Scott Brown, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, reported on Thursday that the Steelers had productive contract talks this past week with Jack Scharf, the agent of unrestricted free agent wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, at the 2012 NFL combine. Cotchery signed a one-year deal with the Steelers after the start of training camp last year and saw a little more than 300 snaps on offense in 2011.
Cotchery has expressed several times since the 2011 season ended that he would like to return to the Steelers in 2012, and that he is hoping for a multi-year deal. He also noted that he would like to continue to serve as a mentor to the Steelers young receiver group in addition.
The 2011 season got off to a rough start for the former New York Jets receiver as he was bothered early on by a hamstring injury that suffered in his first preseason game with the Steelers. Once he recovered fully, he slowly received more playing time with most of it coming at the expense of veteran wide receiver Hines Ward, who has now been told he will not be returning in 2012.
With Ward now expected to be officially released any day now, the Steelers will be down to just two wide receivers under contract that played last season. Mike Wallace is currently a restricted free agent and special teams ace Arnaz Battle was released several weeks ago. The Steelers have proclaimed since the 2011 season ended that Wallace is a priority to get re-signed and talks have been ongoing with him as the deadline approaches for the restricted tenders to be handed out. If re-signed, Cotchery would once again add the appropriate depth and leadership that the Steelers need to help the continued progression of Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has also let it be known that he would like to have Cotchery back next season as well. Ed Bouchette, from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, reported Thursday that Roethlisberger said, “Without Hines, I think you have to do everything you can to sign Jerricho back. He’s not only a veteran leader in that room but a really good player. I’d love to see him come back because he’s a really good receiver and I like what he brings to the team."
The Steelers have made a practice over the years of trying to re-sign their own free agents that they want to retain, and every effort will likely be made to bring back Cotchery. The Steelers first need to handle their situation with Wallace, but after that is taken care of, I expect Cotchery could be high up on their priority list. They will not have much money at all to spend in free agency, but they should have enough for a modest three-year deal for Cotchery.