Rare Trade Proposal Lands Steelers 2-Time Super Bowl Champion

The Pittsburgh Steelers used the NFL draft to bolster their offensive line last offseason. The Bleacher Report NFL scouting department argued that the Steelers should pursue an unusual trade option to improve their offensive line in 2024.

Ted Karras

Bleacher Report proposed the Steelers acquiring center Ted Karras from the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It’s tough to find a left tackle in the trade market who could replace Dan Moore Jr., but the task of finding an upgrade over Mason Cole at center isn’t as difficult,” the BR staff wrote. “Ted Karras is a solid veteran center who would upgrade the offensive line, and the Bengals would shed $6.4 million in cap space.”

Karras would be an upgrade over Steelers current starting center Mason Cole, who struggled significantly in 2023.

However, that fact could deter the Bengals from making such a move even if it saved them cap space. Trades within the same division are rare in the NFL, especially if they will tangibly make a rival better.

Before the Bengals, Karras played five seasons for the New England Patriots and one for the Miami Dolphins. With the Patriots, Karras won Super Bowls during the 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons.

How Center Ted Karras Could Fit With the Steelers

Assuming the trade price was reasonably, the Steelers prying Karras away from their division rival would be a pretty significant move.

According to the Pro Football Focus player grades, Karras was the 11th-best center who played more than 1,000 snaps on offense last season. He posted a PFF grade of 67.4 out of 100.

It was the seventh straight season Karras finished with a PFF grade of 65 or higher.

Cole has recorded a PFF grade of below 60 in four of his six NFL seasons. He had a career-low 53.2 grade for the 2023 season.

Among centers with more than 1,000 snaps, Cole was ranked 18th out of 20.

Cole particularly struggled in pass protection. Among all centers who played last season, he was ranked 52nd out of 56 in pass blocking.

Pass protection is Karras’ strength. PFF rated him 22nd in pass blocking out of the 56 centers who played in 2023.

Upgrading center in any capacity will be key for the Steelers this offseason. But getting a center who is better in pass protection would be a great help for quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Could the Steelers Afford Karras?

Assuming the Bengals are interested in departing with Karras’ salary and sending him to a division rival, there is still one big question about whether the veteran center could fit in Pittsburgh.

Can the Steelers afford him?

Spotrac reported the Steelers are more than $14.2 million over the salary cap as of January 31. They have some obvious cut candidates, but the cap is still expected to restrict what the Steelers will be able to do this offseason.

Karras will be entering the final year of his 3-year contract with the Bengals. He is set to count as a $7.37 million cap hit for 2024.

As Bleacher Report explained, if the Bengals trade Karras, they will save $6.4 million in cap space. But it’s difficult to estimate in this hypothetical what the center might cost the Steelers after a trade.

The Bengals and Steelers would have to work out the exact financials of the deal.

If Cincinnati wants the trade to happen badly enough, the Steelers fitting Karras under their salary cap is possible.

But the Steelers would likely have to make a very enticing offer for the Bengals to feel compelled to not only trade a veteran player to Pittsburgh, but make him an afford option for the Steelers too.

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