2023 Stock Watch – TE Zach Gentry – Stock Down

With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we have turned our attention to the offseason. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.

Player: TE Zach Gentry

Stock Value: Down

Reasoning: The Steelers’ decision to draft tight end Darnell Washington in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft places not only his long-term future with the team in jeopardy but also his immediate roster prospects for this coming year.

Taken as a developmental project in the fifth round in 2019, Zach Gentry finally began to mature into a consistent contributor by 2021. He went on to play more than 1,000 snaps for the Steelers over the past two years since then.

Sitting here today, however, there is no guarantee that he plays another snap for Pittsburgh. The first signs came when the team opted not to extend him a restricted free agent tender, which would have paid out over $2.6 million. When he did re-sign, it was for a veteran-minimum deal with a $152,500 signing bonus, the maximum allowed to qualify for a salary cap discount.

Still, he has been their primary blocking tight end for the past two seasons and has made a good pairing with 2021 second-round pick Pat Freiermuth. But with the addition of a tight end who bills himself as the sixth lineman, it calls into question Gentry’s relevance.

Darnell Washington may be a rookie, but he could very well be the most NFL-ready blocking tight end to step onto a football field in recent years. I don’t think anybody would be surprised if he quickly stepped into the number two role, especially since most evaluated him higher than where he was drafted.

That doesn’t mean the Steelers won’t carry both, of course, especially if they move Connor Heyward to more of a fullback role. But even if they don’t move Heyward, they could still carry four tight ends, and even a fullback (like Monte Pottebaum) if they wanted.

Even in that scenario, it doesn’t really bode well for 2024 and beyond. As long as Washington works out, and nothing happens to Freiermuth or Heyward, one could easily envision the 2023 season being the last for Gentry in Pittsburgh.

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