Should the Steelers trade Diontae Johnson (and what could they get in return)?

Recent rumors suggest that Diontae Johnson could be traded; Should the Steelers send him packing?

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) / Kirby Leei-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are lacking great trade bait right now on their roster, which makes the speculation of moving a player fruitless. One name that has come up as a potential trade candidate is Diontae Johnson. While I dismissed that idea initially, Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda published a report saying otherwise. Specifically, he claims that some people in the organization are willing to move him at the price.

This report is extremely vague. While Pauline does claim to have heard these things from Steelers brass, he makes no mention of who that could be. The fair price clause is also vague, as it leaves a lot of room to backtread if a deal doesn’t materialize.

That said, this news is officially out, and I wanted to provide my views on what this team should do with Johnson.

Should the Steelers trade Johnson?

On paper, there are some considerable pros and cons to dealing away Johnson. My main issue with the notion is that the team will be without elite quarterback play next season once again. They will need all of their weapons to compensate for that. If you want to win with Kenny Pickett (or any other mediocre quarterback), you will need some great receivers.

Johnson provides a unique target in the modern NFL. With so many receivers geared towards the deep ball, Johnson does his best work in the short and intermediate. He wins with sharp routes and is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. While he is blasted for having drop issues, his numbers there are actually in line with the rest of the league. No, he isn’t a top-five receiver, but he is a good starter.

A trade isn’t completely illogical either. Johnson is entering the last year of his deal, and unless a new agreement is reached, he will likely be a hold-in at camp once again. He also struggled with some maturity issues last year along with fellow wideout George Pickens. It is never good to see those problems pop up, but seeing it from a veteran who will turn 28 is a bad look.

If the Steelers have no interest in inking him to a new deal, then a trade is that much more feasible, even if it comes at the cost of success this season. While some are hopeful, I can’t put my faith in this team until an established quarterback is on the roster. Until then, it won’t really matter who else is on the roster.

If a trade were to materialize, it would likely be sooner than later. Johnson is owed a roster bonus early in the offseason, so the team would logically want to save that extra three million in addition to his base salary.

What could the Steelers get for Johnson?

This is where the real issue with trading Johnson comes in, and why the “fair value” comment could ultimately ring true. This upcoming draft class is extraordinarily deep at receiver and will likely devalue the upcoming free agency class of receivers. This will also ring true on the trade market.

Any team that adds Johnson will only have time for one year on his contract and will have to get him a new deal sooner rather than later. He also isn’t on a rookie deal, so he will cost a team in terms of cap space.

That won’t deter a team from trading for Johnson, but it will limit his value on the open market. I would guess that his value is a second-round pick in a normal year, but given all of the other elements, I don’t see that happening.

Next. One free agent from every positional group I want the Steelers to sign. One free agent from every positional group I want the Steelers to sign. dark

I don’t feel like a third-round pick is worth the loss of Johnson. This draft class is relatively shallow, and Johnson will likely net you a third-round pick’s value in the comp formula next year. If a second-round pick did materialize though, I could be swayed. All things considered though, I don’t anticipate Johnson getting moved, but if he does, it will be sooner than later.