Vannett inked a two-year, $5.7 million deal with the Broncos in March 2020 and went on to appear in 15 games with 11 starts. But the five-year veteran caught just 14 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, and played more than half the team’s snaps in just two games last season.
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In other words, Vannett’s brief tenure in Denver wasn’t any more successful than his brief run in Pittsburgh, where he had 13 catches for 128 receiving yards in 13 games (six starts).
His most productive NFL season came with the Seahawks in 2018, when he caught 29 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns.
Nick Vannett is a Former Third-Round Pick
Vannett—6-foot-6, 261 pounds—was a third-round pick of the Seahawks in 2016 (No. 94 overall) out of Ohio State. He played for Seattle for three-plus seasons until he was traded to the Steelers for a 2020 fifth-round selection in September 2019.
The Steelers won’t be interested in a reunion, despite the need for a No. 2 or No. 3 tight end (depending on how you view the upside potential of backup Zach Gentry, a former fifth-round pick out of Michigan who has appeared in just six games during his first two years in the league).
That’s why it’s not unreasonable to think that the Steelers will try to bring back TE Jesse James, who was recently released by the Detroit Lions just two years in to a lucrative four-year contract.
The Steelers Have a Trio of Developmental Tight Ends
In addition to starter Eric Ebron, the Steelers also have three other tight ends on the offseason roster. That includes former Jacksonville Jaguars TE Charles Jones II, who was signed to Pittsburgh’s practice squad in November after Vance McDonald landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Tulane University product went on to ink a one-year Reserve/Future deal with the Steelers in January.
That also includes Dax Raymond, who was originally signed by the Steelers last summer and has also been brought back on a futures contract.
Last but not least, there’s Kevin Rader, who was added to Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster on November 24, 2020, after he spent the first two-and-a-half months of the season on the practice squad.
Rader—who came into the NFL in the spring of 2018, signing with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent—went on to make his NFL debut in the 2020 season finale against the Cleveland Browns. He also played in Pittsburgh’s lone postseason game, perhaps an indication that he’s the most likely of the three to ascend to a greater role in 2021.
Rader played collegiately at Youngstown State in Ohio, where he had 44 receptions for 601 yards and four touchdowns. One of those touchdown catches was a highlight reel grab that secured a walk-off win for the Penguins.
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