NFL free agency involves three distinct working parts, the incumbent team, the player and potential suitors. Often times these three actors come to the table with three distinct motives and interests and that’s what makes the case of Jonathan Dwyer so interesting.
Capsule Profile of Jonathan Dwyer with the Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers picked Jonathan Dwyer in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. At the time many wondered how a player who’d had such a productive career could slip so far. Word was that Dwyer dazzled during OTA’s and mini camp.
Then camp training amp where Dywer showed up overweight and out of shape. Only and a late preseason surge saved his roster spot. Ditto 2011. Dwyer again showed up overweight and out of shape and only injuries to Baron Batch a late season surge saved his spot.
Dwyer nonetheless showed himself to be a player of some potential, making a hundred yard performance in his first start in 2011 vs. Tennessee. He didn’t see many other carries, and finished the year on IR.
In 2012 injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman would give Dwyer his greatest opportunity. Dwyer fumbled vs. Oakland but rebounded to have 100 yard games vs. the Redskins and Bengals. It seems odd now, but people were even making comparisons between Dwyer and Jerome Bettis. Yet Dwyer could not establish himself as a starter he descended into mediocrity with the rest of the Steelers offense during the second half of 2012.
- The Steelers had apparently had enough by the end of training camp in 2013, cutting Dwyer.
Dwyer’s agent talked a good game about landing a home for his client, but Dwyer watched the season opener from his couch.
When injuries robbed the Steelers of LaRod Stephens-Howling, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert turned to Dwyer. Knowing this was his final shot at an NFL dream, Dwyer ran ever carry as if it were is last, and excelled in short yardage.
The Case for Keeping Dwyer
If his words and deeds in 2013 are any indication, Dwyer’s stint on the unemployment line caused a change of heart. Dwyer’s not going to be a number 1 NFL back, no matter what city he’s playing in. But he’s shown in Pittsburgh that he can be a good number 2 back and a good short yardage specialist.
In that light the Steelers seemingly have a chance to bring in a solid player who knows the offense for a reasonably cap friendly contract.
The Case for Letting Dwyer Walk
Once they’re on a roster for a season opener, the contracts of NFL vested veterans are guaranteed. Signing bonuses, and Dwyer would get one in some form or fashion, are of course guaranteed. Dwyer knows that. And he is a player with a history of mailing it in, or as a player whose sense of urgency is less than constant.
The Steelers are set for their starting running back with Le’Veon Bell. Do they really want to trust the back up role to a player with such a checkered track record?
Curtain’s Call on Dwyer
At the end of the day the Steelers decision comes down to whether they think Dwyer turned over a new leaf in 2013, or whether his motivation was really just a fleeting fancy.
- Steel Curtain Rising’s call is for the Steelers to bring back Jonathan Dwyer, but with the caveat that the signing bonus of any second contract must be rock bottom.
If Dwyer balks at that or if some other team is foolish enough to open the check book for him, the Steelers need to let him walk.