When Jerico Cotchery left the Pittsburgh Steelers facilities this past weekend without a contract, most of us naturally assumed that the six-time Super Bowl champs were not interested in signing the veteran free agent wide receiver. Not so fast. On Thursday morning, the Steelers signed the 28-year old Cotchery to a one-year deal.
I like the move by Kevin Colbert and the Steelers for several reasons. First of all, Cotchery can play. In 2010, the former fourth round draft pick hauled in 41 passes for 433 yards and 2 TDs. Not bad considering he started just five games and was on the same WR corps as Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. Cotchery mat lack the explosiveness or top-end speed to kill you, but he's savvy both in the middle of the field and on the perimeter. For a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger who is not shy about trying to extend plays, Cotchery's experience should allow him to find soft spots in coverage after plays have broken down.
The second reason the signing makes sense is the uncertainty surrounding Emmanuel Sanders' injured foot. Yes Sanders is scheduled to return to practice sooner rather than later, but foot injuries have a way of lingering for unexpectedly long periods of time. There's also the issue of whether Sanders will be favoring his foot in any way or if he'll be a step slower, more hesitant, etc etc.
Even if Sanders does make a full return to contribute in 2010, the Steelers still can benefit from Cotchery's presence over the course of a long season. Even a 25-35 catch season would be significant, which is roughly what Antwaan Randle El chipped in a year ago.
For those who wonder if this means the end of the road for Limas Sweed? I don't think so. Not yet at least. Sweed will still have the rest of camp and the preseason to prove he's worthy of another shot before his fate is sealed. The Steelers have already invested too much in the former second rounder to let him go too early unless they're absolutely forced to. There is far less invested in Cotchery at this point, and I'd imagine that the Steelers will take a wait-and-see approach to Sanders and how he's feeling physically later this month before making any sort of final determinations about who to go to battle with at WR in 2011.