Zach Gentry’s Contract Details Will Reveal Possibility Of Steelers Drafting Another Tight End

On the heels of the Pittsburgh Steelers agreeing to terms with free agent tight end Zach Gentry this weekend, it’s still hard to tell if that completely takes the position off the 2023 NFL draft board for the team come the end of April. Why is that? Well, because we have yet to learn the financial details related to Gentry’s signing. All we have at this point is that it supposedly is a one-year deal for Gentry, the team’s former fifth-round draft pick out of Michigan.

While we don’t yet know the finer details related to Gentry’s deal, the fact that it’s likely one-year in length probably means that his 2023 earnings will be somewhere between $1.08 million and $2.5825 million. Honestly, it will be quite shocking if his number comes in greater than that. Good for him if it does.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Gentry could be one of two offseason candidates to sign a one-year, Four-Year Player Qualifying Contract with a total value of $2.5825 million to return. The other candidate I listed in that post, safety Terrell Edmunds, has since signed with the Philadelphia Eagles so that leaves Gentry as the perfect match for such a contract.

With the Steelers recently bringing back cornerback James Pierre on a one-year, $1.3 million contract, I figure that Gentry will either get the same as he did, or a little bit more. If you need a refresher, a Four-Year Player Qualifying Contract under this specific CBA benefit is a one-year deal with a base salary of up to $1.35 million more than the minimum base salary for a said player. A maximum signing bonus of $152,500 for 2023 may also be given as part of that kind of qualifying contract. The contract also comes with a decreased salary cap charge benefit.

Should that indeed be the kind of contract that Gentry received from the Steelers to return, his base salary would be $2.43 million, and he would likely receive the maximum allowed signing bonus of $152,500. $1.35 million of that $2.43 million base salary would be considered a benefit portion so his salary cap charge on such a deal would be just $1.2325 million despite him being set to earn $2.5825 million in 2023. Here’s the kicker, such a deal would likely have just the $152,500 signing bonus as the guaranteed portion. In short, Gentry would need to make the 53-man roster to get the rest.

So, let’s assume that Gentry’s max amount for 2023 is indeed $2.5825 million and his fully guaranteed portion is just $152,500. Would, should, could the Steelers still be able to address the tight end position with one of their 2023 draft picks? Personally, I think that’s still a very plausible option. Why? Well, because the team should look to upgrade from Gentry if at all possible as it certainly seems like the former college quarterback-turned tight end has hit his ceiling in all phases of his game.

Before we move forward, no, I have not forgotten about second-year tight end Connor Heyward. That said, Heyward has his limitations when it comes to him being used as a blocker and especially when it comes to him being attached at the end of the line of scrimmage as a down player. He might be better served as an h-back player moving forward and as an occasionally used fullback as well.

Assuming Gentry’s contract ultimately reveals itself as one that the Steelers could easily part ways with later this summer, my hope is that the team will indeed look for a better blocking tight end at some point during the draft. That would likely be from the third or fourth-round and later. Currently the team doesn’t have a fifth or sixth-round selection in this year’s draft, but that could obviously change once the annual event gets underway in Kansas City. It’s certainly something to think about and especially with this year’s draft class being considered a deep one at the tight end position.

With the Gentry re-signing news happening Saturday morning, we might need to wait until as late as Wednesday to find out how much he signed for. While we wait, think strongly about the notion that his re-signing still might not prevent the Steelers from addressing the tight end position in the 2023 NFL Draft. The lower Gentry’s contract value is, the more probable it becomes that the team might be open to upgrading from him in late April.

As soon as I get the full details related to Gentry’s new deal, I will post them on the site.

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