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Will Dissly contract listed as one of the most head-scratching moves of 2022 NFL free agency

NFL: DEC 12 Seahawks at Texans Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks made it a point to re-sign several of their own unrestricted free agents, and one of those retained was tight end Will Dissly. What was most surprising was the fact that he got a 3-year, $24 million contract that puts his average per year at exactly 15th among all tight ends — yes, even more than Las Vegas Raiders star Darren Waller.

In ESPN’s roundtable discussion of the most puzzling moves of NFL free agency thus far, Dissly’s contract was nominated as numero uno by both Mike Clay and Jeremy Fowler. Read their respective reasons below:

Mike Clay, fantasy football writer: TE Will Dissly to the Seahawks. Seattle acquired 24-year-old, standout tight end Noah Fant in the Russell Wilson trade and then proceeded to sign backup Dissly to a three-year, $24 million contract. That makes him one of the position’s top-15 highest-paid players. It’s a big commitment to a player who missed most of his first two pro seasons due to injury (10 games played during 2018-19) and who doesn’t offer much as a pass-catcher (46 receptions for 483 yards and three touchdowns during the 2020-21 seasons).


Jeremy Fowler, national NFL writer: TE Will Dissly to the Seahawks. This deal was truly shocking. Even the player was shocked. Dissly is a nice player and worked hard for this, but he has never caught more than 24 passes in any of his four seasons. He is a stout blocker against the run or the pass, and tight ends who do this effectively are considered rare in the modern game. All it took was for a few teams to come in hot and Seattle had to pay a big price to keep him. This one might have been more surprising than the Kirk deal, honestly.

No doubt that Dissly is a popular player among Seahawks fans and players but this did feel like a fairly hefty price tag for someone who’s unlikely to be the top receiving tight end on the depth chart over Noah Fant. Even his value as a blocker is not that of an upper-half of the league player.

There’s only been one season in his entire career where the plan was for him to be TE1 and that was in 2019. Otherwise he was below Ed Dickson in the 2018 depth chart before Dickson’s injury, Greg Olsen in 2020, and Gerald Everett in 2021. We know of Dissly’s red-hot starts to his rookie and sophomore seasons before his catastrophic injuries, but clearly he’s been less of a receiving threat over the past couple of years.

Here’s the breakdown we had courtesy of John P. Gilbert:

Moving on, if the Seahawks were to decide to jettison Dissly after the 2023, they would have paid $17M for two years. That’s $8.5M per year if the team moves on after the second season. Meanwhile, if Dissly plays out his contract and sticks around for the full three years playing in all 51 games, he will have earned the full $24M.

The reality of the situation is that Dissly’s contract is a three-year, $22.47M deal with $30k in per game roster bonuses that could push his earning up to $24M over the duration of the contract. There is no real “up to” or incentive structure that needs discussed in terms of how much Dissly will be paid, as the salary and pay structure of the contract are about as straightforward as they come. It’s a one year, $10.85M deal, a two year, $8.5M deal or a three year $8M contract. That’s it.

The only thing to dissect is how many of the per game roster bonuses he will earn, as after catastrophic injuries in each of his first two years in the league he has appeared in 32 of 34 games the past two seasons including the playoffs. So, now that it’s known that it’s a true $8M per year contract, the discussion regarding whether it is an overpay or not may truly begin.

Also included among head-scratching decisions was Russell Wilson getting traded to the Denver Broncos, but more for the uncertainty at the quarterback position following the deal.

And to think, we haven’t reached the NFL Draft yet! That’s when critics of the Seahawks’ process tend to come out in droves the most.