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Yes, the Seahawks have a need at tight end

It’s not that the current group of tight ends on the roster is bad, but they’re not difference makers.

New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

When the final whistle sounded on the Seattle Seahawks season, it marked the end of the third loss of the year to the rival San Francisco 49ers, with none of the three losses being anywhere near particularly close. In addition, it marked the third time during the 2022 season that the Niners had effectively shut down the Seattle offense by effectively erasing the receiving threats not named DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett from the game.

On Saturday Field Gulls own Frank Raines detailed the need for Seattle to address the third wide receiver spot behind Metcalf and Lockett, and anytime that idea is proposed there is significant pushback from some fans that the tight ends are able to fill that role for the Seahawks. However, that ignores the fact that while the Seahawks certainly have tight ends on the roster, and are certainly set to spend a non-negligible $17.22M of cap space on the position in 2023, the reality is those tight ends often don’t provide a lot of production in the games when the team needs them most.

Specifically, to avoid wasting much time, here is a look at the production for the four tight ends who logged offensive snaps for the Seahawks in 2022:

  • Noah Fant: 65 targets, 51 receptions, 497 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • Will Dissly: 38 targets, 34 receptions, 349 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Colby Parkinson: 40 targets, 28 receptions, 336 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Tyler Mabry: 1 target, 1 receptions, 7 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Total: 144 targets, 114 receptions, 1,189 yards, 10 touchdowns

That certainly isn’t a position of total need, but breaking the performances for these players out between the wins and losses shows a stark divide:

  • 9 Wins: 78 targets, 66 receptions (84.6% catch rate), 707 yards, 7 touchdowns
  • 9 Losses: 66 targets, 48 receptions, (72.7% catch rate), 482 yards, 3 touchdowns

Looking at it that way, the differences stand out. Taking things one step further and looking at how the trio of tight ends performed in the three thumpings losses at the hands of the 49ers, here is how they produced against San Francisco:

  • 20 targets, 14 receptions, 81 yards, 1 touchdown

That is an ugly statline for three games worth of play, especially considering that the lone touchdown reception for the group came in what could arguably constitute garbage time, with Seattle down 21-6 with just three and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter. In short, as noted here at Field Gulls throughout the 2022 season, the Seattle offense effectively flowed through the tight ends. When the tight ends produced, the Hawks were able to move the ball and more often than not came out ahead on the scoreboard at the end of the day. On the flip side, when the tight ends failed to produce, the Seahawks often found themselves on losing side.

The reason for this is that the tight ends, like Marquise Goodwin or Dee Eskridge as the third wide receiver, were viable third options when defenses did not have the personnel to stop the Seattle offensive weapons not named Metcalf and Lockett. The defenses with the depth to curtail the production of the weapons behind those top two receivers were the teams that routinely found themselves victorious against Seattle. Even the Los Angeles Rams, who finished the season 5-12, were able to slow the Hawks offense sufficiently in both games that Geno Smith and company were forced to win the game in either the final minute or overtime, even though the Rams played both matchups without Aaron Donald.

So, for all those fans complaining that Smith stopped taking what the defense was giving him and started forcing things in the second half, the reason for that was that defenses changed how they were playing the Seahawks once they had enough film to know the Hawks tendencies. What defenses gave Smith in the second half of the season was different from what they had given during the first half of the year, and the result was the increase in turnover worthy plays so many have complained about. That increase, however, falls as much, if not more, on the front office for failing to provide the Seahawks offense for personnel decisions that did not give the team a third dangerous receiving threat as it does on Geno.

Boiling it all down to the essentials, at the end of the day if the Seahawks wish to achieve their full potential, they need another legitimate receiving threat. A threat that can get open and create separation on their own against better defenses, rather than simply producing against lesser opponents who are more focused on Lockett and Metcalf. Such a receiving threat lightens the burden not just on Metcalf and Lockett by forcing defenses to shift their attention elsewhere, it lessens the stress on Geno to force things, and opens it up for him to take what the defense gives him more often, because the likelihood of a defense being able to stop three legitimate receivers consistently is far lower than having to worry about just two.

And if the Seahawks want that third receiving threat to come from the tight end spot, they likely need to do something at the position because none of the players currently on the roster showed an ability to produce against top defenses in 2022.