Former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James had been unemployed since the Detroit Lions released him in March, just two seasons in to a four-year, $22.6 million contract signed in March 2019.
But according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, James has a new home in the NFC North, this time on a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears.
Considering how little James produced in Detroit, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the only chance the 27-year-old gets to resurrect his career. In fact, some NFL observers consider the acquisition of James to be the single-worst free agent signing by former Lions GM Bob Quinn.
In 32 games with the Lions over two years, James made 18 starts but caught just 30 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, even as he played upwards of a thousand total snaps. (This as compared to the 120 catches for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns he produced in his three best seasons for the Steelers, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft.)
What is especially odd is how the Lions paid James like a starting tight end, only to draft tight end T.J. Hockenson No. 8 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft less than two months after James came on board.
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Jesse James Bad-Mouthed the Steelers On His Way Out of Pittsburgh
In March and April—between the time when he was released by the Lions and the Steelers drafted Pat Freiermuth in the second-round of the 2021 Draft—there was some thought that Pittsburgh might sign James to back up Eric Ebron.
But then and now, that seemed implausible, as Kevin Colbert & Co. probably couldn’t overlook the fact that right after he played his last game for the Steelers, James compared the organization to the Kardashians, complaining about the “[drama] popping up weekly.”
He also went on to critique the way he was used by the Steelers, telling Mike OHara of DetroitLions.com: “I feel like things could have been better [in Pittsburgh]. Offensively, I wasn’t used the way I feel I could be used here. I feel like my ceiling here is going to be much higher than it was in the past.”
‘The Receiver in the End Zone Did Not Survive the Ground’
Regardless of how James fares going forward, he will never be forgotten in Pittsburgh, as he was on the receiving end of arguably the most famous and controversial (non) catch in Steelers history.
You may recall that during the final minute of a December 2017 game against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw what appeared to be a 10-yard touchdown pass to James, this in the wake of a 69-yard catch-and-run by rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The touchdown would have allowed the Steelers to overcome a fourth-quarter comeback by Tom Brady and the Patriots, but the call was overturned because “the receiver in the end zone did not survive the ground.”
The Steelers ended up losing the game by a score of 27-24.
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