Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly (89) stiff arms Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone (34) while carrying the ball against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly (89) stiff arms Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone (34) while carrying the ball against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Why the Seahawks could part with ex-Husky Will Dissly this offseason

The UW product is the only tight end under contract for 2024, but the team could save nearly $7 million in salary cap space if he’s released.

  • Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times
  • Thursday, February 22, 2024 3:51pm
  • SportsSeahawks

As Seahawks general manager John Schneider and new coach Mike Macdonald turn their attention toward assembling the 2024 roster, one position that looms as especially intriguing is tight end.

Only one of the three primary tight ends from 2023 is under contract for 2024 — Will Dissly.

And he could be a salary-cap casualty (or the salary cap could compel each side to redo his deal).

Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant can be free agents, with little likelihood that either will return.

As we continue our review of the Seahawks’ positions as the NFL combine and free agency get underway the next few weeks, let’s look at tight end.

Tight end

STARTERS

Will Dissly

Age: 27

Snaps played in regular season: 380 of 1,051, 36.16% (via Pro Football Reference)

Contract situation: Dissly has one year remaining on a three-year contract signed in 2022 due to pay him a $6.49 million base salary and carry a cap hit of $10.07 million. However, the base salary is not guaranteed, and Seattle could save $6.97 million against the cap if he is released.

Noah Fant

Age: 26

Snaps played in regular season: 574 of 1,051, 54.61%

Contract situation: Fant can be an unrestricted free agent March 13 after playing last season on a one-year deal (a fifth-year option of his rookie contract) that paid him $6.85 million.

BACKUPS

Colby Parkinson

Age: 24

Snaps played in regular season: 497 of 1,051, 47.29%

Contract situation: Parkinson also can be an unrestricted free agent with his four-year rookie contract having run out.

Others on roster: Brady Russell, who was signed in September, saw 16 snaps on offense and 312 on special teams. Tyler Mabry spent the season on the practice squad without playing. Russell is an exclusive rights free agent, indicating he’ll likely return. Mabry was signed to a futures deal in January.

2023 in review

Seattle’s tight-end corps entered the season with high hopes, due in part to the return of all three primary players at a combined salary of $18.1 million that ranked third in the NFL in spending at that position, according to OvertheCap.com

And that was on the heels of a 2022 season in which the Seahawks ranked fifth in targets to tight ends with 136.

But symbolizing an offense that never seemed to hit its stride in 2023, tight-end production was down across the board from 2022. Also a factor, to be fair, was the emergence of rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba as a third threat at receiver.

Seattle’s tight ends had just 99 targets, 22nd in the NFL. Dissly’s production was cut virtually in half (34 catches, 349 yards, 3 TDs in 2022 to 17, 172, 1 in ‘23). Fant also experienced a steep drop (50, 486, 4 in ‘22; 32, 414, 0 in ‘23) in his second year with Seattle after coming over from Denver in the Russell Wilson trade.

Only Parkinson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2020 out of Stanford, had similar usage (25, 322, 2 in ‘22; 25, 247, 2 in ‘23).

Dissly, a fourth-round pick in 2018 out of Washington, also had an at-times-perplexing drop in snaps. After playing 60% of the snaps in 2022, a career high, he fell to 39% in 2023, a career low.

Some of that was due to injuries. He missed an early season game against Carolina because of a shoulder issue and later in the season battled a hip injury that he played through.

It’s worth remembering that tight ends also block.

And Dissly continued to do that well, finishing with the third-highest run-blocking grade out of 76 tight ends, via Pro Football Focus, one of the main reasons he finished with the 15th-highest grade overall.

But the other two weren’t bad, either, at least in the eyes of PFF. Parkinson had the seventh-best run-blocking grade, and Fant was 21st.

2024 preview

So what now?

One thing that’s hard to assess when considering which free agents might return is the impact of a coaching change. Pat McPherson was Seattle’s tight-ends coach for every season of the Pete Carroll era. Seattle on Tuesday night was reported by ESPN to have hired Mack Brown — an assistant with the Jets the last five seasons and not the longtime college head coach with the same name — as the new tight-ends coach.

There has been speculation that Dissly could be a cap casualty. His $10.07 million cap hit for 2024 ranks as the seventh highest on the team, and it seems unlikely Dissly plays the season at that number.

Because he has just a year remaining on his deal, a simple restructure (turning salary into bonus and spreading it out over the life of the deal) isn’t an option. But the Seahawks could work out a new deal to bring down his cap hit. Or they could cut him and then try to re-sign him to a new deal, as they memorably did with pass rusher Carlos Dunlap a few years ago.

Though Fant didn’t put up the numbers many might have expected in 2023, he could have a hefty free-agent market.

PFF ranks him third among tight ends who are expected to become free agents, and 53rd of all players. PFF projects that he could receive a three-year deal worth up to $24 million with $14.5 million guaranteed.

“Despite a decline in receiving yards in four consecutive seasons, Fant has had the potential for more production,” PFF wrote. “Fant has breakaway speed in the open field for a tight end to go with a good understanding of how to let blocks develop in front of him and use the full field to avoid would be tacklers.”

How avidly Seattle might go after Fant could depend on what happens with Dissly.

What could Parkinson receive? PFF did not list him in its rating of the top 200 pending free agents. The last tight end on the list is New England’s Mike Gesicki, estimated at a one-year deal worth up to $2 million.

Tight-end values in free agency could be a little higher than anticipated because this is not regarded as an overly strong year for the position in the draft. Only one is considered a surefire first-rounder — Georgia’s Brock Bowers, who figures to be gone by the time Seattle picks at No. 16.

Texas’ Ja’Tavion Sanders, who some view more as almost a slot receiver, is generally considered the second-best tight end available, but he is more likely to slide into Day 2.

Other potential free agents include Houston’s Dalton Schultz (the first tight end on PFF’s list and 36th overall), New England’s Hunter Henry (second, 46th), former Seahawk Gerald Everett (fourth after playing last season with the Chargers) and Denver’s Adam Trautman.

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