This, all things considered, is going to be a boring trade proposal.
I know how to right a lede, right?
But that’s how a lot of Kevin Colbert trades, of which there are a surprisingly high number of, go this time of year. Bottom of the 53 player for a small return. That’s just how it goes. At this point, there aren’t many moves to transform your team. Just minor ones to tweak around the edges.
And to be clear, I’m not suggesting the Pittsburgh Steelers should, 100% make this move. But if there was one you want to argue, something that makes sense and could help the team in some small way, this makes as much sense as anything.
So let me get right to the good stuff. This is one proposal that works for both sides. A deal between the Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Steelers Get: TE Antony Auclair, 2020 6th Round Pick
Buccaneers Get: WR Eli Rogers, 2020 7th Round Pick
Here’s why it looks good on paper. Receiver is the deepest position on the Steelers right now and it’s not even a competition. If Jerald Hawkins plays especially well in the finale, maybe a team (like Tampa or Houston) would be interested for a conditional 7th. But we’re not there today. The receiver spot has eight guys battling for six spots. Beyond the four who are locked in, there are an additional four trying to cement their spot: Rogers, Ryan Switzer, Diontae Spencer, and Johnny Holton.
Spencer and Holton aren’t going to carry any trade value. Local media reports have Switzer as locked in and even if he isn’t, I can’t see anyone trading for him again. That would make four teams in three years.
That leaves Rogers, a man who has enough of an NFL resume – three years in the league, 78 career receptions – worth trading for. Tampa Bay has been searching for a slot receiver all offseason, something they admitted back in May. Here’s what WRs coach Kevin Garver had to say.
“We’re kind of playing with the slot receiver right now, as far as some guys that are playing in that particular position…”
He was referring to breakout candidate Chris Godwin, who has worked some in the slot but will probably play most of his snaps on the outside in 2019 opposite Mike Evans. That leaves Tampa Bay with few options in the slot after losing Adam Humphries, who led the team in 2018 slot snaps, to Tennessee. There may be some in-house options but none with proven experience like Rogers.
Speaking of the coaching staff, it’s littered with former Steelers. Head coach Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, assistant head coach Harold Goodwin, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El – hold on, let me catch my breath here – outside linebackers coach Larry Foote, and assistant special teams coach Amos Jones have all made stops in Pittsburgh. Arians has taken Pittsburgh West and moved them to the Florida coast.
To be fair, none of those players were on the Steelers’ staff when Rogers was signed as a UDFA in 2015 but the connections are easy to spot. And their roster could use a guy like Rogers.
So if a player like Holton plays well enough to compel the team to give him a spot, Rogers could be bumped off. And instead of cutting him, explore a trade. Even if you plan on keeping him, and there are legitimate reasons to roster Rogers, if you plan on having Diontae Johnson active at some point this year, Rogers might have to be the guy who sits. If Switzer is your starting kick and punt returner, he’s going to be active every game.
What about the return? I didn’t realize this until I was I was in the middle of writing this but Tampa Bay doesn’t have a 2020 7th round pick, sent away in the deal that returned Desean Jackson to Philadelphia. To make it work, the teams pick swap, Pittsburgh getting their 6th and Tampa getting their 7th, similar to how the Steelers and Raiders swapped rounds in last year’s deal for Switzer. To the player, Pittsburgh gets a true blocker as their #3 in Auclair, a Canadian player who caught just seven passes but logged 339 snaps a year ago. The Bucs have good depth at the position led by OJ Howard and Cameron Brate with Tanner Hudson impressing and the team snagging Jordan Leggett on waivers before Pittsburgh could claim him.
The Steelers are at least familiar with Auclair beyond the pro scout level considering they prepped for the Bucs in Week 3 of last year (he played 17 snaps) and again this preseason (he caught one pass for 26 yards). He’s also played on special teams and covered kicks in the preseason matchup versus Pittsburgh, recording a tackle. Not a big difference maker but not a bad party trick for a tight end.
Taking on his contract is no issue either. He’s due to make $645,000 in 2019 and will be a restricted free agent after the season, giving the team some control over his future.
Unfortunately, Auclair did suffer a calf injury over the weekend but according to Bruce Arians, is expected to be ready Week One.
Bruce Arians says he’s not worried about a numbers crunch at TE despite some injuries because Cam Brate and Antony Auclair are projected to play in Week 1.
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) August 26, 2019
That would help solve the issues with the Steelers’ tight end depth while keeping a big target in Auclair, 6’6 256, as they have in Zach Gentry, who would get cut and revert to the practice squad.
Bottom line? Tampa Bay potentially gets a starting slot receiver, or quality backup/rotational piece, and the Steelers get a bonafide #3 tight end and the pick swap.
I’m not saying Rogers should be dealt but if Holton is going to win the spot over him, or if it’s close, hey, get what you can.
During the draft, the Steelers allegedly “stole” Diontae Johnson from Tampa Bay, who planned to draft him a few selections later. This can be Bruce Arians’ consolation prize. Not as much upside, of course, but a cheap “win” to get through this season. Considering how sorry the Bucs’ offensive line looks, the ball’s going to have to come out hot, and they’re going to need a reliable slot receiver. For 2019 anyway, Rogers can do that.