NFL free agency 2020: Former Steelers tight end Nick Vannett signs with Broncos
Vannett will look to give Drew Lock another option in Denver's passing attack
Nick Vannett started the 2019 season with the Seahawks, the team that drafted him in the third round back in 2016. He was then traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Less than a year later, Vannett, a veteran tight end who is entering his fifth NFL season, is now set to play for his third team. Vannett recently came to terms on a two-year deal with the Broncos who continue to add more pieces around second-year quarterback, Drew Lock.
Vannett now joins a tight end room in Denver that also includes 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli, Austin Fort and Bug Howard. Vannett and Heuerman played together at Ohio State, catching a combined seven touchdowns during the Buckeyes' run to a national championship in 2014.
Known more for his prowess as a blocker, Vannett helped former Buckeye and current Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott rush for 3,699 yards and 41 touchdowns during their final two seasons together in Columbus. In 2018, Vannett's blocking helped Seahawks running back Chris Carson rush for 1,151 yards, as Seattle boasted the league's top-ranked rushing attack that season after being 23rd the previous season. Vannett was also used sparingly in the passing game, catching just 48 passes and four touchdowns in Seattle. His best receiving season was in 2018, when he caught 29 passes and three touchdowns while helping the Seahawks clinch a playoff berth.
Vannett was traded to Pittsburgh for a fifth-round pick three games into the 2019 season. With the Steelers, Vannett caught 13 of 17 targets for 128 yards. He also served as a valuable blocker while helping Pittsburgh finish with a .500 record after a 1-4 start.
A native of Westerville, Ohio (about a three hours drive from Pittsburgh), Vannett said last month that he was hoping to resign with the Steelers.
"About a month or two after I got here, I was able to catch up with the offense, get accustomed to the whole city of Pittsburgh and just settle into my place, get everything moved in," Vannett told Teresa Varley of the team's official website. "Once I got all of that taken care of, I was able to settle in and play football the way I know how to and just provide some spark to this team the way I know I can.
"Despite our record, despite how the season ended, I felt like my season was successful in how I handled it, came in and took advantage of the opportunity that was given to me."
Instead of remaining in Pittsburgh (who signed former Colts Pro Bowl TE Eric Ebron late last week), Vannett will now get a chance in Denver to play with Lock, who went 4-1 as a starter last season while helping the Broncos finish with a 7-9 record. He will also get the opportunity to block for Phillip Lindsay, a 2018 Pro Bowl who has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Broncos.
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