B.J. Finney

Steelers Bring Back OL B.J. Finney

Almost a year after allowing B.J. Finney to defect to the Seahawks in free agency, the Steelers are bringing him back on a one-year deal. They reached an agreement to re-sign the veteran interior offensive lineman Friday.

Finney played the first four years of his career in Pittsburgh but bounced around in 2020. The Seahawks signed him to a two-year deal but traded him to the Bengals for Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals made him a cap casualty recently.

The Steelers acquired Finney as a UDFA previously and used him as a backup and part-time starter at center and guard from 2016-19. Finney made 13 starts for those Steelers teams and parlayed that spot duty into a two-year, $8MM Seahawks pact. He did not start any games with Seattle and Cincinnati.

Returning ahead of his age-30 season, Finney should help a Steelers team that saw 11-year center starter Maurkice Pouncey retire this offseason. That move came a year after longtime guard Ramon Foster exited the NFL. Finney profiles as a low-cost addition who could play a bigger role than he previously did in Pittsburgh.

Bengals Release B.J. Finney

The Bengals have released center B.J. Finney, per a club announcement. Finney came over to the Bengals in last year’s Carlos Dunlap trade but only wound up dressing for one game.

The Bengals are looking to remake their offensive line this year after watching rookie quarterback Joe Burrow get battered. Even before the season started, the O-Line was viewed as a major liability. Then, in Week 11, he suffered a torn ACL and MCL. Historically, they haven’t spent big on the front five, but you can expect that to change once free agency opens. Or, they could turn to the trade market, where high-priced veterans like Giants guard Kevin Zeitler and Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell could be up for grabs.

While most clubs are facing a cap crunch, the Bengals are well-positioned to spend. Even before the release of Finney, they were projected to have upwards of $40MM in room, depending on the final cap figure. Now, the center is free to go where ever he wants, and that could lead to a Pittsburgh return.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals To Spend Big On O-Line?

The Bengals’ offensive line was a major question mark going into the 2020 season, and the fear was that poor blocking would jeopardize the health of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. And then that fear became reality, as Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Week 11 and the silver lining of another lost season in Cincinnati was quickly tarnished. So, a year after Cincinnati committed significant free agent dollars to the defensive side of the ball while relying on its existing offensive linemen to develop, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic says the team appears poised to reverse a long-standing trend and to spend big on the O-line.

Jonah Williams will remain the starting left tackle, but the other four spots are up for grabs. There is some hope that the return of O-line coach Frank Pollack will help left guard Michael Jordan, but after Jordan’s poor performance in 2020, it would not be at all surprising to see the Bengals pursue an upgrade (though the team has been historically reluctant to make major investments at guard).

The ACL injury that center Trey Hopkins sustained in the team’s regular season finale could mean that former first-rounder Billy Price will get one more chance to prove himself as a starting pivot, but again, after seeing Burrow writhing on the ground in pain, Cincy could seek reinforcements on the open market.

If the team does make a major free agent splash, it would likely come at right tackle, where Taylor Moton may be available. The Panthers might put the franchise tag on Moton, but if that doesn’t happen, expect the Bengals to be an active bidder for his services. Dehner also suggests that, if the team finally opens up its wallet for a guard, Joe Thuney would appear to be a perfect fit.

Whether it’s through free agency, the draft, or some combination thereof, Cincinnati has to do something. The club does want to re-sign Quinton Spain, who helped provide some stability at guard after he signed with the Bengals in October, and right tackle Bobby Hart is expected to be released, which will open up $6MM in cap space and a spot for a quality free agent. B.J. Finney, who came over from Seattle in the Carlos Dunlap trade, is also unlikely to return.

There is plenty of young skill position talent in the Queen City. With a couple of additions to the O-line, the Bengals’ offense could well be a serious threat in 2021 and beyond.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/31/20

Here are the minor moves from 2020’s final day:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: C Alex Mack

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/28/20

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

  • Promoted: QB Reid Sinnett

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Placed on IR: G Sua Opeta

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

COVID-19 Latest: Ravens, Williams, Browns

Earlier Wednesday, the NFL took the Ravens-Steelers rematch off its Thanksgiving schedule. That game is now on tap for 12:15pm CT Sunday. More is emerging on why the Steelers will see another of their games delayed. The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for “conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff.” The Ravens are levying the discipline because the unnamed staffer did not report symptoms or consistently wear a mask or a contact tracing device, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). This is believed to have contributed to the Ravens’ outbreak — one that comes nearly two months after a Titans outbreak altered the Steelers’ schedule. Seven Ravens players and at least five staffers have tested positive for COVID. This will not only weaken Baltimore against Pittsburgh but potentially deplete team’s roster for its Week 13 Thursday game against Dallas.

Several teams shuffled their rosters because of COVID on Wednesday. Here is the latest:

  • 49ers left tackle Trent Williams tested positive for COVID-19 last week, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (on Twitter). A cancer survivor, Williams has not experienced issues with the virus yet, Graziano tweets. Williams, who landed on the 49ers’ COVID list earlier this month as a high-risk close contact, is on track to miss San Francisco’s Week 12 game in Los Angeles.
  • Six players remain on San Francisco’s virus list. The 49ers removed Arik Armstead and center Hroniss Grasu on Wednesday.
  • Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki tested positive Wednesday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter). Takitaki played against the Eagles and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Cleveland starting linebacker’s positive test follows Myles Garrett‘s. Neither they nor Denzel Ward (injury) will be available for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. The Browns closed their facility Wednesday, but their Jags game remains on schedule.
  • The Bengals placed wide receiver Auden Tate and recently acquired offensive lineman B.J. Finney on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Cincinnati has seen staffers test positive, with D-line coach Nick Eason being the most recent. Eason was alerted of his positive test Tuesday. The Bengals now have five players on their reserve/COVID list.
  • Christian Wilkins is off the Dolphins‘ COVID list. Wilkins was not reported to have tested positive, but the second-year defensive lineman still missed two games after landing on the team’s virus list.
  • The Raiders activated Cory Littleton from their COVID list. The high-profile free agent addition has been out for two weeks due to a positive coronavirus test. Las Vegas’ defense remains shorthanded due to virus issues, with Clelin Ferrell testing positive last week and Lamarcus Joyner missing Sunday’s Chiefs game because of his status as a close contact.
  • Dante Fowler also tested positive two weeks ago and missed the Falcons‘ Week 11 game, but the big-ticket free agent addition is off the list now and on course to return to Atlanta’s lineup Sunday.
  • The Vikings and Chargers also removed players from their respective virus lists Wednesday. Minnesota activated guard Dru Samia; Los Angeles activated cornerback Brandon Facyson.

Bengals Trade Carlos Dunlap To Seahawks

First, the Bengals told Carlos Dunlap to stay home. Now, they’re shipping him across the country. The Bengals have agreed to trade defensive end Carlos Dunlap to the Seahawks, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). In exchange for the former Pro Bowler, the Seahawks will send offensive lineman B.J. Finney and an undisclosed draft pick to the Bengals. The Bengals announced the trade.

[RELATED: Lions Beat Out Seahawks For Griffen]

The Seahawks have been in the market for help on the edge, having pursued Cowboys notable Everson Griffen last week. Instead, the Lions beat them to the punch, leading them to talks with Dunlap. The 5-1 Seahawks have been flying high so far this year, but their pressure has been lacking. Now, they have some big-time support to address their weakest unit.

Dunlap has been unhappy with his role in Cincinnati, to say the least. In recent weeks, he’s ripped the Bengals on social media and he’s been seen yelling at his coaches on the sidelines. Dunlap, 32, has been with the Bengals since 2010, making 148 starts between his debut year and 2019. This year, he’s been bumped from the starting lineup with his playing time dropping week after week.

The Bengals probably should have started their rebuild in earnest last year. Instead, they held on to pricey vets like Dunlap and watched their trade value dip significantly. Dunlap likely won’t be the only player traded this week — longtime D-Line partner Geno Atkins also wants a fresh start. On the other side of the ball, speedy wide receiver John Ross continues to push for a trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Packers, Steelers, Browns

The Packers made their Hall of Famer-to-future Hall of Famer quarterback baton pass because they planned far ahead in 2005, drafting Aaron Rodgers as Brett Favre‘s heir apparent. Green Bay has made noise on the quarterback front this year, with the team’s Jordan Love interest being the most recent example. Rodgers has said he wants to play into his 40s, though, and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller notes a successor is not viewed as a must in this draft. Rodgers, 36, is under contract through 2023 and has received a Pro Bowl invite in every season in which he’s played more than nine games since 2010. The Packers are thin at backup quarterback, however, with only UDFAs Tim Boyle and Manny Wilkins on the roster behind Rodgers. It would stand to reason Brian Gutekunst will explore the addition of a developmental player to fill that role.

Moving to some AFC North matters, here is the latest on the North divisions:

  • James Conner has fared reasonably well as Le’Veon Bell‘s successor, landing on the 2018 Pro Bowl roster and totaling 20 touchdowns in 23 games over the past two seasons. But he has battled injuries in multiple years. Despite the running back being a Pittsburgh native, The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette does not see the Steelers exploring an extension for the contract-year starter (subscription required). Third-year back Jaylen Samuels and second-year cog Benny Snell — each a Day 3 pick — reside as Conner’s backups, pointing to a possible addition at the position in the upcoming draft.
  • Despite giving B.J. Finney a second-round RFA tender last year, the Steelers did not make an effort to re-sign the guard in free agency, Bouchette adds. Finney defected to the Seahawks on a two-year, $8MM deal. Either sliding Stefen Wisniewski into the recently retired Ramon Foster‘s left guard spot or moving starting right tackle Matt Feiler to that position may be on the table, Bouchette adds. Foster’s 145 starts mark the fifth-most by a Steelers offensive lineman, so the franchise will be trudging into new territory next season.
  • Viewed as a landing spot for one of this draft’s top tackles, the Browns are doing their homework. They had planned to make Georgia alum Andrew Thomas one of their “30” visits, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, but the NFL nixed pre-draft visits early in the process because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Browns instead conducted a video-chat session with the first-round talent. The Browns, who hold the No. 10 overall pick, have not addressed their left tackle need. They restructured Chris Hubbard‘s deal, however, putting the embattled right tackle in position to keep his job. Thomas saw time at both left and right tackle with the Bulldogs. Thomas said, via Cabot, he’s spoken to seven or eight teams — mostly those with top-10 picks.

Seahawks Sign OL B.J. Finney

B.J. Finney is joining the Seahawks. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the lineman has signed a two-year, $8MM deal with Seattle.

The 2015 undrafted free agent out of Kansas State has spent his entire five-year career with the Steelers. Finney emerged into a rotational lineman in Pittsburgh, and he’s appeared in 16 games in each of the past two seasons.

In total, the 28-year-old has appeared in 59 games throughout his career. He also has 13 starts, including four this past season.

Seattle, like any team at this time of year, is naturally searching for offensive line help. Finney is their first notable signing, although they did re-sign tight end Luke Willson.

Steelers OL B.J. Finney Signs RFA Tender

Restricted free agent offensive lineman B.J. Finney has signed his second-round tender, per the league’s transactions wire. Finney will now collect $3.095MM for the 2019 campaign.

A former undrafted free agent out of Kansas State, Finney has appeared in 43 games over three seasons in Pittsburgh, but has made only nine total starts. Finney has typically earned excellent grades from Pro Football Focus, but sample size is an issue, as he’s never topped 300 offensive snaps in a single season.

However, he has proven himself as a capable reserve, and he could be the next man up should starting guards Ramon Foster or David DeCastro suffer an injury.

If he continues to perform well in limited action, he could put himself in line for a starting job when he hits unrestricted free agency next year.