Locks: Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson, Nick Vannett
Bubble busting hopefuls: Cooper Helfet, Brandon Cottom, Ronnie Shields, Brandon Williams
Will the Seattle Seahawks carry three tight ends? Absolutely. Will they keep Graham, Willson, and Vannett? Almost certainly. All three have some sort of tiny red flag to them that I suppose could mean that they're gone by September for some strange reason (injury, inconsistency, rookie), but it would still be pretty shocking. So will they have three tight ends? Yes. The question is, will there also be a fourth, in addition to those three?
That's a much more difficult question to answer.
Helfet is going for his fifth season with the team. He's caught 25 passes for 315 yards over the last two seasons, acting as a well-liked teammate and reliable insurance for Pete Carroll when anything happens to the tight ends who are better football players. However, the team drafted Vannett in the third round and at this point it doesn't really matter if the two are alike as players or not, it only matters that they play the same position and the other guy is a day two rookie. Keeping Helfet would now mean cutting someone at a different position who could have more value to the team on either offense or defense on game day.
Helfet or Eric Pinkins?
Helfet or Stanley Jean-Baptiste?
Helfet or Zac Brooks?
Helfet or Kenny Lawler?
Helfet or ... Brandon Cottom?
One of the benefits to Cottom's game is that he could realistically be the starting fullback, the emergency tight end, and a special teamer. That versatility could be what saves him in a situation where the Seahawks are already pretty much set at tight end.
Less can be said for Shields, a second-year tight end out of Kentucky who wasn't even on a practice squad last year, or Williams, who is going into his fifth season but didn't make much of a dent during his time with the Carolina Panthers or Miami Dolphins.
Prediction: They keep the three we know they're going to keep (and assume Graham won't go on PUP rather than assuming he will, based on Carroll's comments) and also Cottom as a FB/TE. Helfet gets picked up by someone else but probably finds his way back to Seattle at some point later down the line. Shields and Williams off to never never land.