for his first year, there was no way the Steelers would have offered him a five year deal. He will be 32 before training camp starts and will be 37 by the time his contract expires. Cotchery also had family in the Charlotte area and went to NC State. The Steelers just couldn’t compete.
Now that Cotchery is completely out of the picture it is time to focus on finding his replacement. There are two directions the Steelers could go when looking for his replacement. Free agency or the draft. The free agent market has been picked mostly dry at the wide receiver position so I will focus mostly on draft options here. But one player the Steelers brass could target on the open market is Kenny Britt. Britt’s off the field
issues are no secret, but if any team can get him to focus on football it’s the Steelers. Britt will likely come cheap because of his flaws off the field, but could pay huge dividends. He has undeniably had Pro Bowl talent ever since coming out of Rutgers, but he has never been able to put it together on the field. If the Steelers coaches could find a way to get the most out of him he could be a huge steal. A one year prove it deal worth somewhere between $2.5 and $3 million could be a reasonable price. He could form a dangerous tandem with AB.
Now onto the more likely, and probably the more effective, method to replace JC. The draft. This years wide receiver class is incredibly deep, second only to the cornerback class. There are options in the first and second round who could immediately come in and perform close to the ability of Cotchery. The first name that comes to mind among Steelers followers and NFL draft followers is Mike Evans, but he will almost certainly be gone by the Steelers pick. So then the attention turns to the third best receiver in the class, Odell Beckham Jr. This would be the best case scenario for Big Ben, outside of getting Evans or Watkins. Beckham is an incredibly talented receiver who could be better than Cotchery immediately and eventually become a stud. He has an outstanding catch radius for his 5’11” frame and is extremely versatile. He is a bigger and more physical version of Antonio Brown. Plus he can be a return man. The next prospect that comes to mind for me is Davante Adams. He would likely be available as a second round pick and will definitely be worth that pick. His only major flaw is the offense he played in at Fresno State. He was asked to mostly catch short passes and run after the catch. The Steelers, however, use their receivers in a very similar way. Adams could be an immediate fit in Pittsburgh, providing huge help for the offense.
No matter which way they elect to replace Cotchery, it is a must this offseason. Cotchery was a HUGE part of the offense and will be missed a lot. But is the Steelers FO plays it’s cards the right way, they could end up with an even better player.