Vance McDonald Decision to Save Steelers Millions in Cap Space

Vance McDonald vs Chris Conte

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images Vance McDonald of the Pittsburgh Steelers takes on Chris Conte of the Tampa Bay Bucs on September 24, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium.

On Friday veteran Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald announced his retirement from the NFL after eight seasons in the league, half of them with the Steelers.

“My family and I are so grateful for everything NFL football has provided us in our life—all the memories both good and the difficult, the relationships and friends we’ve made along the way, the life lessons the game provided both me and my loved ones,” said McDonald in a statement. “It’s always been our dream and mission to leverage the platform given us through the NFL to help serve and uplift others along the way, and we will continue to find ways to serve others as we begin this next chapter of our lives. I am proud to retire a Steeler.”

Vance McDonald Was a Second-Round Pick of the 49ers

McDonald was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft (No. 55 overall) out of Rice University. He caught 64 passes for 866 yards and seven touchdowns for the 49ers before the Steelers acquired him (and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick) in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round draft choice.

He went on to catch 117 more passes for 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns in a Steelers uniform, with his best season coming in 2018 when he had 50 receptions for 610 yards and four TDs. That includes the most memorable play of his career, a stiff-arm of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Chris Conte en route to a 75-yard touchdown reception in Week 3 of 2018.

“I am appreciative of Vance’s contributions during the last four years of his career that he spent in Pittsburgh,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in a statement. “He was a class act on and off the field, leading many of our efforts in the community while also being a voice for our social justice efforts and the community work during the pandemic. I wish he and his family nothing but the best in his retirement and his continued work to be a pillar in the community.”

Through his work with Convoy of Hope, McDonald and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger started the Trucks of Hope campaign, with the mission to bring individual trucks full of nonperishable food, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to 1,000 families in western Pennsylvania.

Vance McDonald’s Retirement Saves the Steelers $5.2 Million

McDonald’s retirement decision has significant salary cap implications, and truth be told, if he didn’t choose to retire the Steelers would likely have released him.

The bad news is that McDonald will still count $2,727,500 in ‘dead money’ against the team’s 2021 salary cap, this according to

As for the team’s future at tight end, the Steelers still have the services of starter Eric Ebron for one more season (salary $5.5 million), as well as Zach Gentry, a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft who is set to earn $850,000 in 2021 and $965,000 in 2022.

The Steelers also have three tight ends signed to future contracts, those being Charles Jones and Dax Raymond (both of whom were inked earlier this week), as well as Kevin Rader, who made his NFL debut in the 2020 season finale against the Cleveland Browns and also played in Pittsburgh’s lone postseason game.

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