The Seahawks’ tight-end room this season figures to be entertaining, as evidenced by a video of a Zoom call released by the team earlier this week in which the players at that the position discussed, among other kings, Will Dissly’s nicknames and Luke Willson’s disdain for “Tiger King.”
It also figures to be productive on the field, with veteran Greg Olsen having signed in February to join Dissly — expected to be recovered from an Achilles injury in time for the season — Willson and Jacob Hollister.
In fact, it seems stacked enough to conclude at first glance that the Seahawks don’t need to address it in the draft.
But that might also depend on how confident the Seahawks are in Dissly’s health and if they feel any need to prepare long-term for the fact that Olsen is on a one-year contract, Hollister is on a one-year tender, and Willson also is assumed to be on a one-year deal (his signing has yet to be officially announced).
As we continue our draft previews, here’s a look at the tight-end position.
Projected starters: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly.
Backups: Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson, Justin Johnson.
Key offseason losses: The Seahawks did not tender a qualifying offer to Tyrone Swoopes, who ended the 2019 season on the 53-man roster, making him a free agent, and they released veteran Ed Dickson, who didn’t play last year due to a knee injury. Seattle also lost George Fant, an offensive lineman who often worked in an eligible-tackle/big-tight-end role.
After a mostly injury-induced merry-go-round at the tight-end spot a year ago, the Seahawks tried to stabilize it some with the signing of 13-year vet Olsen. A contract that could pay him up to $7 million means Seattle expects him to play a significant role.
The Seahawks have also said they expect Dissly back by the start of the season, hopefully combining with Olsen to provide one of the better one-two punches at that spot Seattle has had in a while.
Hollister was tendered as a restricted free agent for a non-guaranteed salary of $3.25 million that marks a hefty raise over the $645,000 he earned last season.
Willson is also back hoping to earn a roster spot for another season, though while keeping four tight ends isn’t necessarily uncommon it’s far from a certainty.
Johnson, who played at Mississippi State, was signed as an undrafted free agent last season before suffering an Achilles injury and going on Injured Reserve. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is regarded as more of a receiving tight end.
Draft need (on scale of 1-10): 3.
Potential draft fits
What will undoubtedly factor into Seattle’s decisions at this spot is that it is regarded as a fairly good year for tight ends in the draft, and the Seahawks could well just find someone they really like who could prove hard to turn down, such as how they wanted to take George Kittle in 2017 even when they had Jimmy Graham under contract and had taken Nick Vannett the year before.
Seattle, though, actually hasn’t dipped much into tight ends in the draft in recent seasons, in part due to having had some high-profile tight ends who manned the spot for years (Graham, Zach Miller) and also gotten good production out of the only three they have taken since 2011 — Dissly, Willson and Vannett, who each became starters for a time and were immediate contributors.
Given the depth at tight end and more pressing needs elsewhere, the thought here is that if Seattle were to take one it would be in the middle-to-late rounds.
Here are four who could prove intriguing in that range:
Hunter Bryant, Washington: Bryant could well go earlier than Seattle might want or need to take a tight end (he’s the top-rated tight end by Pro Football Focus) though his combine performance also was somewhat mixed, which could impact his draft standing some. Bryant put on some weight to get to 248 but then ran a 4.74 40, slower than expected. But his playmaking ability is obvious, and if he goes in the first couple rounds then that’s probably too high for Seattle. But if he were to slide some the Seahawks might find him hard to pass up.
Kyle Markway, South Carolina: If the Seahawks wanted mostly a blocker out of a tight end then Markway would be their guy. The 6-4, 250-pounder wasn’t invited to the combine and might go undrafted, but will surely sign with a team as a UDFA having earned a rep as maybe the best pure blocking tight end in the class. Lindy’s called Markway “a throwback extra offensive lineman tight end,’’ the kind of thing that could intrigue the Seahawks now that they no longer have Fant to fill that role.
Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State: A Federal Way High grad, Taumoepeau might be a late-round pick at best, and someone the Seahawks could think about as an undrafted free agent if he goes unselected. He was regarded as more of a receiving tight end at PSU. But his play at the Senior Bowl appeared to show he could be a decent blocker, too, though at 6-2, 240 he isn’t overly big for the position.
Jacob Breeland, Oregon: Breeland is the mystery man of this year’s tight-end corps due to a knee injury suffered in a game last October and the fact that teams were not allowed to bring players in for physicals this year due to coronavirus travel restrictions. But drafting a player who might need something of a redshirt year to get healthy could make a lot of sense for Seattle. Breeland was on his way to a fabulous season — 26 catches for 405 yards and six TDs in six games — before his injury.
Next up: Offensive line.