The Seahawks have signed Greg Olsen and tendered restricted free agent Jacob Hollister.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still room for Luke Willson in the tight-ends room.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider had said last month at the NFL combine in Indianapolis that the team hoped to bring back Willson for another season. And Willson confirmed late Monday night that he will indeed return for an eighth NFL season, sending out a tweet expressing his excitement over the team’s desire to ask him back.
And in case the bird emoji turned up red for anyone, Willson shortly after sent out another reiterating he was signaling that he will be back with the Seahawks for another season, noting the emoji on his phone was blue.
If it was a unique way of announcing his return to the Seahawks, well, that’s par for the course for a player whose affable locker-room presence has always given him a value far greater than mere stats would indicate.
Willson could have become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday, one of 18 Seahawks who were set to be UFAs. On Monday he became the second to return, joining defensive Jarran Reed, who earlier in the day signed a two-year contract worth up to $23 million.
Details of his contract weren’t immediately known, but it’s a one-year deal and probably for close to or at the league minimum for a player with seven or more years of experience, $1.05 million.
Willson, who had been waived by the Raiders at the end of the 2019 preseason and spent the first few weeks of last season out of football, returned to the Seahawks on Sept. 25 to fill out the tight-end spot following the trade of Nick Vannett to the Steelers for a fifth-round pick.
After Will Dissly was injured and with veteran Ed Dickson out for the year with a knee injury, Willson ended up starting seven games, though he later battled his own injuries and had to sit out five games. He had eight receptions for 79 yards.
During his first tenure with the Seahawks he was famous — or infamous, if you ask players such as Bobby Wagner — for creating Techno Thursday (explained here).
Last season, he was cited for buoying some spirits in a week when the team battled a flu bug, specifically receivers David Moore and Tyler Lockett (detailed here), a week that ended with a win over the Vikings.
“He’s on my all-time team,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Willson returned to the team last fall. “He would definitely be there. He’s just so valuable as a spirit on your team because he’s so upbeat and been so tough. Unbelievably durable and overcame stuff. He’s a good performer. He runs fast. He’s in great shape. He’s done a great job of staying in shape. His hair is back and all of that. He looks good.”
Willson’s return gives the Seahawks a pretty full set of tight ends with Olsen, Dissly and Hollister on board along with Dickson. Dickson, though, is widely expected likely to be released, which would free up $3 million in cap space.
And while the team is optimistic Dissly will be ready for the start of the season following an Achilles injury last Oct. 13 at Cleveland, adding Willson helps act as a hedge against any setbacks, assuring the team will have depth at a critical position for the team (and it’s worth noting the Seahawks have lost George Fant, who had excelled in a role as an eligible tackle/big tight end the last two years, via free agency to the Jets).
The Seahawks might not need four tight ends, and the now-30-year-old Willson will come to camp undoubtedly knowing he has to fight for his job.
But there’s also surely no place he’d rather do that than in Seattle, where he was a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2013 out of Rice University and played his first five seasons, including making two catches in the Super Bowl win over Denver.
He spent the 2018 season in Detroit and then was in camp last year with the Raiders before coming back to Seattle. Willson recalled that he was actually headed to the airport for a workout with Washington when the Seahawks called him last year about returning.
“Pretty exciting just to be in this building,” he said last September upon his return.
Now, he’ll get another shot to call it home for another season.