When the Pittsburgh Steelers made the trade for tight end Vance McDonald with the San Francisco 49ers, it was viewed as a low-risk transaction. McDonald had a reputation for dropping passes and being inconsistent overall. When his tenure with Pittsburgh began, he certainly fit that bill, but with the additional shortcoming of being often injured.
The 2017 season is over, and now the team has a different scenario on their hands. When healthy, McDonald provided a dynamic threat who was extremely reliable and consistent as a pass catcher—the antithesis of his early-season struggles. McDonald provided what the team hoped they had gained with Ladarius Green in the season prior—a tight end who could block and stretch the field.
Will McDonald be back in 2018 for the Black-and-gold? Even he doesn’t know.
“Everything is pretty uncertain right now,” McDonald told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I embrace whatever happens. Of course, there’s always going to be change, so whatever happens, happens.”
“You can only be optimistic,” McDonald added. “To have an entire year of working with and developing chemistry with Ben (Roethlisberger)? It would be a lot of fun.”
McDonald would love to stay with a contender like the Steelers, but the finances of the situation will also come into play.
According to what was widely reported at the time of the three-year contract extension he signed with the San Francisco 49ers late in 2016, McDonald is due a $3.7 million salary that becomes fully guaranteed on April 1. McDonald’s contract carries a $4.3 million salary-cap hit in 2018.
The combination of the early guarantee and the relatively high cap number for a player who has not definitively earned status as a No. 1 tight end might mean McDonald doesn’t come back with the Steelers. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if they invested a draft pick in a tight end, particularly with Jesse James — the starter the past two seasons — entering the final year of his contract.
After the team’s bye-week, and especially down the stretch, McDonald’s production started to jump off of the screen, and the change was because he was finally getting into a rhythm with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense.
“That bye-week was when things started to open up between Ben and I, and that gets you really excited,” McDonald said. “You don’t expect it to stop right now and would love to allow it to continue to build it now that I have had that time with him and to get past running just basic stuff.”
Would McDonald like to return next season?
“Of course. Absolutely,” he said. “I wouldn’t blink an eye. I’d be back here before anyone else.
”It’s so fun here. It was an exciting year. We expected to play next week. It stinks we don’t get to play next week. It’s kind of a bad dream.”
The obvious question now is whether the Steelers want to have McDonald back next season. The finances have to fit but, when healthy, McDonald more than proved his worth to the team.
Should the Steelers bring back McDonald next year? Let us know in the poll below, as well as in the comment section below!
Should the Steelers bring back Vance McDonald for 2018?
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