They are two veterans at two positions of need.
One seemed like almost a sure thing to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers just a couple of weeks ago. The other became a surprising target of a team that has a starting running back, but needs depth at the position.
Cotchery: I still like the chances of the veteran wide receiver returning to the Steelers even though he visited the Panthers this week. If the money offered by the teams is anywhere close, it wouldn’t make much sense for Cotchery to sign with the Panthers.
He wouldn’t get a chance to work with a new quarterback until training camp because of the ankle surgery that will sideline Carolina's Cam Newton for the next four months. Cotchery would also be joining a group of wide receivers that has been stripped of almost all of its parts. Toney Clemons, a former seventh-round pick by the Steelers, has the most catches of any wide receiver on Carolina’s roster, and he has a grand total of three receptions.
Cotchery is more of a complementary receiver at this stage of his career, and he excelled as a No. 3 wideout last season when he caught a career-high 10 touchdown passes. Why not reprise that role given his comfort with it, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense?
The wild-card here is money -- and whether the Panthers are so desperate for wide receivers they are willing to overpay for a player who has logged 10 NFL seasons and turns 32 in June.
The Steelers want to bring back Cotchery, but it has to be at the right price.
Jones-Drew: The Steelers created a buzz by hosting a player who has rushed for more than 8,000 yards for an extended visit. If Jones-Drew is looking for significant money or a starting job following eight seasons with the Jaguars, he won’t find it in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are committed to Le'Veon Bell, and they don’t have enough salary-cap room to offer anywhere close to the $4.95 million Jones-Drew made in his final season in Jacksonville.
Also, they simply have too many other holes to fill to spend a sizable chunk of money on a player who won’t start for them.
One thing, however, intrigues me about the possibility of adding Jones-Drew to the Steelers’ offense. He and Bell and have good hands, and the latter is adept at running actual pass patterns and not just catching dump-off or screen passes.
Given their skill sets, the Steelers could try to create mismatches by designing packages in which both are on the field at the same time. Such creativity could help offset the inexperience the Steelers have at wide receiver, especially if Cotchery signs with the elsewhere.
Jones-Drew’s presence would also allow the Steelers to limit the amount of pounding Bell absorbs as their No. 1 back and provide injury insurance.
While the Steelers aren’t in a position to offer Jones-Drew the kind of money he will likely command elsewhere, the market isn’t a good one for running backs, and there are ways for them to create more cap room.
It’s probably a long shot that Jones-Drew is wearing black and gold in the fall, but there is a scenario in which the Steelers could make it work.