Steelers OG James Daniels considered among most underrated free agent signings
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers improved their offensive line this offseason. Here’s why James Daniels was labeled as one of the most underrated free-agent signings.
It’s hard to recall an offseason that has been quite this eventful around the entire league. Franchise quarterbacks have been shipped to new teams while elite receivers like Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams surprisingly were traded.
Lost in all the excitement are the moves the Pittsburgh Steelers have made in free agency. In comparison, they look rather underwhelming, but they might have bigger implications for the success of this team than you think.
The fan-favorite so far seems to be the Myles Jack signing. After the talented linebacker was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers wasted no time in snatching him up. In addition, Pittsburgh made some solid moves in the secondary by signing CB Levi Wallace and bringing back Ahkello Witherspoon, while most were on board with the Mitch Trubisky deal.
One move that hasn’t yet gotten enough love (my favorite addition of the offseason) is OG James Daniels. The former 39th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears has been excellent in each of his first four seasons, and it’s about time somebody noticed just how good this move was.
Recently, CBS Sports writer Cody Benjamin wrote a piece on the most underrated free-agent signings in 2022. Daniels was one of nine players to make the list. Here’s what Benjamin had to say:
"Steelers sign Bears OG James DanielsContract: 3 years, $26.5 million | AAV: $8.8 millionPittsburgh isn’t getting Daniels on the cheap, making him one of the seven highest-paid right guards in the NFL, but the value is still rock-solid. The best, most versatile piece of an otherwise iffy Bears line, he’s also only 24, so he’ll be primed to keep growing while addressing a major need for the Steelers."
Steelers are getting a great player in Daniels
James Daniels isn’t just your run-of-the-mill guard to hit free agency. I’m actually blown away that the Chicago Bears didn’t make an effort to keep one of the only good offensive pieces on this team from last year.
Daniels was one of the most athletic offensive linemen coming into the league. The former Iowa center put up terrific numbers at the NFL Combine — recording a 96th percentile 3-cone drill and a 94th percentile 20-yard shuttle. Combine his terrific movement skills with long arms, and you have a player who projected very well at the next level.
Daniels didn’t disappoint either. In his first four seasons, the athletic interior offensive lineman never once graded out worse than the 20th best player at his position, according to Pro Football Focus. The tape would back this up, as he appeared to be the lone bright spot on a struggling Bears offensive line.
Though signing a guard is never going to be the flashiest pick, Daniels is the player that the fans could quickly come to love the most out of this free-agent class. I can see him being a reliable, cornerstone player to this young Steelers offensive line, and he is still just 24 years old.
I think that James Daniels has yet to play his best football, and he might have another decade left in the tank. Daniels wasn’t talked about enough during free agency, but he’s a guy who could prove to be one of the better players on the Steelers from Week 1.