One of the newest Seahawks, Greg Olsen, referred this week to the Zoom meetings the team is conducting during its offseason program as feeling like he’s looking at “a Brady Bunch wall’’ of his fellow teammates.
When it comes to his specific position, tight end, the Seahawks could fill a Brady Bunch wall by themselves.
If you consider seventh-round draft pick Stephen Sullivan as a tight end — the team lists him as a receiver but coach Pete Carroll said he’d start out as a tight end — the Seahawks have exactly nine players at that spot, or one player for every spot on the famous Brady Bunch wall.
Put another way, that’s one-tenth of the team’s 90-man roster, two arriving as part of the team’s eight-man draft class last month.
“We’re loading up,’’ Carroll said with a smile after the draft about the tight end spot. “We’re loading up. We’re really excited. You’re going to hear me every time go right back to competition. It can’t be better than this one.’’
It’s certainly going to be intriguing as Seattle has four veterans with significant experience — Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson — as well as two draft picks, at a spot where teams typically keep three total on a 53-man roster, but almost certainly never more than four.
Seattle had no more than three on its 53-man roster at any point last season, though the Seahawks often used offensive lineman George Fant in a tight-end-style role and he’s now gone, having signed with the Jets.
Heading into the season, five would appear to be the favorites for spots on the 53-man roster: Olsen (who is a lock), Dissly (who also is as long as he’s healthy), Hollister, Willson and Parkinson (who might be pretty close to a lock as a fourth-round pick who Seattle would undoubtedly worry about being claimed by another team).
To get a better sense of the competition at this spot, let’s take a quick look at each of the nine tight ends:
That he made a Brady Bunch reference may tip off that he’s the elder statesmen of the group — he turned 35 in March and has been in the NFL since 2007, just one of four tight ends in NFL history with more than 8,000 receiving yards. A one-year deal that included $5.5 million guaranteed also means he’ll have as big of a role as he wants. He told Seattle media this week he thinks he can be the same player he’s always been. “I’m going to play every snap until they take me out,’’ he said. “That’s just always how I’ve approached it. And that’s not going to change now.’’
Dissly is apparently recovering well from an Achilles injury suffered last October at Cleveland, telling the NFL Network this week that he expects to be ready for the start of the season. If so, then pencil him in for either a starting spot, or playing essentially a starter’s share of snaps, from the get-go.
Here is where things get interesting. Hollister was a lifesaver for Seattle last year emerging as a starter after injuries to Dissly and Willson. And he recently signed a restricted free agent tender worth $3.259 million. However, none of that is guaranteed, and that’s all money Seattle will take on its cap if he makes the roster. That potential cap savings is the most of any player that either doesn’t have any dead money or seems a lock to make the team. The Seahawks could re-do Hollister’s deal at any time to make it more cap-friendly, assuming he goes along with that — he’s in line for a hefty raise from the $455,294 he made last year if he were to make the team on the restricted tender. But at that number, he’ll have to really earn it.
Can you believe there are only six players on the roster older than Willson? Willson signed a veteran salary benefit deal that counts just $887,500 against the cap so if he proves worthy of being on the roster money doesn’t have to really be an issue.
A fourth-round pick out of Stanford, Parkinson projects to start out as more of a receiving tight end, potentially used more off the line than on it. Being the 133rd overall pick isn’t a guarantee of making the initial 53-man roster, but teams usually try really hard to not cut players taken in that area or higher thinking they won’t make it through waivers. Seattle has waived only two players drafted higher than that since 2010 — WR Chris Harper (123 in 2013) and OL Terry Poole (130 in 2015).
The seventh-rounder out of LSU has already become something of a fan favorite due to his gregarious personality and inspiring story. But as the numbers show, making the 53-man roster isn’t going to be easy and would probably require two of the above players not making it — or maybe just being considered more of a receiver.
A Mississippi State product, Johnson signed a year ago as an undrafted free agent then missed the season with an Achilles injury. The 6-3, 235-pounder has a football background somewhat similar to that of Sullivan – he was a highly-touted high school receiver who made the transition to tight end in college and impressed the Seahawks when he ran a 4.56 40 at his Pro Day.
An undrafted rookie free agent, the 6-3, 247-pounder played last year at Maryland after spending the previous four years at Buffalo before becoming a grad transfer. Mabry told the Baltimore Sun that the Seahawks aggressively pursued him, doing so basically at the same time they had just traded a 2021 sixth-round pick to move back into the draft and take Sullivan. Mabry described himself in the Sun article as “a blocking tight end,’’ which maybe sets him apart a little from some of the others trying to make it.
A 6-4, 257-pounder from Tennessee, he also signed as a rookie undrafted free agent — meaning, if you’re keeping score, Seattle indeed added four tight ends during/immediately after the draft. A high school quarterback, he was the No. 1-rated junior college TE in the country in 2018 and reportedly turned down Alabama to go to Tennessee. Wood-Anderson attended the NFL combine.
So, why so many tight ends?
Seattle does like to use two tight ends — though it only ran 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, two receivers) 14 percent of the time last year, nowhere near the league-high 46 percent of the Eagles. But Seattle also used six OL more than any team in the NFL last year (230 snaps), and with Fant gone, needs new options to continue that scheme (though free agent signee OL Cedric Ogbuehi could fill that role).
It’s worth noting that practice squads are also now larger — up to 12 this year from 10 in the past. And that there will be easier movement between the practice squad and the 53-man roster, with teams allowed to bring up two players a week (each twice a year) to the gameday roster without having to waive them to send them back to the practice squad (effectively creating a 55-man roster of sorts).
Carroll portrayed it mostly as in keeping with the team’s Always Compete philosophy and simply seeing a lot of players they wanted to bring in.
“Let the games begin,’’ he said. “ We’ll see what happens and we’ll see how it goes and really make it a great spot for us.’’