The news that the Seahawks are scheduled to get a visit from veteran tight end Greg Olsen, now a free agent, only confirmed that the team thinks the same thing as every other observer — Seattle could use some help at that spot.
Like running back, tight end was a position that looked one way when the season began and another when it ended, with a budding star suffering a season-ending injury.
Second-year player Will Dissly was off to one of the best starts of any tight end in the NFL with 23 receptions for 262 yards and four touchdowns in the first five games before going down with an Achilles tendon injury early in the sixth game at Cleveland.
That helped set off a sequence of events that made it no surprise to hear that the Seahawks were one of the first teams to contact Olsen, who made the Pro Bowl three straight years from 2014-16 but has battled injuries the last three seasons.
Here’s a look at the tight-end spot as we continue our reviews of the Seahawks’ position groups heading into the offseason.
Snaps played in regular season: 514 (of 1,107 total.)
Contract situation: Restricted free agent.
2019 number to know: Had at least two catches in every game he played.
Snaps played in regular season: 249.
Contract situation: Entering third season of four-year rookie deal.
2019 number to know: Dissly’s 41.8 yards per game receiving for his career are the second best of any Seahawks tight end in history behind only the 47.6 of Jimmy Graham.
Snaps played: 243.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.
2019 number to know: Willson ranks tied for 36th in career receptions as a Seahawk with 97, deadlocked with Sidney Rice, Charle Young, David Hughes and Justin Forsett.
Others on the roster in 2019: Tyrone Swoopes (25, now an exclusive rights free agent); Ed Dickson, 32, (spent the season on injured reserve, has one year remaining on a three-year contract that will pay him $3 million in 2020); Nick Vannett (traded to Pittsburgh following the third game of the season).
Dissly’s fast start and the expected return of Dickson helped lead to the decision to trade Vannett for a fifth-round pick, which was used to acquire safety Quandre Diggs from Detroit. Hard to question any of that, given that Vannett was entering the final year of his rookie contract (Willson was re-signed to replace Vannett).
But Dissly was injured and Dickson was unable to make it back from a knee injury for which he’d had surgery in August, so the team turned to Hollister. At first he was a complement to Willson; then he was the starter when Willson got hurt. They also brought back Swoopes, a longtime practice squadder.
Of course we should mention George Fant, who played often as an eligible tackle/blocking tight end, which allowed Seattle to often get by with just two “true’’ tight ends in 2019. But Fant is also a free agent, so the Seahawks will have some work to do to put the tight-end corps together in 2020.
So, how will it all look next season? Coach Pete Carroll said in his year-end press conference that Dissly was “killing it’’ in his rehab and his recovery is ahead of schedule. But Achilles injuries are notoriously tricky and the interest in Olsen makes clear Seattle is doing what it can to have alternate plans. Signing Olsen (who turns 35 next month) for one year could be a bridge to get Dissly fully back and maybe groom another younger tight end makes some sense.
You’d figure Hollister will be back. He could be re-signed at any time (the Seahawks re-signed restricted free agent Akeem King ahead of the free-agency period a year ago).
Willson’s time seems at an end. Two separate injuries held him out of five of the 15 games that he was on the roster. Dickson is considered a likely salary-cap casualty having played just 10 games in two seasons.
Aside from Olsen, it’s also been rumored the Seahawks have interest in Austin Hooper of Atlanta, who may be the best tight end potentially available in free agency (he caught 214 passes for 2,224 yards and 16 touchdowns in four seasons). But that would take a much larger financial commitment than the other options.
Other in-their-prime free-agent tight ends include Eric Ebron of the Colts (27 years old) and Hunter Henry of the Chargers (26). Tyler Eifert of the Bengals (30) is also intriguing.
This is not regarded as a particularly strong class for tight ends in the draft, but, as they did with Dissly, the Seahawks wouldn’t have to look far to potentially find one on the second or third day. UW’s Hunter Bryant is pegged as going as early as the second round.
Up next: Receivers.