B.J. Finney serving as high-priced insurance policy for Steelers
David DeCastro’s absence from organized team activities has provided B.J. Finney prolonged first-team work at right guard.
When DeCastro returns — presumable next week at mandatory minicamp — Finney will go back to his customary spot with the second string.
And that’s just fine with the fourth-year interior offensive lineman.
“Absolutely,” Finney said Wednesday. “it means I’ve got a job.”
A high-paying one at that. By signing his $3.095 million restricted free agent tender, Finney is making the type of salary typically allocated to a starter.
And Finney was the projected starter at left guard … for all of about two days in March. Then, the Steelers brought back 11-year veteran Ramon Foster with a two-year, $8.25 million deal.
Which means, barring injury, Finney will spend his final season before hitting unrestricted free agency waiting his turn to get back on the field.
“Everybody wants to start. Realistically, that’s not everybody,” Finney said. “You just kind of buy the opportunities you can get and make the most of them.”
That the Steelers offered Finney a second-round tender, meaning any team that tried to sign him in free agency would forfeit a second-round draft pick next season, shows the value they place in the former undrafted free agent from Kansas State.
In three seasons with the Steelers, Finney has started nine of 43 games, filling in twice for center Maurkice Pouncey, four times due to a Foster injury and once as a blocking tight end. Last year, Finney started when DeCastro missed his first two games to injury since 2012.
“We know B.J. is a very capable guy,” Foster said. “They know that. Other teams knew it, too. That’s why you put a second-round tag on him. It’s awesome. I don’t think (the Steelers) batted an eye at it, either.”
The trade that sent right tackle Marcus Gilbert to Arizona freed up the salary-cap space necessary for the Steelers to afford a $3 million backup guard/center. Finney, in fact, will account for a higher cap space this season than Foster, who carries a $2.675 million figure.
“I don’t think teams mind putting a second-round tender on a guy they have confidence in, even if they are considering playing somebody else,” said Foster, who serves as the team’s union representative. “The value of O-linemen has gone up across the board. You’ve got guards getting $15 million a year, right tackles getting $25 million guaranteed.
“That’s a lot of money being spread around the O-line because teams realize if we are going to have a passing league, we need guys who are going to protect the franchise quarterback, and I don’t think it’s a huge issue in doing that.”
In 2019, Finney also will provide an insurance policy against injury to the three interior starters. Pouncey played all but 14 snaps last year, but he turns 30 in July and essentially has missed two full seasons out of nine in his career. Foster is 33 and played every snap last year, yet missed four games the previous two years. DeCastro is 29.
“He can play two positions and whenever you can add value, it always seems to work out,” Pouncey said. “He’s been doing a good job of locking down the offense and knowing all of the calls. He’s comfortable in the offense.”
This spring, Finney has found his footing lining up on the right side of Pouncey due to DeCastro’s absence. Until last year, Finney had never started at right guard.
“It’s the same assignments, just going the different direction,” Finney said. “I rotate throughout the week, left, center and right, and you never know what is going to happen in a game, so I’ve got to learn how to play all of them.”
The experience could benefit Finney next winter when he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
“You want to be versatile,” Foster said. “Depending on how this year goes, he might be signed as a right guard or somewhere else as a left guard. We have a saying with young guys, the more you can do …”
Left unsaid is the more a player can do, the more he can earn. Not that Finney is focused on the financial ramifications of his next contract.
“I’m not looking forward,” he said. “I’m here in the moment with the team and trying to make the best 2019 that we can.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .