All offseason, I’ve written about how we should know by the end of the 2020 NFL Draft how the Pittsburgh Steelers really feel about young tight end Zach Gentry, the team’s fifth-round draft pick last year. With all that’s transpired this past week, I no longer believe we must wait until the draft concludes to know what the Steelers think about Gentry.
Exactly one week ago it was first reported that the Steelers were restructuring the contract of veteran tight end Vance McDonald. While that restructure did include McDonald taking less overall money in 2020, it also included him receiving $4 million in the form a signing bonus, which is guaranteed money. In short, not only was McDonald’s 2020 option year picked up this past week, he’s now virtually guaranteed to be on the Steelers roster all season due to him receiving guaranteed money.
Not only did the Steelers lock McDonald up for the 2020 season this past week, on Friday they added free agent tight end Eric Ebron to the team by coming to terms on a two-year, $12 million contract. While the exact details of Ebron’s are still not known as of the time of this post, you get bet he received a signing bonus of at least $5 million, which locks him into the Steelers roster for at least the 2020 season.
With McDonald and Ebron locked into the 2020 Steelers team this past week, there was no need to re-sign unrestricted free agent tight end Nick Vannett, who was acquired via a trade with the Seattle Seahawks early last season. Vannett has since signed a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos, which is more good news for the Steelers regarding the offseason compensatory draft pick value chart.
Currently, Gentry, who played in all of four games during his rookie season and to the tune of just under 50 total offensive snaps, now sits third on the Steelers depth chart with the 2020 NFL Draft still a month away. If there’s anything that’s currently working in Gentry’s favor right now, it’s the fact that the Steelers aren’t likely to draft a tight end with one of their currently scheduled six selections. Even if they do draft one, the likelihood of them doing so with their first three selections now appears to be very low. Should that ultimately wind up being the case, Gentry will at least enter the remainder of the offseason with a great chance at making the roster as a third tight end.
A bit of a consolation for Gentry after all that’s transpired this past week is that the two tight ends currently ahead of him on the 2020 depth chart, McDonald and Ebron, have both had problems staying healthy throughout their respective careers. Ebron, who misdeed five games last season due ankle problems, had surgery last December to hopefully repair those issues. As for McDonald, he’s yet to make it a full season without missing games due to injuries since being drafted in 2013.
Will the Steelers add another tight end or two from the XFL or as an undrafted free agent? That’s likely to happen so Gentry will have his share of competition to beat out throughout the summer.