After re-signing veteran defensive end Tyson Alualu to a two-year contract last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have a few other players who are set to become unrestricted free agents two weeks from now back in the fold for 2019. That list of players soon to become unrestricted free agents the Steelers might want to re-sign this offseason includes tight end Jesse James, guard Ramon Foster and cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, just to name a few. On Wednesday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked specifically about James and how high of a priority he feels it is to re-sign him this offseason during his annual scouting combine press conference in Indianapolis.
“Jesse’s been a nice complimentary tight end to us,” Colbert said of the team’s former fifth-round draft pick out of Penn State. “Any of our players that have an opportunity to maybe to look elsewhere where they might have a better chance to be a starter, again, we encourage them. Go, look, find out, keep us in the loop. If there’s a way we can work it out that that’s more beneficial to you to come back, great. And as I said, if a player has the opportunity to go out and see what’s out there, he’s usually more satisfied if he decides to come back.”
Colbert calling James a complimentary tight end on Wednesday isn’t a huge surprise because that’s exactly what he is. While Colbert might hope to re-sign James in the coming weeks and months, he’s not going to overspend to do so. Because of that, James might indeed be allowed to test free agency starting two weeks from today and the same goes for Foster and Sensabaugh.
According to Tony Pauline of draftanalyst.com on his podcast last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills are two teams he’s hearing that might have interest in James should he indeed wind up hitting free agency a few weeks from now. Pauline went on to say that he believes James will get a decent-sized contract to boot.
“If there is one tight end who gets a big contract that turns heads it’s likely to be Jesse James of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” said Pauline recently during a different podcast. “I’m told the team would like to re-sign James, but he presently sits behind Vance McDonald on the Steelers depth chart and staying with Pittsburgh is not a career move that James would want. Presently, I’m told that the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills are two teams very interested in James once he hits the open market.”
Should the Steelers indeed wind up letting James leave Pittsburgh this offseason, that would leave the team with just Vance McDonald when it comes to experienced and higher quality tight ends under contract for the 2019 season. In short, if James isn’t re-signed by the Steelers between now and this year’s draft, perhaps the team might consider selecting one in the first few rounds and maybe even with the 20th overall selection. One of the top tight ends in this year’s draft class and probably the best from an all-around perspective, is T. J. Hockenson out of Iowa. He could potentially still be on the board come time the Steelers pick 20th overall.