With the Seahawks low on tight ends entering their final preseason game, the team may turn to a familiar and popular face to help out — Luke Willson.
The team is expected to host Willson for a visit this week, a source confirmed, and he could sign for what would be his fourth stint with the team depending on how the workout goes.
Seattle has five tight ends on its roster, but two are battling injuries — Colby Parkinson, who suffered a foot injury two weeks ago and is out indefinitely though with the hope he might return by the start of the regular season; and Tyler Mabry, who has not played in the two preseason games due to a sprained foot.
Seattle’s other three tight ends are Gerald Everett, Will Dissly and Cam Sutton. Neither Dissly nor Everett — Seattle’s primary players at that spot — has played in the preseason. And while the Seahawks are expected to play some of their starters in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Chargers, they likely won’t want to work Dissly and Everett too much.
Sutton played 40 snaps in Saturday’s 30-3 loss to the Broncos while Dom Wood-Anderson played 35. They were the only two tight ends to play in the game.
But Wood-Anderson was waived on Sunday after being flagged for four penalties as the Seahawks had to cut their roster to 80 by 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Willson is now 31 and the team might mostly be looking for someone to flesh out the position for Saturday’s game.
Conversely, Willson could give the team a security blanket as it assesses the health of Parkinson, a second-year player out of Stanford who was emerging as a potential big part of the offense this year with some early strong training camp performances before being injured the week of the preseason opener.
Coach Pete Carroll said last week that Parkinson’s injury was not as serious as originally feared, that he would not need surgery and that “we’re hopeful he can get back in a couple of weeks, so we’ll see how that goes.’’
Willson, though, could allow Seattle to take advantage of some roster rule-maneuvering next week in the cutdown from 80 to 53 and give them some roster flexibility while Parkinson recovers.
Specifically, the team could cut Willson, and since he is a vested veteran he would be subject to waivers and keep Parkinson on the initial 53-man roster.
But if the Seahawks felt Parkinson still needed some time, it could then put him on the injured reserve list after Sept. 1 and then bring him back in as soon as three weeks. Only players placed on IR after Sept. 1 can be recalled during the season.
The Seahawks could then re-sign Willson — who since he couldn’t be claimed would still be available — to fill out the tight end spot for three weeks behind Everett and Dissly.
The NFL announced last week that the three-week IR stint would stay in place for this year and that there is no limit to how many players can go on IR and be recalled.
Willson initially joined the Seahawks as a fifth-round pick out of Rice in 2013 and played in all 16 regular-season games and all three postseason games as Seattle won its only Super Bowl. He had two catches for 17 yards in the win over the Broncos.
The following year, he helped key the stunning comeback against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game with an improbable catch on a 2-point play that helped force an overtime period, in which Seattle pulled out the win.
He played in all but eight games for Seattle from 2013-17 before signing with Detroit as a free agent in 2018.
After a year with the Lions, he signed with the Raiders but was released before the season begin in 2019. That led to a return to Seattle early in the 2019 season after the team traded Nick Vannett to Pittsburgh.
Willson then made the team again in training camp a year ago as the fourth tight end, but was released at midseason after Parkinson returned from a foot injury.
He signed with the Ravens and played three games with Baltimore before being released in December.
The Seahawks then brought Willson back to the practice squad following the regular season, and he was called up to the active roster for the wild card playoff loss to the Rams, though he did not play.
With the Seahawks, Willson was known not only for his toughness and productivity but also for his good-natured personality. He helped convince Carroll to embrace “Techno Thursday’’ practices in 2017, which featured not only techno music but also many players wearing short shorts.
“Luke has been such an instrumental part of the spirit of this club that I wanted to get him close to it and have as much impact as possible,” Carroll said last January about the team bringing Willson back for what turned out to be a short-lived playoff run.
As it turns out, that might not have been Willson’s goodbye to the Seahawks.