The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: What will Jesse James’ contract with the Detroit Lions given the contracts of comparable tight ends already signed?
Boy, the mid-level tight end market is absolutely on fire right now. Days after the Baltimore Ravens and Adam Schefter had to sell the world on the idea that Nick Boyle and his zero touchdowns were worth $6 million per season as a blocking tight end on a team that just drafted two quality players at his position, the first day of the tampering window showed that, well, that’s what the market is this year.
A pair of Cincinnati Bengals tight ends who are loosely comparable to Boyle in skill signed contracts that were also loosely comparable. The Bengals held on to C.J. Uzomah, who like the Steelers’ Jesse James was a fifth-round pick in 2015, whom they signed to a three-year deal worth “more than $18 million), which probably means about $18.25 million.
Tyler Kroft—yet another 2015 fifth-round draft pick—agreed in principle to join the Buffalo Bills on a contract that is worth $18.25 million over three years. So that’s three AFC North tight ends drafted in the same year around the same time with around the same level of abilities getting similar contracts.
Jesse James has outperformed all of them, recording 120 receptions for 1189 yards and nine touchdowns in his four seasons, and has spent a good deal of time functioning as the Steelers’ TE1. He is also coming off the best season of his career and is the youngest of the group—still just 24 until June.
There’s no way that his contract with the Lions comes in at under $6 million per season. I’m just wondering by how much. $7 million per season? Maybe $8 million? No details have been reported yet as in the other cases, but for him to have agreed to exit Pittsburgh so quickly, you’d have to think he knows he’s getting a very good deal.