Yet there was little doubt where he wanted to be after taking a tour of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp.
"After my visit here, I really believed this was the place for me," Cotchery said Sunday just before his first practice with his new club. "This was the type of atmosphere that I needed to be in now. Business-wise, you still have to take the visit (to Baltimore), but all along I believed this was the place for me."
Cotchery agreed to a one-year deal with Pittsburgh last week. The Steelers hope Cotchery's size (6-foot-1) and versatility will make him an impact player immediately.
"He's been a good receiver in this league, and hopefully he can bring some of those good times over here with us," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "I don't know if he's only going to be in the slot, because I think you can put him anywhere."
Cotchery caught 353 passes for 4,474 yards and 18 touchdowns in seven seasons with New York, but his role diminished last season. He pulled in just 41 passes in 2010, his lowest total since he became a starter in 2010. He didn't anticipate more passes would come his way this season after the Jets signed Plaxico Burress, so he asked to be let go.
"Sometimes, you just realize that it was time, and that's what it was for me," Cotchery said. "It was the end of my time with the Jets. It was time to move on, and I really didn't see myself fitting in there in the future.
"It was beneficial for both sides for that to happen."
Cotchery will join a group that includes the blossoming Wallace and gritty veteran Hines Ward, who is coming off thumb surgery. Cotchery could fall anywhere from third to fifth or sixth on the depth chart. He is not concerned as long as he will be given a chance to make a contribution.
"I could see myself coming in here and helping them win another Super Bowl," Cotchery said. "That's what it's all about. So, I want to win right now, and the Steelers always have a chance. So, that's the main reason I signed with the Steelers."
Cotchery will likely be thrust into the starting lineup for Thursday's game against Philadelphia by default. Second-year wideout Emmanuel Sanders continues to recover from a procedure on his foot and isn't sure when he will return. Throw in concerns about the 35-year-old Ward's age, and Cotchery is a valuable insurance policy.
"If Hines goes down, you want someone to step in to fill that void and do a very good job at a Hall-of-Fame type level," Sanders said.
While Cotchery will play against the Eagles, cornerback Ike Taylor is out. The veteran broke his left thumb during the preseason opener against Washington. He will need surgery and will miss up to three weeks, though he is expected to be back when the Steelers begin the regular season at Baltimore on Sept. 11.
Taylor, who signed a four-year, $28 million deal to stay in Pittsburgh, said the injury happened during Washington's first drive of the game, but he is foggy on the details.
"It was a freak accident or something like that," Taylor said.
He will likely need a soft cast whenever he returns to the lineup, though Ward joked a cast might help Taylor catch the ball better.
"Maybe we can put some sticky on it to help him out," Ward said. "But Ike's a warrior. Unfortunately, you're going to have to play with injuries, but we don't need Ike now. We just need him in a few weeks at Baltimore."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press