Guard/Tackle Trai Essex – Steelers 2011 Free Agent
Free Agent Classification: UFA (unrestricted free agent)
2010 Salary Estimation: $806,000 Base – $1,056,000 Cap Charge
Analysis: Our free agent analysis have become quite popular so we will continue onward with our breakdown player by player of each of the Steelers 18 free agents and up next up for analysis is guard/tackle Trai Essex. Essex was originally drafted in the third round (93rd overall) by the Steelers in the 2005 NFL Draft and spent his first 3 years with Steelers as a reserve lineman that could play on both sides of the line and contributed on special teams. When Darnell Stapleton was allowed to walk after the 2008 season, Essex was re-signed to a two year contract and became the starting right guard in 2009. It was not a good year for Essex as both his pass and run blocking were pretty bad as a whole. When the Steelers drafted Maurkice Pouncey last April, the thought was that he might challenge for the starting right guard spot that was manned by Essex in 2009. Pouncey instead was given the shot at center and wrestled the position away from from veteran Justin Hartwig during training camp. Hartwig was then released and almost by default, Essex started the season as the teams right guard for the second year in a row.
Essex got off to a good start in week 1 against the Falcons in 2010, but floundered against the Titans in week 2, allowing 5 quarterback pressures on the day. He sprained his ankle in the second half and exited the game. The high ankle injury cost Essex several weeks and he did not start again until the week 8 loss at New Orleans. He played beneath the standard in that game and the following week against the Bengals and by week 11 had lost his starting job to Ramon Foster. For the rest of the season, Essex saw snaps at almost every position on the line off the bench due to injury, he also was used as an extra tight end in some sets. Off of the bench, Essex played about average and did seem to work better in space when lined up at tackle. Essex finished the season playing a hair under 450 snaps on offense and his play as a whole was pretty pedestrian like.
Future: Essex just finished his second contract with the Steelers in 2010 and the chances of him being re-signed again do not look good. He is currently an unrestricted free agent and might end up elsewhere in 2011 as a reserve lineman. If he does return to the Steelers in 2011, it would be on a one year deal likely around the minimum for a player with 5 years of service in and he would have to win a spot on the roster as a backup. Both of those things are unlikely to happen and Essex has probably played his last game wearing the black and gold.
Other 2011 Steelers Free Agents Analysis