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What should the Seahawks do at tight end?

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

A few times this offseason I’ve written about how the Seattle Seahawks should release tight Ed Dickson and the response has proven to me that this is one of those fun times where my opinion is in the minority. There is probably no “right answer” either, it’s just my opinion. I think people often try so hard to say things that appeal to the masses, only to realize that the thing that people really find appealing is honesty.

And I honestly think the Seahawks need another change at tight end. It’s not even a major one.

Last offseason, Seattle signed Dickson to a three-year, $10.7 million contract with $3.6 million in guarantees. This was a smart move for a team looking to get back to being a top-ranked rushing team again because Dickson represented the best of the best at blocking tight ends in the minds of many. He also caught 30 passes for the Carolina Panthers in 2017 with 437 yards and while he’s never been a consistent threat in the passing game, he’s proven in the past that he’s a sometimes-threat.

He’s also proven that he’s usually not a threat at all. In four of the last five seasons, including 2018, he’s caught between 10 and 17 passes. In nine years, Dickson has crossed over 200 yards just four times and over 300 yards just twice. He has 15 career touchdowns in 134 career games. It’s not what he does. He’s not a dual threat tight end. He blocks. And despite the Seahawks accomplishing their goal of being among the NFL’s top rushing teams, I don’t know that it’s fair to say that Dickson was a notable reason why.

FieldGulls’ own Matty F Brown was critical of his blocking at several points during the year.

And okay, it’s maybe a missed block here and there. But remember what Ed Dickson is. En total. The entirety of what Dickson represents to an NFL team: He’s a blocking tight end. A blocking tight end. A blocking tight end is no better than a sixth offensive lineman, except he’s probably being asked to do less than the other five guys. You know who else is a blocking tight end? George Fant. An undrafted free agent who barely played any football prior to his NFL career. A blocking tight end is available out there on the free agent market, I guarantee it.

But Dickson’s cap hit in 2019 is $4.4 million. Is that the cost of a blocking tight end?

The Seahawks would save $2.6 million in 2019 by releasing Dickson, as well as clearing out $3.4 million in 2020. Given that they’d need to spend at least $400,000 or so on a replacement tight end (Tyrone Swoopes as an example), it really saves Seattle about $2 million to release Dickson, but it’s still $2 million that they’ll probably need. What does it leave them on the roster?

Will Dissly was everyone’s favorite option thanks to his local hero status at the University of Washington and his 105-yard NFL debut against the Broncos. We can’t predict how he’ll respond to his repaired patellar tendon, but it certainly means that the Seahawks need more options than just Dissly.

Nick Vannett was fine sometimes in 2018, when he got the most extensive playing time of his career and caught 29 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, but it’s tough to say that Vannett’s ceiling reaches much higher than this. He’s had his opportunities, and “number two tight end” does seem to be the height of his abilities. It’s possible that when Vannett becomes a free agent in 2020 (assuming he makes the team in 2019), he’ll struggle to compete for a professional job against tight ends who are younger, cheaper, and have more potential as blockers and receivers. Vannett is fine, but it hasn’t been a very ideal fit for him in Seattle.

So how could I express concern for the health of Dissly and the abilities of Vannett and still suggest that the Seahawks should consider releasing Dickson, the presumed starter? Just because your best player at a position is limited it doesn’t mean that you should accept having a limited starter. Not in February.

Seattle could target a tight end in the draft — which likely would not do much to help them at the position in 2019 because rookies rarely contribute significantly, regardless of draft status, mostly — or they could scan free agency and trades for more options. If an Ed Dickson was available last year, an Ed Dickson will be available this year. His skillset does not appear to be so rare that the team couldn’t test out other options.

Maybe I’m wrong here. I’m open to that possibility because in theory, Dickson was the right decision for the team in 2018. I just didn’t see anything during that year to make me believe that he’s the right decision for the Seahawks in 2019.


Are the Seahawks set at TE with Dickson, Vannett, Dissly?

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