Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett and Will Dissly are all set to return for Seattle in 2019 and likely to form Seahawks' tight end rotation on gameday.
One of the big questions for the Seahawks heading into the 2018 season was how they would cope with the losses to free agency of tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson, who had been a good 1-2 punch at that position the previous three years, and in 2017 combined for 14 touchdowns.
Turns out, the Seahawks handled it just fine.
In their new digs, Graham (Green Bay) and Willson (Detroit) combined for 68 receptions for 723 yards and two touchdowns while accounting for a combined $8.4 million in salary-cap space.
2019 POSITION REVIEWS
- QB | Seahawks' future is set — as long as Russell Wilson is around
- RB | Chris Carson proves Seahawks have formula for success in backfield
- WR | Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin are elite, but Seahawks could add third receiver
- TE | Coming Friday
- OL | Coming Saturday
- DL | Coming Sunday
- LB | Coming Monday
- DB | Coming Tuesday
- ST | Coming Wednesday
Seattle’s replacements for them in 2018, meanwhile, combined for 50 receptions for 591 yards and eight touchdowns while taking up just $3.2 million in salary-cap space, 28th in the NFL, according to OvertheCap.com.
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With the four players the Seahawks used last season listed as tight ends who ended the season on the team’s roster set to return (which doesn’t include George Fant — more on him in a minute), the position looms as one of the most stable for Seattle heading into the offseason.
Here’s an overview.
After not really bothering to try to retain Graham and Willson, the Seahawks instead signed veteran free agent Ed Dickson to a three-year deal, then drafted Washington’s Will Dissly in the fourth round to pair with holdover Nick Vannett to form what the team envisioned as a solid three tight-end rotation.
Things didn’t really go to plan, however, as Dickson missed the first six weeks with a quad injury while Dissly — after a fabulous start — suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game.
The loss of Dissly, in particular, compelled the Seahawks to use backup tackle Fant as essentially a tight end (wherever he is as I type this, he’s eligible), even catching one pass against the Vikings, to fill in the missing snaps.
The one constant was Vannett, who played 15 games, and if his overall stats weren’t spectacular, he made some key plays at big times.
Dissly was a surprise with his receiving (eight receptions for 156 yards in four games) before being injured. How well he recovers from a torn patella tendon injury — which can be a particularly tricky injury — will obviously be a key for this position heading into 2019.
And if the team may be hoping for more out of Dickson moving forward (he had 12 receptions for 143 yards), like Vannett he seemed to have a knack for the big play.
Seattle also still seems to have hopes for Tyrone Swoopes, who is entering his third season on the team’s roster after playing in one game last season.
Seattle also got nine games last season out of former UW Husky Darrell Daniels, who was acquired in a trade before the season before he was waived and then claimed by Arizona.
Key stat: Started nine games, most of any tight end, and caught at least one pass in all but one game in which he played.
Contract situation: Vannett is entering the final season of his four-year rookie deal, scheduled to make $776,000 in 2019.
Key stat: Officially started only one game all season — Kansas City — while playing in 10.
Contract situation: Signed through 2020. He is scheduled to make a base salary of $3.3 million in 2019.
Key stat: Had emerged as the starter before his injury. His 66-yard catch-and-run in the opener at Denver was Seattle’s longest offensive play of the season.
Contract situation: Will be entering the second season of his four-year rookie deal, due to make $570,000 in 2019.
Key stat: Had one catch for 23 yards against the Raiders in London.
Contract situation: Swoopes signed a futures deal with the Seahawks in January, meaning he is under contract for one year for $570,000.
As noted, all four listed above are under contract — albeit, at increased cap figures from last, giving Seattle what is already a commitment of $6.6 million to the tight-end spot, more than double that of last season, according to OvertheCap.
So the Seahawks may regard themselves as pretty well set at the tight-end spot other than adding a rookie or low-cost vet or two as camp depth and competition.
Fant is a restricted free agent and the team will have a tough decision whether to tender him and for how much (the lowest tender is expected to be at least $2 million). But the assumption is the Seahawks want Fant back, not only for what he did last season in his eligible tackle/tight-end role, but as competition for Germain Ifedi at right tackle.
POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT TARGETS
Unless the Seahawks were to make a move with Dickson — he has a $4.4 million cap number in 2019 but the Seahawks could save $2.6 million by releasing him or $3.5 million after June 1 — it’s hard to see Seattle hitting the free-agent market too hard in this area, unless they have worries about how ready Dissly will be to contribute when the 2019 season begins.
If the Seahawks wanted a reunion, Willson is again an unrestricted free agent after signing just a one-year deal with Detroit.
One intriguing young player who might not cost a ton is Maxx Williams, a former second-round pick of the Ravens who has yet to really develop but will be only 25 when next season begins.
Seattle used a fourth-round pick last year on Dissly and a third-rounder on Vannett in 2016 and with just four picks at the moment, may not see the need to spend a lot of draft capital on a tight end this time around.
If the Seahawks wanted to look locally again for a tight end, there’s one available in Washington’s Drew Sample, who like Dissly a year ago is regarded as more of a blocking tight end, and is generally pegged for the mid-to-late rounds.