Seahawks must consider exTEnsions for Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson
With how Seahawks are using tight ends, Seattle can't afford to risk breaking up the band: Seaside Joe 1673
You don’t have to be a rock historian to know that Cream, a supergroup consisting of Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker, was one of the greatest three-person bands of all-time. Or that Blind Faith, the band that Clapton and Baker formed with Steve Winwood after Cream broke up because of internal tensions in the group, was not.
Cream formed in 1966. They did their farewell tour in 1968. In just those 2-3 years, Cream’s Wheel of Fire became the first double-album in history to go platinum, Clapton became one of the first guitar icons, and many parents will say that songs like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” defined the 60s.
What could have happened if all three banked on each other, instead of on themselves?
The Seattle Seahawks are facing an almost picture perfect identical literal 1-to-1 situation with their 2023 tight ends room. Show me a police lineup with Eric Clapton, Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson, and Ginger Baker, and I’ll show you the cover art to the movie Multiplicity. They all look the same to me!
What the Seahawks have done with their tight ends group in 2023 is truly the most innovative offensive philosophy that I can think of for a Pete Carroll team since at least Russell Wilson’s zone-read option offense starting in 2012. To be honest, I am not 100-percent certain to what degree Shane Waldron is stealing or borrowing from other offensive coordinators to do what he’s doing, so maybe it is less innovative and more staying on the cutting edge.
But at least we know that Waldron is most likely aware that he has a certain personnel grouping and that he doesn’t have to fit them into someone else’s box like the Miami Dolphins or Los Angeles Rams just because that’s also working. The Seahawks don’t have someone other team’s players, they have Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson, and Will Dissly (when he’s healthy) and lately what they haven’t had is their two starting offensive tackles.
Credit to Darius Butler and ESPN’S NFL Matchup for some breakdowns on Seattle’s usage of 12 personnel that I’ll show two tiny snippets of in GIF form: Click here for the full 2-minute video.
The Seahawks are not afraid to have two or three tight ends on the field at the same time (if Dissly is healthy) and Waldron’s not shy about putting two tight ends in the backfield or in motion or both!
The multiplicity of Seattle’s tight ends as in-line tight ends, split wide, in the slot, running pre-snap motion, as H-backs, as fullbacks, as blockers…wherever they are needed, that’s where they go and the Seahawks have managed to pull this off with only three combined penalties by the group: 2 for Parkinson (holding, OPI), one for Dissly (false start), and zero for Fant.
I consider that to be one of the biggest “highlights” of their season because there is so much that these three players have to think about. I could even forgive Parkinson for his brutal drop on an amazing throw by Geno Smith in last Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers.
The question for Seattle now, and this isn’t something that they have to wait until next offseason to decide, is which of these three tight ends will be back in 2024 and can the Seahawks keep all three?
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Seaside Joe is a tight end publication.
Seahawks exTEnsion talks
The L.A. Rams made an interesting move to extend tight end Tyler Higbee this week, giving him two more years worth up to $20 million with half of it fully guaranteed. Higbee is far from being one of the best tight ends in the NFL—he drops too many passes, he’s mediocre as a receiver but has managed to suck up a lot of targets when the Rams suffer receiver injuries—however he has managed to prove invaluable to an organization that has failed to locate his replacement despite multiple efforts to do so since Sean McVay arrived in 2017.
And McVay came up in the NFL as a tight ends coach!
The Rams drafted former Seahawk Gerald Everett in the second round in 2017 and they tried to replace him by using a fourth round pick on Brycen Hopkins in 2020. Everett is “okay” and he’s sort of honed in on a niche with the L.A. Chargers recently, but his mental mistakes and lack of blocking skills really made Higbee unexpendable for the Rams.
Hopkins is the son of former Pro Bowl offensive tackle Brad Hopkins, but he just sucks. That’s all there is to it. Brycen Hopkins can’t block like his dad, can’t receive like Everett, and a once-12 personnel heavy offense has completely abandoned any schemes that involve two tight ends.
This is why I’m afraid that the Seahawks can’t completely bank their future at the position by drafting a “cheap replacement” for one or two of their current tight ends, a trio that has accelerated Seattle’s development as an offense in the post-Russ era and elevated Geno Smith into a top-5 QB in the NFC.
So what can the Seahawks do and what will each of these players cost?
As I’ve written many times already this year because it’s such an interesting dilemma, the Seahawks have two free agents and one potential cap casualty in their tight ends group. As risky as it could be to say goodbye to Will Dissly, the fact remains that he’s an outlier with a $10.1 million cap hit in 2024 as a tight end who so consistently averages 250-300 yards and two touchdowns per season. Not only that, but Dissly missed most of 2018 and 2019 and is again on the injury report.
Perhaps what Seattle is trying to do with Dissly is to get him to agree to an extension that brings down his 2024 cap hit and pays him like the player he’s been instead of the player they have hoped he could be; I’m talking about a very reasonable two-year, $12 million extension, or ripping up his deal and giving him a three-year, $18 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. He’d get more money than he’s already set to make next season, but maybe his cap hit would be closer to $4 million than $10 million.
Colby Parkinson is the youngest of the group by two years at 24 and this season he’s caught six of nine targets for 87 yards. He could be over 110 yards at least, if not for the drop, but we constantly see glimpses of a player who could be much better than the stats. Still, Parkinson has 458 yards and two touchdowns since entering the NFL as a fourth round pick in 2020 and I’d be shocked if teams are clamoring to pay him $8 million per season or more…although sometimes tight end contracts are very shocking.
What Hayden Hurst ever did to become a $7 million player, I’ll never know.
If the Seahawks can get Dissly’s cap figure down by $4-6 million, that alone could be the crevice needed to fit Parkinson into the team’s future plans. It would be a shame to lose him, as Parkinson gets better every year and his versatility on offense was a vital key to some of Seattle’s second half success against Carolina. In Week 3, Parkinson played 53 snaps in Dissly’s absence, the third-highest total of his career. His two highest came in January wins over the Jets and Rams.
Finally, Noah Fant is the wild card in that he has the first round cache of a player like Hurst and the size, athleticism to be projected by a team as a potential $10-$12 million tight end in the future. He’s averaging 10.8 yards per target so far this season, his best mark since 8.5 as a rookie on the Denver Broncos, but he’s only at eight catches for 97 yards and no touchdowns.
By sharing the job with two others—plus DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and a balanced offense that has so many weapons—Fant hasn’t really even had the opportunity to be force fed the football like he might on another offense. That could also entice Fant to seek employment elsewhere because I don’t doubt that there are teams willing to overpay him based on their severe defincies at the position and as I mentioned, the difficult road to find a good tight end.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Fant and his agent aren’t happy with his reduction in playing time since the trade: The Broncos played him in 84% of their snaps in 2021, but he was only in on 60% of snaps in 2022 and is at 54% so far in 2023.
It’s great if Noah Fant is strictly a “team player” and doesn’t need to be on the field the whole time to be happy…but do you honestly find that to be realistic? Don’t see it from a fan’s perspective, see it from a player and agent’s perspective. Fant could thrive in Seattle’s offense, he really could.
But if the Seahawks decide to keep Dissly and Parkinson, is he going to be happy accepting a role that could cost him MILLIONS of dollars per year and to be off of the field for 30-40% of the snaps? That just doesn’t align with what we know of almost 100% of football players.
Therefore, it could be that the Seahawks value Noah Fant the most—he’s been awesome in these last two games, catching eight of nine targets for 97 yards—and that they pay him $12 million per year. That could be their choice, it could also be the smartest move to keep Fant and Parkinson instead of Dissly and Parkinson.
What I can’t possibly see is the Seahawks keeping all three unless Dissly takes a pay cut and Seattle gets some sort of discount: The highest-paid tight ends room in the NFL this year makes $21 million against the cap (Patriots) and though the Seahawks rank third in that category right now, I can’t see them wanting that number to continue to rise, especially after investing a first round pick in Jaxon Smith-Njigba and a second round pick in Zach Charbonnet and definitely expecting them to be more involved in the passing game by 2024.
It could be tough for Seattle to ever find a trio as good as the one that they have right now, so that’s a risk. But even when you break up, there’s always a chance you could get the band back together…
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