Can we talk about the tight-end position real quick? The Steelers have their strongest tight end room since Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth were around, as they found their top guy in Pat Freiermuth. Darnell Washington was brought in to be a big blocker, and Connor Heyward and Zach Gentry round out a deep and talented room.
I expect the tight ends to be a featured part of this offense. While having those physical receiving threats will help out a smashmouth offense, they will also allow the offense to run better, as all of the tight ends are competent blockers. On top of this, every tight end on the roster is on cheap deals.
The same won’t likely be said next offseason, as Freiermuth is set to play his third season with the Steelers. After this year, Freiermuth will be eligible for an extension, and the team will likely be ready to extend him early given their proactive approach to contract extensions. That is, of course, assuming he keeps up his impressive pace.
He is off to an electric start to his career. From being a safety valve as a rookie to expanding his route tree and receiving ability in year two (despite the offense regressing there), Freiermuth has been everything you wanted. Assuming he plays similarly to how he has, he will be a lock to get a new deal next season.
The Steelers will certainly have to pay for Freiermuth
Freiermuth has to be a happy camper this offseason, as two tight ends have gotten paid well. Another name, T.J. Hockenson, is also set to get a new deal, and Freiermuth could be argued as the best of these players receiving new deals.
The tight end market has been overvalued for a while now. Middling names like Josh Oliver and Tyler Conklin each are on sizable deals. The Steelers even had one of their own get a deal akin to this. Jesse James was a very average tight end, but he received a big deal that took him to Detroit.
These deals aren’t uncommon. The league saw dynamic tight ends take over roughly 10 years ago, as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham became dynamic receiving threats for their respective teams. It opened up their offense and they became elite weapons in this league.
The NFL is a copycat league, so naturally, everyone wanted to follow suit. This led to even average names receiving big contracts. While this is apparent among the middling names, this also is true for the top names as well.
Evan Engram and Cole Kmet are further proof of this. Engram got a deal averaging 13.75 million a season while Kmet secured a deal worth 12.5 million a year. While both have had success, neither player is as good as Freiermuth.
Pat Freiermuth is the complete package for the Steelers
Compare Freiermuth to the rest of the tight ends in the league, the Steelers got a gem. While neither the best blocker nor receiver, he is a great combination of both, which is somewhat of a dying breed in the NFL.
Darren Waller is the highest-paid tight end in terms of an average yearly value of 17 million, while George Kittle and Travis Kelce are right behind him at 15 million and about 14.2 million a season respectively. While Waller has struggled with injuries, I would argue that these three are deserving to be the top three paid tight ends in the league.
Though all three are better receivers than Freiermuth, his blocking is only second to Kittle. Freiermuth isn’t a perfect blocker by any means, but he does well in space. Even if he isn’t perfect on the line, he can hold his own.
A great receiver and a fine blocker are worth something. While we are a year out from a potential deal, expect Freiermuth to be paid well for his work. I guess he will become a top-five paid tight end, and he could even crack the top three depending on what Hockenson does. It will be another pricy deal, but well worth it for a tight end that can be a difference-maker for this offense.