The Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed defensive end Tyson Alualu to a two-year contract on Friday and that’s now one less soon-to-be unrestricted free agent the team might want to keep this offseason to have to worry about. With the start of the free agent signing period now four weeks away, the Steelers still have plenty of time to get a few more players scheduled to hit the market re-signed should they choose to go that route.
One of those players might ultimately be tight end Jesse James, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in four weeks. On Friday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert somewhat hinted during his interview on the NFL Network that James might be re-signed this offseason.
“Our tight end position, it’s a strong position, in our opinion, with Vance McDonald and potentially keeping Jesse James in the mix,” Colbert said Friday.
The Steelers possibly wanting to re-sign James this offseason isn’t a huge development and quite honestly, it would come as a bit of a surprise if they were unable to do so. That said, James, who was drafted by the Steelers in the fifth-round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Penn State, already hinted earlier this offseason that he might be inclined to test free agency in March.
“Obviously, I don’t know exactly what is going to happen” in free agency, James told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review not long after the Steelers 2018 season had ended. “I have to see what is out there. I expect interest from other teams and for the Steelers to have some interest. We’ll see what happens.”
James, who played just a little more than half of all offensive snaps last season, registered 30 receptions for a career-high 423 yards. He also had two touchdown receptions and was targeted just 39 times. James’ 14.1 yards per reception in 2018 was also a career high. For his NFL career, James has registered 120 receptions for 1,189 yards and 9 touchdowns. He’ll also only turn 25 years of age in June.
It’s hard to determine exactly what kind of money James thinks he’s worth, but it’s probably not unthinkable to gauge his value at around $3-$4 million a year or so. The Steelers currently have tight ends Vance McDonald, Bucky Hodges, Christian Scotland-Williamson, and Kevin Rader under contract for the 2019 season. The team might also decide later to re-sign third-string tight end Xavier Grimble at some point during the offseason should they choose not to restricted tender him in the several weeks.While James is far from being known as one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends, that part of his game is adequate. That said, he’s not likely to garner a large amount of attention from other teams during free agency this offseason should he ultimately make it that far in the process.