The Seahawks have agreed to trade tight end Nick Vannett to the Steelers for a fifth-round pick in 2020, the Seattle Times confirmed Tuesday night, a move that will result in the return of former Seahawk Luke Willson to take his place on the roster.
The Seahawks officially announced the trade Wednesday morning, saying it had been agreed to pending a physical for Vannett.
Willson, 29, was with the Seahawks from 2013-17 before signing with Detroit as a free agent in 2018. He then was in training camp with the Raiders this year before being released at the cutdown to 53, and has not been on a roster during the regular season.
Willson, a popular presence in the Seattle locker room and in the community during his five-year career (remember Techno Thursday?), had 89 receptions for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Seahawks and was part of the team that won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season. His return means Seattle will have four players from that squad on its roster, the others being Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
Willson tweeted a reference to his return Tuesday night, of The Undertaker rising off the mat.
Willson’s availability made it easier for the Seahawks to deal Vannett once the tight end-starved Steelers came calling,offering what could be a relatively high fifth-round pick (the Steelers are already 0-3) for a player in who might not have been in Seattle’s plans beyond this season.
Vannett, a third-round pick out of Ohio State, is in his fourth season with the Seahawks and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
He has been the team’s backup tight end for the first three games of the season behind second-year player Will Dissly, a Washington alum who is off to a hot start to the 2019 season with 12 catches for 124 yards.
Vannett played 26 snaps in Sunday’s 33-27 loss to the Saints and has four receptions for 38 yards this season.
Vannett Tweeted a goodbye message to Seattle Wednesday morning, stating: “Thank you Seattle! You welcomed in a kid from Ohio with open arms and showed nothing but the best support from day 1. It’s been an honor to wear the blue and green the last few years. No feelings but love and gratitude for the Seahawk organization and the city of Seattle!”
Willson’s return gives Seattle a second tight end behind Dissly.
But the Seahwawks could also make the trading knowing they can get back veteran Ed Dickson when he becomes eligible to come off the Injured Reserve list after the eighth week of the season. Dickson had knee surgery in the preseason and is expected to be ready to come off IR as soon as he is eligible, which will be after a game on Oct. 27 against Atlanta.
Vannett was taken with the 94th overall pick out of Ohio State in 2016 and has 15 career starts in 42 career games.
He started nine games last season, primarily when Dickson and Dissly were injured, with a career-high 29 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns. For his career he has 48 receptions for 463 yards and four touchdowns.
Seattle has been carrying only two listed tight ends on its roster due in part to the fact that tackle George Fant often plays a tight-end role.
The Steelers have a sudden shortage at tight end after a shoulder injury to Vance McDonald.
The fifth-round pick acquired for Vannett adds to what had appeared to already be nine draft picks for the Seahawks in 2020.