By Matthew Marczi
Player: Jerricho Cotchery
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 10 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $1,500,000
2013 Season Breakdown: Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, at age 31, in his 10th season in the league, caught a career-high 10 touchdown passes.
I think he likes playing with Ben Roethlisberger. And I think he’d like to continue playing with Roethlisberger.
After two years in Pittsburgh of only marginal playing time and the corresponding marginal production, the departure of Mike Wallace gave the veteran Cotchery the opportunity to assume the role of slot receiver, giving him significantly more playing time, and he repaid the team tenfold for the opportunity.
As the team’s third receiver, Cotchery caught 46 passes for 602 yards and a healthy 13.1 yards per catch average—and of course the eye-popping 10 touchdown receptions, which led the team by two.
With tight end Heath Miller ailing for much of the season, the Steelers ended up funneling a lot of their typical tight end production to Cotchery, playing off how defenses chose to play them, and the strategy clearly translated quite well.
While his level of involvement seemed to fluctuate during the season, he came up with some big games for the Steelers, such as his 7-96-3 performance against New England, or the 5-103-1 that he put up against the Vikings earlier in the year.
Despite playing more no huddle, that production seemed to wane in the second half of the year. After the New England game, Cotchery registered more than three catches in a game just once in the last eight, and likewise topped 50 yards only once.
This was also the same time that Miller started to re-emerge in the passing game. On the other hand, he still had five touchdowns in the last eight games as well on just 17 receptions.
It needs to be noted that Cotchery is also an excellent run blocker, easily the best on the team since Hines Ward. But more importantly, he is also that veteran presence that Ward brought in his later years. Ask Markus Wheaton about Cotchery’s leadership. It’s a role, in his waning years, that he relishes, and it shows.
Free Agency Outlook: Even though he’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, Cotchery will be 32 by the time the 2014 season begins. Last year is also the first in the last five in which he did not miss time due to injury. He can be counted on purely as a slot receiver, and thus should not be an overly coveted asset in the free agent market.
There’s also the fact that Cotchery never had more than six touchdowns in a season prior to this year. But the most prohibitive concern for other teams should be the fact that Cotchery, after three years in Pittsburgh and finally establishing a role, isn’t looking to go anywhere. His performance this year and his chemistry with Roethlisberger may earn him a slight pay raise, but there’s no reason to suspect that Cotchery won’t be in the black and gold in 2014.