James Washington

Cowboys To Sign James Washington

After losing two key members of their receiving corps, the Cowboys are adding a new wideout. The team is signing James Washington to a one-year deal (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). 

Washington, who will be 26 next season, is a native of Texas. He had spent four seasons with the Steelers, who drafted him in the second round in 2018. Many felt he would be the next in a long line of productive wideouts developed in the Steel City, especially when he posted 44 catches for 735 yards and three touchdowns in his second season.

However, he has seen his role reduced since then. As the team has continued drafting at the position, bringing in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, Washington has been on the field for less than half of the team’s plays in each of the past two seasons. During that stretch, he totalled 54 receptions for 677 yards and seven touchdowns.

The news comes after the Cowboys traded Amari Cooper to the Browns and saw Cedrick Wilson leave for Miami in free agency. While the team still has CeeDee Lamb, along with franchise-tagged tight end Dalton Schultzthe vacancy left by the former two should leave plenty of opportunities for the once (Oklahoma State) Cowboy.

Meanwhile for the Steelers, this marks the second departure in the WR corps in a matter of hours. JuJu Smith-Schuster reportedly agreed to a one-year deal in Kansas City earlier today. There is now an opening on their roster to add at least a complimentary pass catcher.

AFC Notes: Bailey, Steelers, Collins, Weeks

Going into the last year of his contract, Patriots punter Jake Bailey was set to earn a base salary of $925,000 for the 2022 NFL season. Due to a proven performance bonus that was triggered when Bailey was selected to the 2020 Pro Bowl, Bailey is on track to be the NFL’s highest-paid punter with a 2022 salary of $3.98MM, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.

A knee injury limited Bailey in the 2021 season which saw him struggle to live up to his expected salary. It’s now assumed that the Patriots will begin working towards a contract extension to lessen the cap hit Bailey is posed to hold. In a normal situation, the Patriots might want to see another season of success out of Bailey after a down 2021, but Bailey’s raise puts a little pressure on New England to work out a deal sooner rather than later.

Here are a few more notes from around the AFC, starting with a note from the Steel City:

  • In an article for The Athletic, Ed Bouchette poses the question: What does Pittsburgh do about their pass-catchers this offseason? The Steelers have long subscribed to the notion that they don’t need to sign a receiver to a multi-year extension (with the exception of Antonio Brown). They can (and do) always just draft another. Now, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud are headed towards free agency. They still have Diontae Johnson (heading into a contract year, himself) and Chase Claypool, but both have had their own issues: Johnson with drops and Claypool failing to improve on an impressive rookie-season. Pittsburgh can (and likely will) turn to the second and third round of the draft to address the thin roster, as usual, but do they break protocol to ensure they have at least three receivers they can trust?
  • After a one-year deal brought him to Houston, defensive tackle Maliek Collins has the Texans hooked. The 3-tech tackle played a pivotal role in now-head coach Lovie Smith‘s defense and the Texans are determined to pluck him off the open market and keep him in Houston. Luckily for Lovie, the feeling is reportedly mutual, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Collins is a strong fit in Houston and embraced his new team and his role on the team. Smith gushed about Collins and his impact, identifying him as the linchpin of their defensive system.
  • We mentioned a couple weeks ago that the Texans were able to re-sign long-time long snapper Jon Weeks on a one-year deal. Details on the contract were provided this week by Aaron Wilson on Twitter. Weeks will stay around the veteran minimum, slightly increasing his base salary from $1.08MM to $1.12MM and slightly increasing his signing bonus from $137,500 to $152,500. Consider it a cost-of-living raise for Weeks who will become the franchise’s longest-tenured player of all time when he reaches his 13th season this fall, passing star wide receiver Andre Johnson for the most seasons in Houston of all time.

Steelers Designate JuJu Smith-Schuster For Return

Out since Week 5 with a shoulder injury, JuJu Smith-Schuster is now back at Steelers practice ahead of their playoff opener. The Steelers designated the fifth-year wideout to return from IR on Thursday.

With Smith-Schuster’s shoulder issue deemed season-ending three months ago, this is certainly an interesting development. A practice return does not necessarily mean he will play against the Chiefs; Mike Tomlin was noncommittal on that subject. JuJu coming back would obviously help the Steelers as big underdogs in Round 1.

Smith-Schuster is believed to be healthy, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). However, the Steelers are not yet banking on him to be back for Sunday night’s game. JuJu has not experienced any issues in two practices this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link), pointing to an activation ahead of Saturday’s deadline.

Smith-Schuster passed on offers to sign with the Chiefs and Ravens last year, preferring his familiar Steelers setup as an avenue to a potentially more lucrative free agency payday. This injury did not help Smith-Schuster’s quest for a better market in 2022, when the cap spike should help many UFAs cash in after last year’s COVID-19-induced cap reduction. Interest should still come JuJu’s way in March, but the former second-rounder’s stock has dipped since his 1,426-yard season alongside Antonio Brown in 2018.

Amid Ben Roethlisberger‘s decline, the Steelers rank 15th in passing. Diontae Johnson notched his first 1,000-yard season, while Chase Claypool ended the regular season with 860 receiving yards. Pat Freiermuth has become a key target as a rookie. Those three are signed beyond this season. James Washington, whom the Steelers activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, joins Smith-Schuster as a free agent-to-be.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/13/22

Today’s updates for the reserve/COVID-19 and practice squad/COVID-19 lists:

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Football Team

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/8/22

Today’s updates for the reserve/COVID-19 and practice squad/COVID-19 lists:

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

Latest On Steelers WR James Washington

There were reports earlier this month that Steelers wideout James Washington had requested a trade, a report that head coach Mike Tomlin later denied. Washington addressed the rumors today, and while he didn’t specifically acknowledge the trade request, he also didn’t deny the report.

“That’s a private conversation,” Washington said (via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor). “As far as me being happy in Pittsburgh, I love it here. Who wouldn’t be happy playing football as their job? I come to work every day with a smile on my face. I’m eager to be here with my guys — joking around, laughing, playing a sport I love.”

Washington was willing to acknowledge that he’s talked about his reduced offensive role with the coaching staff.

“It’s been talked about,” Washington said. “But I’m just trying to do what I can. I just want to show people I can be available and make the plays they want me to make. Just do what I need to do.”

Washington, a 2018 second-round pick, saw a jump from 38 targets as a rookie to 80 looks in 2019. During that 2019 campaign, caught 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns. However, his targets dropped to 56 in 2020, with the receiver finishing his third NFL season with 30 grabs for 392 yards and five scores. His yards per catch average also dropped, going from 16.7 to 13.1.

This summer, Washington still found himself buried on the depth chart during the early parts of training camp, leading to rumblings that he was seeking a trade.

Ben Roethlisberger has never been shy about spreading the ball around, so there could definitely be a role for Washington in Pittsburgh in 2021. However, the 25-year-old currently has to compete with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson for targets, limiting his upside.

Steelers’ James Washington Requests Trade?

Aug. 8: Head coach Mike Tomlin says that Washington has not requested a trade or expressed dissatisfaction with his role on the team, as Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. “Those unnamed sources, we don’t react to or respond to,” Tomlin said. “James has been great here, working, and having a good camp.”

Canada expressed similar sentiments, adding that Washington has a “good role” in the offense.

Aug. 6: Steelers wide receiver James Washington has asked for a trade (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). It’s not immediately clear whether the Steelers will accommodate the request.

Washington, a 2018 second-round pick, saw a jump from 38 targets as a rookie to 80 looks in 2019. Last year, however, the ball was thrown in his direction just 56 times. And, so far in training camp, Washington hasn’t been getting the kind of reps he wants.

Washington’s best year as a pro came in ’19 when he caught 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, he posted 30 grabs for 392 yards and five scores. His yards per catch average also dropped, going from 16.7 to 13.1. He’s hoping for a fresh start elsewhere, allowing him to reestablish himself as a quality deep threat.

Despite the request, recently promoted offensive coordinator Matt Canada would probably prefer to keep him in Pittsburgh. However, if the front office trades the 25-year-old, he’ll be able to move forward with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson as his top options.

AFC Notes: McLaurin, Bolts, Steelers, Roby

Had the Raiders not traded for Antonio Brown (or had they known he wouldn’t last the summer with them), Vic Tafur of The Athletic notes they would have “definitely” drafted a wide receiver early (subscription required). The Raiders did not take a wideout until Hunter Renfrow in Round 5, but Tafur adds they were “in love” with Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin. Washington nabbed McLaurin in Round 3, and he’s quickly risen to the role of the team’s top aerial threat. In adding Brown, Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant, Oakland went the veteran route to patch up its receiver needs. It seems a good bet the Raiders will look to bring more rookie help at this position in 2020.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • It looks like the Chargers will be without their kicker for a third straight week. Los Angeles has listed Michael Badgley as doubtful to face the Texans. This will point to a third Ty Long kicking assignment. After being named AFC special teams player of the week in Week 1, the Bolts’ punter missed two field goals in their loss to the Lions.
  • When the Chargers face the Texans, they will see a reconfigured cornerback corps. After spending five years as a boundary corner with the Broncos, Bradley Roby is now the Texans’ slot defender. The Texans cut slot incumbent Aaron Colvin after Week 1 and have moved second-round pick Lonnie Johnson into the starting lineup at outside corner, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. Houston gave Roby a one-year, $10MM deal. This slot assignment now serves as a critical component in another Roby contract year.
  • As Mason Rudolph makes his first start, the Steelers are going with their younger receivers. Pittsburgh’s Week 2 benching of Donte Moncrief will continue into Week 3, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic indicating James Washington and rookie Diontae Johnson will play ahead of the underperforming veteran against the 49ers (subscription required). Washington and Johnson will primarily play on the outside, with JuJu Smith-Schuster manning the slot. Given a two-year, $9MM deal, Moncrief has dropped five passes through two games.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Ravens, Taylor

Mike Tomlin addressed the contract status of his top running back and is hopeful that the key players being in the same room will bring about a long-awaited resolution to the Le’Veon Bell impasse. The 12th-year Steelers coach believes everyone involved in this process wants this deal finalized.

Now it’s just about negotiators getting into a room and doing what it is they need to do,” Tomlin told WAVY-TV’s Bruce Rader (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN). “I’m excited and hopeful. Hopefully we’ll have some exciting news before Monday.”

Earlier Saturday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported some late progress has emerged here after previously it was looking like a strong possibility existed of Bell hitting the 2019 free agent market. The deadline for franchise-tagged performers to sign extensions is 3pm CT Monday. If Bell does not reach a deal, he’s not expected to show up at the Steelers’ facility until after the preseason concludes.

Aside from the division-dominating Bell saga, here’s what’s going on in the AFC North heading into training camps:

  • After losing Ryan Jensen to the Buccaneers, the Ravens are in need of a new center. Going into camp, the hope is second-year Raven and former UDFA Matt Skura commandeers the job, Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun notes. A Duke product who entered the league two years ago, Skura started 12 games in relief of Marshal Yanda last season at right guard. Pro Football Focus didn’t view those starts as particularly memorable, placing Skura’s 2017 work near the bottom of the guard hierarchy. Lee adds that while Alex Lewis will be tried at left guard, the part-time 2016 Baltimore starter also hovers as a center option.
  • A scenario where Tyrod Taylor sees another year in Cleveland by holding off Baker Mayfield into 2019 has been discussed by some this offseason. It just doesn’t seem realistic, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com said (video link). Cabot does not see a scenario that Taylor is on the 2019 Browns, partially because he may have a starting opportunity elsewhere next season as Baker Mayfield ascends to claim the Browns’ job. Even if Taylor leads the Browns to a surprise playoff berth, Cabot can see John Dorsey following his former organization’s example by moving on from the starter that got them there and installing the first-round pick the following year.
  • The Steelers drafted James Washington in the second round because they “love” his ability to adjust on deep targets and make contested catches, Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes. Washington’s ability to win 50-50 balls will make him credible in an area in which Martavis Bryant didn’t display a reliable skill last season, Benz writes, though conceding the former Oklahoma State star doesn’t have Bryant’s athleticism.

Steelers Sign WR James Washington

The Steelers have signed their second-round pick (No. 60 overall) wide receiver James Washington to a four-year deal, Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams reports.

During the draft, the team sent receiver Martavis Bryant to the Raiders, so the Steelers were looking to fill the void left by the big-play, but often troubled receiver. They found their guy in Washington. The team will hope its recent run of selecting wide receivers continues with the college star, who joins Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster in a loaded aerial attack.

At Oklahoma State, the electric receiver set a new school record and finished second in Big 12 history with 4,472 career receiving yards. He added 39 receiving touchdowns during his career and claimed the prestigious Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver as a senior in 2017.

Washington said he is ready to step in and replace Bryant as the team’s go-to option on deep balls. “It all comes down to who wants it more, and nine times out of 10, I guarantee you I want it more,” Washington said.

The quarterback he achieved those eye-popping numbers with won’t be far away, either, after Pittsburgh selected Mason Rudolph in the following round as the potential successor to longtime signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger.