Before free agency had even kicked off a year ago, the Seahawks already had made what turned out to be their biggest splash of the offseason, signing veteran Greg Olsen to a one-year deal worth $6.9 million.
It didn’t work out the way Seattle hoped as Olsen — who had the seventh-largest cap hit on the team a year ago — had just 24 catches for 239 yards and one touchdown (that came in the opening game) and has since announced his retirement. (Olsen was officially released by Seattle on Thursday.)
Olsen’s departure, as well as Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson now hitting free agency, means the tight end spot will again be in for something of a makeover in 2021, and has led to Seattle already being linked with some of the top available pending free agents.
As our preview of the Seahawks heading into free agency continues, let’s look at the tight end position.
Players under contract
Will Dissly: Dissly is entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal, coming off a season that didn’t match expectations in terms of raw stats — 24 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns — as he seemed to still be rounding into form following significant injuries the previous two years. Dissly also was used more in blocking roles in 2020 than his first two years (kept in to block on 26% of pass snaps in 2020 compared to 13% in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus). Coach Pete Carroll said after the season he expects an uptick in Dissly’s production in 2021 after being a year removed from major injuries, and that expectation will play into what else Seattle does at the TE spot this offseason.
Colby Parkinson: The fourth-round choice out of Stanford in 2020 was limited to 51 snaps due to a broken foot suffered in training in June. But the Seahawks are high on his potential and likely view him as at least a legit third TE candidate entering the offseason.
Tyler Mabry: Mabry spent his rookie year on the practice after signing as an undrafted free agent last spring, and was re-signed to a futures deal following the season.
Impending free agents
Jacob Hollister: Hollister had a strange 2020 season, with just two catches for 10 yards in the first five games, then 20 for 199 the rest of the way, and then no catches on five targets in the playoff defeat against the Rams, a stat that well-symbolized Seattle’s offensive inability to counter what the Rams were taking away. PFF estimates Hollister’s value at two years, $7.5 million. Seattle might want to look elsewhere to spend its free agent dollars at tight end.
Luke Willson: The NFL career of the popular Willson might be over at age 31 — there was that intriguing Seattle Seawolves picture he posted on social media a few weeks ago. But never say never.
Possible free agent targets
First off, it’s worth noting that one of the biggest names Seattle has been connected to this offseason — Zach Ertz — is not a free agent. Ertz has one year left on his contract with the Eagles, who are trying to trade him. If they do not find any suitors then Ertz might be released soon so the Eagles can get out of his contract. If so, then the Seahawks might take a stab at him, depending on what else they might have done at the tight end spot to that point.
Here are a few other tight ends Seattle could have interest in.
Jonnu Smith: Smith, who just finished his rookie deal with the Titans, is coming off a season that some feel has him pegged as a future star at the position, making 41 catches for 448 yards and eight touchdowns at age 25. PFF estimates he can command a four-year deal worth $38 million. Seems pricey for Seattle given everything else the Seahawks have to do. But pre-free-agency estimates might not hold up once free agency opens and the realities of the lesser salary cap this year take hold.
Gerald Everett: For every spot on the offense, it’s probably worth pointing out free agents with Rams ties, given Seattle’s change in offensive coordinator. Everett, 26, put up pretty much the same numbers as Smith did in what was his fourth season with the Rams — 41 receptions for 417 yards — minus the touchdowns (just one), and figures to come a lot more cheaply. PFF estimates three years at $15 million could reel him in.
Kyle Rudolph: The 31-year-old was released by the Vikings this week, and as a street free agent could get ahead of the pack by signing before others become UFAs on March 17, as Olsen did a year ago. Rudolph has been rumored as reportedly interested in signing with New England, and Seattle’s experience with aging tight ends the past few years (Olsen, Ed Dickson) hasn’t been great.
Anthony Firkser: A teammate of Smith’s at Tennessee, the 26-year-old put up some solid numbers in 2020 — 39 receptions for 387 yards — and has the highest grade among tight ends when targeted in single coverage over the past two seasons according to PFF. Could be an underrated gem for someone.
Dan Arnold: Caught 31 passes for 438 yards last season for Arizona and might not cost much.
Seattle has only Dissly and Parkinson under contract of players who have seen action before (and Parkinson obviously very little) and that means the Seahawks have to do something to add to the tight end spot.
It was curious that the Seahawks were not able to re-sign 2020 seventh-round choice Stephen Sullivan, who became a free agent when his practice squad contract lapsed and has since signed with Carolina.
But regardless of that move, Seattle was going to have to add a few tight ends, either through re-signings, signings or trades.
Next: Wide receiver.