Quez Watkins signing creates unnecessary overlap on the Steelers roster

The Steelers just made a puzzling move by signing a receiver who is identical to one they already have on the roster.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles
Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made another free agent signing. On March 25th, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported that the Steelers have signed former Eagles wide receiver, Quez Watkins.

Watkins, a former sixth-round pick by Philadelphia out of Southern Mississippi in 2020, spent his first four seasons with the Eagles where he recorded 98 receptions for 1,249 yards and 6 touchdowns. This is the second wide receiver signing that Pittsburgh has made in free agency. Earlier in the month, they signed veteran Van Jefferson.

Watkins was primarily a slot option for the Eagles. The 6'0'', 185-pound receiver averaged 12.7 yards per reception in his career. Unfortunately, Watkins is coming off the worst season of his career. In 2023, Watkins dealt with a severe hamstring injury that forced him to land on IR.

In 9 games last season, Watkins managed to record just 15 catches on 21 targets for 142 yards and 1 touchdown as his role diminished. His best season came back in 2021.

Quez Watkins signing makes no sense for Steelers

Theoretically, everyone should be able to get behind signing a cheap wide receiver with 4.35 speed. It was his blazing 40 time at the 2020 NFL Combine that put Watkins on the map as a late-round pick back in 2020. However, this free-agent signing doesn't make sense for several reasons.

For starters, the addition of Quez Watkins creates unnecessary overlap on the Steelers roster. He and Calvin Austin III play a very similar role as the team's slot receiver. While Watkins has struggled, Austin still has more to prove, and it finally looked like he was going to get the chance to do that without Matt Canada as the team's offensive coordinator. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that both players can make the final roster in 2024.

Like Van Jefferson, Watkins does not play special teams. That makes the signing all the more unusual. After the Steelers decided to part ways with core special teams gunner, Miles Boykin, it was interesting that the team has done nothing to replace this role.

Because of this, it seems highly unlikely that all three of Jefferson, Watkins, and Austin can make the roster this year. It's also worth noting that none of the three projects as a WR2 in Pittsburgh, and to be honest, all three would be best in a WR4 role -- assuming they could play special teams.

Watkins was a former draft pick of Steelers assistant GM Andy Weidl, so the connection here likely played a factor. However, this is a signing that doesn't fill a void at receiver; rather, it creates unnecessary overlap. We'll see if Quez Watkins can earn a roster spot in 2024.