A review of the Seattle Seahawks’ position groups continues with the tight ends, a spot that initially appeared to be a vastly improved and key part of the offense. Instead, it became a spot where things didn’t ever seem to go as planned.
Here’s a look:
Snaps played in regular season: 429.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent/retired
Snaps played: 557.
Contract situation: Entering final season of four-year rookie deal. Due to make $920,000 in 2021.
Snaps played: 374.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.
Snaps played: 51.
Contract situation: Rookie contract lasts through 2023. Due to make $780,000 in 2021.
Snaps played: 10.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.
The Seahawks came out of the free-agency period last year with what appeared to be an improved tight-end corps, signing future Hall of Famer Olsen to a one-year, $6.9 million deal, and re-signing Hollister and Willson to join returnee Dissly.
They added two more in Parkinson and seventh-round pick Stephen Sullivan in the NFL draft, and some wondered why the Seahawks were adding to an already loaded group.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Seahawks with the 16th-best tight-end corps entering the season, writing: “There are plenty of solid options at tight end for the Seahawks, but their best-case scenario is a rejuvenated Olsen combined with Dissly proving that his big plays have not been a fluke.”
But that best-case scenario didn’t come to fruition.
Age and injuries seemed to catch up with Olsen. He scored his only touchdown in the season opener and finished with just 24 catches for 239 yards.
Dissly made an inspirational, if not remarkable, recovery from an Achilles injury in 2019 after a knee injury in 2018.
But he didn’t quite return to his 2018-19 form, maybe in part due to playing more in a blocking role after the loss of George Fant. Dissly’s stats for a full season in 2020 — 24 receptions for 251 yards and two touchdowns — barely matched what he had in six games in 2019 (23 catches, 262 yards, four TDs).
Hollister was retained with a $3.2 million restricted free-agent contract. But, oddly, he barely played the first five games — just 48 snaps. That could have been because the Seahawks were dangling him in trade talks.
He played 23 or more snaps in nine of the last 11 games but ended up with 40 fewer snaps than in 2019 and lower numbers all around — 25 receptions for 209 yards compared with 41 for 349 in 2019.
Willson surprisingly was kept as a fourth tight end but played just 10 snaps before being waived when Parkinson recovered from a broken foot (Willson later returned but didn’t see action.)
Parkinson played in six games with two receptions for 16 yards, both in the blowout of the Jets.
The upshot was Seattle’s tight ends in 2020 basically produced the same as they’d done the year before despite the greater investment — Seattle spent just more than $12 million on the tight-end spot in 2020, 11th-most in the NFL.
Seattle’s tight ends combined for 4.7 receptions and 44.7 yards per game in 2020 compared with 4.8 and 45.8 in 2019 when it combined to make $6.7 million.
The lack of production from the tight ends came to a head in the playoff defeat against the Rams, when Russell Wilson was 1 for 7 for 1 yard when targeting tight ends.
Olsen announced his retirement on Sunday to take an analyst job with FOX. Hollister and Willson are free agents, and Willson would seem unlikely to return.
Head coach Pete Carroll acknowledged after the season that the injuries and long rehabs the past two years might have caught up to Dissly.
“Diss will be better than he was,” Carroll said last week. “Two straight years of major surgery to overcome. He’ll be better.”
Carroll said he also was “really excited” about Parkinson.
Seattle has high hopes for Sullivan, who was moved to defensive end at midseason and played in one game against the 49ers. He is expected to return to tight end.
Undrafted rookie free agent Tyler Mabry spent the season on the practice squad after impressing in camp.
Will the Seahawks bring back Hollister? If so, it would probably be for less than what he made this season. But if so, they might not have to do much at this position other than hope for improvement, and that a new offensive coordinator will find ways to get them the ball.
“That’s a good spot,” Carroll said of the tight ends after the season.
Having used two draft choices on tight ends last year and with just five overall picks this year, Seattle would seem more likely to fill out the position through veteran or undrafted rookie free agency.