Luke Willson posted a goodbye note to Seattle Tuesday night indicating his Seahawks career is over, and a report Wednesday morning indicated he was heading to Detroit.
Luke Willson is now a former Seahawk, posting a message on Twitter and Instagram Tuesday night saying goodbye to Seattle, and on Wednesday officially signing with the Detroit Lions.
According to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Willson signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the team that had been his favorite as a kid growing up in nearby LaSalle, Ontario.
As Willson tweeted on Wednesday, it took him 28 minutes to drive from his home to the Lions’ facility on Wednesday.
“Been dreaming of this since i was a kid,” Willson tweeted with a picture of him signing his contract. “Time to get to work!!”
And with that, Willson’s five-year career as a Seahawk was over.
Willson, who last season was the lone remaining member of Seattle’s 11-man draft class of 2013, also took visits to Carolina, and Jacksonville after officially becoming an unrestricted free agent a week ago Wednesday.
Detroit was Willson’s most recent visit, on Saturday, and now becomes his next NFL home as he also becomes the latest member of Seattle’s 2013 Super Bowl team to head out the door in recent weeks.
In a conference call with Detroit reporters Wednesday, Willson said the opportunity to play for new head coach Matt Patricia and a team that two years ago made the playoffs was also attractive.
“I think there’s a great opportunity for me here to compete and really help this team out,” Willson said. “With this coaching staff and the situation here on both sides of the ball, I think this team is ready to win and win now.”
Willson became one of the team’s most popular players after being taken in the fifth round out of Rice, emerging as an immediate contributor as the second tight end behind Zach Miller on the 2013 team that won the Super Bowl and also becoming a media and fan favorite with an outgoing and entertaining personality. He also was one of the, well, brains behind the team’s “Techno Thursday movement” this season, which grew to include elaborate end zone celebrations.
His most famous play might have been an inexplicable reception from Russell Wilson for a two-point conversion with 1:25 left in regulation that proved pivotal in Seattle’s 28-22 overtime win over Green Bay in the 2015 NFC Championship game.
That catch capped what was Willson’s best season as a Seahawk when he caught 22 passes for 362 yards in 2014 — each career highs — and three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder to key a late-season blowout win of Arizona, a season in which he started 10 games after an injury to Zach Miller.
Willson was also a free agent last season and after talking to a few teams ended up re-signing with the Seahawks on a one-year deal worth up to $1.8 million.
As he cleaned out his locker following the 2017 season, Willson said he hoped to be back and was optimistic that he would be.
“Yeah I would say that I am in the plans,’’ Willson said then of what he had heard from coaches and management. “I mean it’s a fluid situation. My vibe leaving today is that I am definitely in the plans. But that could change tomorrow man, you never know.’’
It did indeed change with the Seahawks undergoing the biggest roster overhaul since the first years of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era.
Playing behind Jimmy Graham in 2017, Willson caught 15 passes for 153 yards, each career lows for a 16-game season.
Graham is also gone, having signed with Green Bay, leaving the Seahawks with what will be a new-look tight end corps in 2018.
Seattle last week signed free agent Ed Dickson and also has 2016 fourth-round pick Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, who spent all but one game last season on the practice squad, on the roster. Seattle will have more than three tight ends on its roster when camp begins and that had led to the thought that the Seahawks could still bring back Willson, despite the signing of Dickson.
But Seattle may mine what is left of the tight end free agent market as well as maybe take one in the draft. And Seattle also may have declined to offer Willson much since the Seahawks need a few unrestricted free agents to sign elsewhere to help the team’s quest for 2019 compensatory picks. Willson would be the fifth UFA to sign elsewhere this year while Seattle has signed four. According to OvertheCap.com, that means Seattle is back to getting a fourth-round pick in 2019 at the moment as a result of its overall gains and losses.
The departure of Willson also means that just eight of the players who were on the 53-man roster for the Super Bowl win over Denver remain on Seattle’s roster — Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Jon Ryan. Byron Maxwell, also a member of the 2013 team, is a free agent and could be back but remains unsigned.
However, it’s expected Avril could be soon released or retire due to a neck/nerve issue and Chancellor also may not be able to play any longer due to a similar issue.
As for Willson, he began his goodbye note Tuesday night saying “I am filled with gratitude. All I can say is thank you…. These last 5 years have been a dream come true.”