Seahawks roster battles: How will the tight end group shape out for 2020?
Last week, we took a look at some of the biggest roster battles that we will see on the Seahawks’ defense going into the 2020 season. While the defense was poor last year and needs plenty of improvement, the Seattle offense was one of the best in the league at running, passing and scoring. But, there’s a decent amount of change on the horizon.
Russell Wilson will have some new faces in front of him, as well as at tight end. So, which spots should we keep an eye on this offseason on the offensive side of the ball? Here are three groups that should be pretty competitive and noteworthy.
The Seahawks have one of the more interesting tight end rooms in the NFL.
Seattle has a good mix of young guys, proven veterans and rookies, and the room is headlined by Greg Olsen, who signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks this offseason, and Will Dissly, who has shown he can be one of the league’s best all around tight ends when healthy, but injuries have caused him to play just 10 games in his first two NFL seasons. He tore his Achilles tendon last year in Week 6.
After those two is where the questions start.
After Dissly’s injury last season, Jacob Hollister, who the Seahawks acquired from the New England Patriots for a seventh-round pick, stepped up and emerged as a favorite target for Russell Wilson. He finished 2019 with 41 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns.
Fan favorite Luke Willson is also back after signing partway through 2019. Seattle traded Nick Vannett to the Pittsburgh Steelers and added Willson back to the mix. He is signed to a one-year deal for 2020.
And then come the rookies. The Seahawks used two of their eight selections on tight ends, drafting tall (6-7) Stanford product Colby Parkinson in the fourth round and LSU’s Stephen Sullivan in the seventh round. Seattle also added undrafted tight ends Dominick Wood-Anderson and Tyler Mabry.
The questions now are who makes the roster and how many tight ends do the Seahawks carry?
Olsen and Dissly – if healthy – should be locks for the roster. After those two, though, it’s less clear.
Hollister performed well enough to warrant a return to Seattle in 2020 and the Seahawks rewarded him with a second-round tender that will pay him upwards of $3 million. But if the Seahawks want to clear cap and/or keep at least rookies on the active roster, Hollister may be a trade candidate for a tight end-needy team later this offseason.
Willson looked like he had a good chance to make the team prior to the draft, but at least one of the two rookies figures to make the roster, and the favorite due to his draft status would be Parkinson.
Sullivan will also get his shot, as the Seahawks liked him enough to ship a 2021 sixth-round pick to the Dolphins in order to trade back into the 2020 draft to take him. They did the same thing last year with receiver John Ursua, and though he rarely played and had just one catch, he was on the roster all season long.
I’d expect the Seahawks to carry four or five tight ends during the season, with Olsen, Dissly, Hollister and Parkinson the four favorites while Sullivan and Willson are next up. Wood-Anderson and Mabry are longshots to make the roster, but could wind up on the practice squad.
Interior offensive line
The Seahawks will have at least three new starters on the offensive line this year, and there’s a real chance it could be four.
We know left tackle Duane Brown will once again be protecting Wilson’s blindside and it looks like starting right tackle job will be free-agent pickup Brandon Shell’s. But the three interior spots will see some heavy competition.
Starting center Justin Britt and right guard D.J. Fluker were released shortly after the draft, when the Seahawks took LSU guard Damien Lewis in the third round. Seattle was busy before that in free agency, adding guard/center B.J. Finney, Shell, tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and guard Chance Warmack. Since then, the Seahawks has also added guard Kahlil McKenzie. Mike Iuapti, who started at left guard last year, is back on a one-year deal as well.
So what could the starting five be?
At left guard, Iupati will be somewhat of a favorite because of his veteran status and his familiarity within the system, but is older and has a fairly lengthy injury history. Plus, here are a few guys who could challenge him.
2019 fifth-round pick Phil Haynes missed most of the season with an injury, but did end up playing serious snaps in Seattle’s playoff loss to the Packers. He’s someone the coaching staff is high on, and he could be a fixture on the offensive line as soon as 2020.
Jamarco Jones was the go-to guy whenever someone on the line got hurt, spending time at guard and tackle. If Seattle views him as a guard, he could fight for a starting spot at either guard position. If they think he’s a tackle, he could backup Brown or Shell.
A dark horse at guard could be Jordan Simmons, who appeared in a few games in 2018 and performed very well, especially in the run game. He was on injured reserve for all of 2019, but is back on a one-year deal.
While Haynes, Jones and Simmons could play either guard spot, it looks like the Seahawks are set on the rookie Lewis being a right guard, and he may well be the favorite to earn that job depending on how this offseason goes both in terms of his performance and how many reps players can get due to restrictions with the coronavirus.
Finney could also be in the mix for a guard spot, though my guess is the Seahawks added him to play center. If that’s the case, he’ll be competing with Joey Hunt and Ethan Pocic for the starting position.
Other guys who will be in the mix but likely won’t vie for starting spots are Warmack, McKenzie, Demetrius Knox, Jordan Roos and Kyle Fuller.
My guess? From left to right, Brown, Iupati/Haynes, Finney, Lewis/Haynes, Shell.
The Seahawks have had an undrafted rookie backup star quarterback Russell Wilson before, with Trevon Boykin holding that job down in 2016. Could that happen again for 2020?
Going into the draft, the Seahawks had just Wilson on the roster as far as quarterbacks go. They didn’t use a draft pick on a quarterback, but they did pay WSU star Anthony Gordon more than any of their other undrafted rookies.
Gordon set WSU and Pac-12 records for both passing yards and touchdowns in his one season as a starter, and now he’ll have a chance to make Seattle’s active roster. He’ll have a tough task at hand, though, as Seattle re-signed 2019 backup Geno Smith recently.
Smith’s familiarity with the system, as well as his veteran presence, will definitely give him an upper hand in the competition from the start. Plus, the competition will be made more interesting as the offseason going forward has a bit of a question mark attached to it due to the coronavirus.
Young guys like Gordon need practice reps in order to develop and show what they can do while Smith is more of a known commodity.
But due to Gordon’s local ties, this competition will have more attention on it than it normally would.