Just over a week after the legal tampering period began in the NFL, the largest frenzy of free agent signings is now behind us. Of all the moves made by each NFL team, some have their fan bases ecstatic for the 2020 season why others can leave fans scratching their heads.
With this in mind, Pro Football Focus compiled a list for each NFL team as to their best and worst offseason move. Their conclusions were based off of their own grading system for the 2019 season compared to the contract a player was given. Whether it be signing a player, letting a player go, or not making a move at all, PFF chose the best and worst decision for each franchise.
Of course, we here at Behind The Steel Curtain are really only concerned about the Pittsburgh Steelers. With that in mind, let’s a take a look at what moves PFF classified in both categories for the Steelers. While some fans look at Pro Football Focus as the best way to quantitatively analyze NFL players, others completely dismiss their rankings. Whether you fall on one end of the spectrum or the other, it is still interesting to see how an outside source using numerical rankings for a player views the moves the Steelers have made so far this season.
To begin, let’s take a look at what PFF decided the Steelers’ best move was this offseason and their reasoning behind their choice.
Best move: Stealing Stefen Wisniewski off the market
Compared to what some teams paid for offensive guards, Pittsburgh got an absolute steal in Stefen Wisniewski, who was one of the league’s most reliable pass-blocking centers with the Raiders and Jaguars from 2012-2015 and owned an above-average pass-blocking grade in all four years with multiple seasons in the top 10. He kicked over to left guard with the Eagles in 2016 and posted back-to-back to years in the top-25 among guards before struggling in a limited role in 2018 (61st). Wisniewski joined forces with the Chiefs in 2019 and performed considerably well in his limited-turned-starting role and ended the season ranked 16th among guards in overall grade.
The first thing to remember in breaking down the signing of Stefen Wisniewski is the bargain price the Steelers paid to bring in the two-time Super Bowl champion. Even if Wisniewski never finds the field and is instead simply an insurance policy to back up both the guard and center positions, it would still be a bargain for his services. Bring in the fact Wisniewski is expected to compete for the starting job at left guard, the money paid would be difficult for anyone to complain about.
One of the biggest reasons this is such a fantastic signing for the Steelers in the eyes of those at PFF is because of Wisniewski‘s grade for 2019. Ranked as the 16th best offensive guard, Wisniewski comes in exactly one spot behind Steelers right guard David DeCastro. If Wisniewski can play anywhere close to the quality which earned him this grade in 2019, the Steelers may have gotten one of the best steals in all of the NFL’s 2020 free agency.
After getting the good news first, now let’s take a look at what PFF believes is the Steelers’ worst move of the 2020 offseason.
Worst move: Placing the franchise tag on Bud Dupree
After failing to reach the top-60 in pass-rush grade in all four of his NFL seasons prior to 2019, Bud Dupree had a career year in 2019, generating a 76.3 pass-rush grade that ranked 24th among players at his position. Dupree made more impactful pays with a load of sacks and fumbles, but he wasn’t consistent on a rep-to-rep basis. After all, pressure rate is far more predictive of future performance than sack totals are, and Dupree ranked only 63rd in that category last year. In other words, this screams, “buyer beware.”
From a numbers perspective, it is difficult to argue with why using the franchise tag on the Dupree does not appear to be a wise move. The lowest ranked member along the Steelers defensive front five in 2019, Dupree is about to become the highest paid for the 2020 season if he plays under the franchise tag. While Kevin Colbert has gone on record in stating the Steelers use the tag in order to sign a player to a longer deal, it would not be in the Steelers best interest to get anywhere close to, and definitely not above, the yearly salary that comes with the 2020 franchise tag of a linebacker.
While the numbers which go into factoring Dupree’s PFF ranking along with the number of almost $16 million with the franchise tag do not seem to coincide, one thing which should be considered is the Steelers lack of options at the position should Dupree not be a member of the Steelers. Yes, the money may not match the production on a one-year basis, but occasionally a team has to over pay in order to not have a major deficit. In the case of Dupree, it may only be one year which will cost the Steelers should they not do a long-term deal and just play out the 2020 season.
So what are your thoughts on Pro Football Focus selection of the Steelers’ best and worst move of the 2020 offseason to date? Given the other choices, do their selections make sense? Even if using the franchise tag on Dupree was a good move by the Steelers, was there any move which could be considered worse? Make sure to chime in in the comments below.
To view the entire PFF article with the best and worst movies of all 32 NFL teams, click HERE.