A series looking at the players on the Seattle Seahawks who are set to become free agents in March, as well as potential trade and cap casualty candidates.
Player: Luke Willson
Position: Tight End
2017 Cap Hit: $1.8 million (OverTheCap.com)
2017 Stats: 22 targets, 15 catches, 153 yards, four touchdowns, 2 drops (Pro-Football-Reference, FootballOutsiders)
Willson was in this position a year ago, and these were his stats in 2016:
21 targets, 15 catches, 129 yards, two touchdowns, one drop.
So basically, Willson added a couple more yards per catch, a couple touchdowns, but he’s now pretty consistently been a low-impact target in the passing game. Willson did perhaps add some value in 2017 as an H-back or fullback, but the Seahawks don’t need to be any more urgent with him now than they were a year ago when they waited a bit and then signed him to a one-year deal on March 17.
Here’s what Willson said a year ago before being re-signed:
“You’re here for four years, and this is all I know,” Willson said on the day Seahawks players cleaned out their lockers. “It’d be very weird for me to leave and go somewhere else, especially with the bonds, obviously with the players, but even just the staff around here… This is really my family. I’m not just saying that. I love these guys. It’d be tough to leave.”
Here’s what Pete Carroll said after Willson re-signed:
“We love what Luke contributes to this team,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the end of the season when asked about Willson’s status as a soon-to-be free agent. “He has been a very good Seahawk. He has been awesome to coach and be a part of it. It’s one of those deals we’d love to have him back. We did pursue that earlier and we tried to get something done and we weren’t able too. We would love to have him back so he knows we want him and we’d like to have him on our team.”
And here’s what Willson is saying now:
“For me personally, there was some good, some bad,” the Rice University grad said. “I’m happy with the type of play I was putting on film, but we’ll see how that transpires in free agency.”
If things work out, Willson said he’d like to remain in Seattle.
“Yeah. Honestly, Seattle’s like a home to me now. I love the fans, love the atmosphere, love how it’s so close to Vancouver.
“But you know, you learn. It’s a business. I learned that through the first round of free agency last year. And we’ll see. When I left (at season’s end) I thought I was in pretty good standing with management, if you will. But that doesn’t mean much until there’s something concrete.”
Willson said a year ago that it would have been “stupid” for him to not return to Seattle, so it’s fair to assume this really is where he wants to be. Willson also acknowledged that maybe he was surprised that either the Seahawks let him test free agency a bunch or that he went through that first round of free agency without any offers good enough to lure him away. What’s different this time around?
The only thing I can really think of: Willson is only losing leverage, as he did not improve significantly in 2017 and is one year closer to being aged out of the league.
The Seahawks will have major needs at tight end due to the free agency of Willson and Jimmy Graham and the expected outcome that Graham won’t be coming back. But Willson has had multiple opportunities to prove he’s a starting tight end and the results have always been that he’s not. So Seattle can’t pursue him as anything more than a backup tight end or a fullback/H-back and neither of those are all that valuable and could be found for perhaps less than $1 million in the draft or free agency. Willson accepted a $1.8 million with $1 million in incentives last year, will he accept a flat $1 million this year? Or the vet minimum of $790,000?
Should the Seahawks even offer it?
2018 Contract Outlook
If Willson came out of last season with a one-year, $1.8 million deal, what did he do to improve his stock this year? I don’t think he really did anything to improve his stock, so I don’t really see why a raise would be coming. The expected contract in my mind then would be a repeat or a paycut.
Likelihood of re-signing: 40%
Due to the expected need at tight end and the two sides having a mutual respect for each other that resulted in them being reunited last year, I can see why there would be a major push to bring him back. However, this is also a team that has fired both of its coordinators and ousted several assistants. This is a team now embracing transition and change, and Willson may not fit into Brian Schottenheimer’s gameplan in a way that would be worth $1.5 million~ for a job that maybe a rookie could do just as easily.