President Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers all but ruled out a blockbuster trade to acquire a quarterback this offseason. The obvious followup question, though, is what counts as a “blockbuster” quarterback trade.
On February 11, Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora wrote acquiring New England Patriots signal caller Mac Jones would not be a blockbuster. Kozora then argued acquiring Jones should be a possibility for the Steelers because of his cheap price tag.
“Jones is coming off a miserable third season, throwing just 10 touchdowns to 12 interceptions and repeatedly getting pulled and benched before being sat for good to close out the season,” Kozora wrote. “His value has never been lower.
“The idea of Pickett vs. Jones isn’t an enthralling camp battle. But the alternative is Ryan Tannehill or some other veteran equivalent competing with Pickett this summer. The alternatives aren’t much better. They won’t cost draft capital a trade would, but they’d also be more expensive than Jones’ rookie deal base salary.”
Jones is entering the final year of his rookie contract. By May, his team will have to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option. But that should be an easy decline based on his play.
Jones made the Pro Bowl his rookie season in 2021. But in 2023, he led the Patriots to a 2-9 record while posting a 64.9% completion percentage. He also threw more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (10).
Patriots Set to Trade QB Mac Jones: Report
Kozora connecting the Steelers to Jones came on the heels of NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo reporting that he is a trade candidate this offseason.
“Even though Bill Belichick is gone, former first-round pick Mac Jones — who lost the starting role and ended up third string by the end of the 2023 season — is a trade candidate in the coming weeks and most likely will end up elsewhere for the 2024 season,” wrote the NFL insiders.
That report makes it sound like a foregone conclusion that Jones will be elsewhere in 2024. If the Steelers are interested in acquiring him, that could only work in their favor.
If the Patriots have their hearts set on trading Jones no matter what, the compensation needed to acquire him likely won’t be very high.
The Steelers are a potential destination after the NFL insiders also reported that Mason Rudolph has indicated that he’d like a fresh start with a new team next season.
While Jones was terrific as a rookie, he’s had, not one, but two below average seasons since then. In 2022, he went 6-8 as a starter with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
His yards per attempt as a rookie sat at 7.3. It dropped to 6.8 his second season before plummeting to 6.1 in 2023.
Over the past two seasons, Jones has 24 touchdowns versus 23 interceptions. The Patriots also went 8-17 with him as their starter.
How Jones Could Fit With the Steelers
Kozora hit the nail on the head when he wrote a Jones competition with Kenny Pickett will not excite many people.
Neither quarterback has thrown for more than 15 touchdowns in a season the past two years. They also each own close to a 1-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But as former first-round picks, if fixed, each could offer upside. And as recent former first-round selections, both Pickett and Jones are cheap.
Jones has a base salary of roughly $2.79 million for 2024.
That could be very key for the Steelers, who are about $14.7 million over the salary cap heading into the offseason according to Spotrac.
The Steelers have some obvious roster cuts they can make to open some space. Those possible moves include releasing quarterback Mitch Trubisky, which would save $2.9 million.
Replacing Trubisky with a cheap quarterback would allow the Steelers more wiggle room in free agency.
If the team concludes its most realistic free agent quarterback options offer little upside over Jones, then a trade for the much-maligned Patriots signal caller could actually be a better choice.