Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they had claimed long snapper Brandon Hartson off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs. But fear not, Greg Warren fans, because I see no reason to believe that he will pose a serious threat to the job security of one of the longest-tenured long snappers in the league.
Warren, who has been with the Steelers through all three of their recent Super Bowl appearances, is entering his 11th season with the club, throughout which he has been a consistent contributor, barring two prolonged knee injuries, one of which wiped out most of his 2008 season, the last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl.
At this point in his career, the veteran long snapper has been operating on one-year contracts, but the Steelers this offseason didn’t even let him hit free agency, signing him back in February to a one-year, veteran-minimum qualifying contract that only counts $665,000 against the salary cap.
Of course, players do get replaced every year, for a variety of reasons, including age, health, salary, and performance. None of these, barring age, appear to be a factor with Warren. The Steelers, as with most teams, also customarily carry two long snappers through most of the offseason for practice purposes, not necessarily for open competition.
So who is Brandon Hartson, and why was he made available? Hartson was originally signed by the Chicago Bears in August of 2013 following an injury sustained by their regular long snapper during the preseason. Hartson originally attended a rookie minicamp tryout for the Bears earlier that year, but was not signed.
That preseason, he played in three games before being released. He spent the offseason in 2014 with the Bears yet again, playing in all four games before being released yet again, this time even with their regular long snapper having retired.
In 2015, the Chiefs signed Hartson to a futures contract, in addition to two other long snappers. Kansas City is looking to replace their own veteran long snapper, who is currently still a free agent, and who some have blamed for late-season field goal misses a year ago.
The other two long snappers, however, remain on the roster for the Chiefs, while Hartson was chosen to be the odd man out among the three inexperienced long snappers looking to take the place of a veteran.
It doesn’t say much, of course, that Hartson has already twice lost out to long snapping jobs against similarly experienced competition with the Bears and now the Chiefs. With that type of resume, it certainly seems unlikely that he would offer up much of a competition to unseat Warren.
That does not mean, of course, that the time will come for Warren to be replaced. He will be turning 33 years old, after all, in July, and he does have a (now distant) history of knee injuries. More likely than not, however, he will retire before he is unseated by somebody younger. Hopefully there are still a couple more years before that becomes an issue.