Player: Eli Rogers
Position: Wide Receiver
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted (Will Toll?)
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $630,000
2018 Season Breakdown:
The Pittsburgh Steelers originally signed Eli Rogers as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville in 2015, but he spent his rookie year on injured reserve after suffering a foot injury pretty early in training camp, before any preseason games had been played.
But the team liked what they saw from him by that point enough to feel comfortable carrying him on injured reserve all year rather than working out an injury settlement, so that they could retain his rights heading into 2016.
That proved to be wise, as he would play a big role that year, largely due to circumstances, but he served the slot receiver role well in that offense. With JuJu Smith-Schuster being drafted in 2017 and taking over the slot, however, he fell to the backburner.
Rogers started to see more snaps at the end of the season, but that culminated in his suffering a torn ACL in the postseason loss. The Steelers declined to give him a restricted free agent tender the following spring, but they re-signed him to a one-year deal at the start of training camp, knowing that he would still be recovering from the significant knee injury.
He ended up spending most of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and perhaps he would have spent all of it there had it not been for the injury to Justin Hunter, which sent the veteran wide receiver to injured reserve and opened the door for Rogers to be activated.
The Steelers activated him for the final three games of the regular season, during which he would catch 12 passes on 14 targets for 79 yards. That might not sound significant, but some of them were key conversions. It’s worth remembering also that he averaged 12.4 yards per reception back in 2016, so he is capable of more.
Free Agency Outlook:
There still seems to be at least some degree of uncertainty from the Steelers’ camp about whether or not the contract of Rogers will toll into the 2019 season. There is already precedent for players in his position to have had their contracts toll, as it just happened with the Seattle Seahawks last year, but to hear Kevin Colbert or Art Rooney II talk about the topic, they don’t appear to be sure. Perhaps they should know.
Until we are informed otherwise, however, we will work under the assumption that Rogers’ contract will indeed toll, which means that his 2018 contract will be repeated in 2019, his fifth season in the NFL. There is no reason to think that he shouldn’t remain a part of the Steelers’ offense, especially given the way that they started to use him once they activated him from the PUP List.