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Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: What do Seahawks do now at tight end after saying goodbye to Uncle Will?

The Seattle Seahawks go for it on fourth and 2, and it's Will Dissly who converts at the New York Giants 3 yard line on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022 at Lumen Field in Seattle.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Before saying goodbye to Will Dissly, it’s worth remembering how the Seahawks said hello to him – by bypassing on the feel-good story of the 2018 draft, Shaquem Griffin, to make sure they got Dissly first.

That was how much the Seahawks valued Dissly that when pick No. 120 of the draft came up – and Dissly and Griffin were still on the board – they took him, gambling that Griffin would still be available with their next pick 21 spots later.

It all worked out as Griffin was still there at 141 for them to grab and create a moment reuniting Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin that will live in the hearts of many Seahawks fans forever.

“It was pretty nerve wracking,” Seahawks GM John Schneider said later that day. “Because Will was the guy everybody, our personnel staff, our coaches, have really invested in, and had a really strong interest in him. We talk about our fit guys, and he’s been a guy we’ve been very interested in for a long time.”

Dissly, who’d made the switch from defensive end to tight end during his days at the University of Washington, proved worth it.

He finished his Seahawks career with 132 receptions for 1,421 yards and 13 touchdowns. The receptions are 32nd in franchise history and sixth among tight ends, and the yards 34th all time.

More impressive was his efficiency. Of the 33 who have more receiving yards in their Seahawks careers, none has a higher catch percentage than Dissly’s 81.4% (meaning, how many passes he caught out of the targets that came his way, 156).

Of all who caught more than 27 passes in their Seahawks career, only one has more yards-per-target than Dissly’s 9.1 – Tyler Lockett, who averages 9.3.

After an injury-filled beginning to his career, Dissly proved durable, missing only five games the last four seasons.

Dissly will be missed, unless this is one of those times the Seahawks cut a player only to re-sign him.

Dissly seemed to indicate otherwise, penning a goodbye to the Seahawks via social media Wednesday morning stating “I thank God for sending me to Seattle!! I love playing football and I’m grateful for all the love I’ve received from the people I’ve met!”

That the Seahawks would release Dissly was not unexpected since he had no guaranteed money left in his contract and a $9.2 million cap hit for 2024.

That would have ranked 13th of all NFL tight ends, via They save $6.1 million in cash and cap with Dissly’s release.

The one question in his release is “what now?”

The Seahawks have only one tight end under contract – Tyler Mabry, who has been on and off the practice squad the last four years, playing in 10 games. He was re-signed to a futures contract in January.

Brady Russell, who ended last season as the fourth tight end and special teamer, is an exclusive rights free agent and likely to be back.

Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant can be unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins Wednesday. The Seahawks could re-sign either at any time, and the release of Dissly would seem to indicate they might plan to get one or both back.

Fant will be the more expensive of the two.

Pro Football Focus ranks him as the third-best tight end available in free agency behind Houston’s Dalton Schultz and New England’s Hunter Henry.

Schultz reportedly agreed Tuesday on a three-year, $36 million deal to stay with the Texans, which not only depletes the TE free-agent class some and sets a template for contracts at that position.

PFF projects Fant’s value as a three-year deal for $27 million overall with $15.5 million guaranteed. Fant made $6.85 million last year on a fifth-year option of his rookie deal.

Parkinson was rated by PFF as the fifth-best TE who could be a free agent, projecting his worth as a three-year, $15 million deal. Parkinson just finished his rookie contract, which paid him $3.965 million over four years.

Two other veteran TE free agents also appear off the board. Zach Ertz reportedly agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with Washington on Wednesday, and Jonnu Smith, who was released by the Falcons last week and reports Tuesday said he was negotiating a contract with Miami.

That leaves only seven other tight ends among PFF’s top 200 free agents, two of whom are Fant (54) and Parkinson (109)

The others are: Henry (47), former Seahawk Gerald Everett of the Chargers (83), Adam Trautman of the Broncos (114), Austin Hooper of the Raiders (119) and Mike Gesicki of the Patriots (120). assessed it similarly with only three tight ends among their top 101 pending free agents – Schultz (36), Henry (44) and Fant (82).

Maybe Seahawks fans are surprised by the lofty rankings for Fant given that his numbers all dropped off in 2023 from 2022.

Fant’s snap counts fell from 660 in 2022 to 574 in 2023 despite playing in every game each season while his receptions dropped from 50 to 32, yards from 486 to 414 and touchdowns from four to zero, while his targets decreased from 63 to 43.

Maybe that was a function of the offense and the Seahawks having a more reliable third receiver in Jaxon Smith-Njigba than it has had in past years.

Maybe teams see that Fant, who is only 26 despite having played five years in the league, still has the potential that compelled Denver to make him the 20th overall pick of the 2019 draft – and Schneider to make him a centerpiece of the Russell Wilson trade.

“Tight ends typically develop on a slow timeline,” wrote “Fant has grown more reliable as a player without losing his incredible athleticism.”

Or maybe the Seahawks have something else in mind.

Where the Seahawks may not as easily find answers is the draft, where the tight-end pool is not considered elite or deep.

Only one tight end is viewed as a sure first-rounder – Brock Bowers of Georgia, who many figure will be gone by the time the Seahawks pick at 16.

Generally considered next on the list of draftable tight ends is Ja’Tavion Sanders of Texas, who projects as a second-rounder.

All of the rest of the tight ends could be available when the Seahawks makes their two picks in the third round, a list that includes Cade Stover of Ohio State, Ben Sinnott of Kansas State and Jaheim Bell of Florida State.

Bell, who measured 6-foot-2, 241 pounds at the combine, reportedly visited with the Seahawks in Indianapolis.

If they find replacements for the player affectionately known as Uncle Will, they may also never find another one just like him.