Seahawks might need to cut Will Dissly to get better next season
Trade, Draft, and Free Agent options at tight end in 2023
Though the only tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft who gets consistent mention as a first round pick is Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, a recent mock by Josh Edwards of CBS Sports had Georgia’s Darnell Washington as the first tight end off the board: 17th overall to the Green Bay Packers.
Mayer went 18th to the Detroit Lions.
Washington is huge (6’7, 270 lbs), his athletic highlight reel plays could signal elite testing at the combine, and he’s even had to share the tight end position at Georgia with Brock Bowers, a sophomore who is regularly cited as the best tight end in the country and a top-10 pick in 2024.
Washington had 26 catches, an average of only two receptions per game, but he managed 417 yards on those opportunities and again, was only the number two tight end option for a team that averaged 33 passes per game. Should a team make Darnell Washington a first round pick, he will have one of the most unique college resumes of any player to go that high, having only caught 43 passes for 737 yards and three touchdowns in three seasons.
It’s a risk to draft him. It’s also a risk to let a division rival get a hold of him and to find out he could have been much more dominant.
Is it a risk that the Seattle Seahawks are willing to take? If not for Washington, then perhaps for Mayer, Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave or another tight end with the potential to be a top-50 pick?
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The Seahawks placed Will Dissly on injured reserve this week, ending his season on the injury list for the third time in five years. Dissly is signed for two more years, carrying cap charges of $9.25 million and $10.1 million in 2023 and 2024, making for an interesting debate in the future of how much value he brings to Seattle’s roster and questioning whether or not the team could get a similar return for a tight end on a rookie contract.
Dissly has one truly insane mark on his NFL resume: Over the last four years, he has caught 102 of 120 targets, a catch rate of 85%. That’s 18 throws to Dissly that have fallen incomplete since 2019. He is the only tight end or wide receiver in the NFL with a catch rate above 80% on at least 100 targets over the last four years.
But you don’t think of Dissly as an elite player. I don’t think of Dissly as an elite player. The reason for that is simple. He’s not elite.
At no point in 2022 was Dissly targeted more than four times in a game. Just last Saturday, Laquon Treadwell was targeted seven times. Kenneth Walker, Marquise Goodwin, and Noah Fant have all had games in which they were targeted at least six times.
In all sports, there are players who excel in limited situations and players who don’t have the same numbers per play, but offer more value through expanded availability. Dissly is regularly a one or two-catch tight end, offering usually 20 yards per game, and he has not caught a touchdown since Week 4 against the Detroit Lions.
You and I both like Will Dissly, but as a limited receiver with an extensive injury history, a talk needs to be had about a player set to be the 12th-highest paid tight end of 2023. Realistically, after some tight ends with higher salaries than him get cut, Dissly will be paid like a top-10 tight end in 2023 if he remains on his current contract, but 25 tight ends currently have more receiving yards than his 349, and 15 of them played in fewer games.
When I say that the Seahawks might need to cut Dissly to get better, same as it would be with any player in a similar contract-to-value situation, it is not because the player doesn’t improve Seattle at his position. It is only because the player’s contract may be hurting Seattle’s chances to improve at other positions. When I said that I didn’t believe Poona Ford was a “$10 million player” this offseason, the highest-paid on the Seahawks roster, I got booed.
Poona is a good player. Poona is a quality addition to any team’s defensive tackle position. But Poona is only ninth in snaps on the defense alone, he’s not wrecking the game in those limited opportunities like some DTs in the league who he makes more money than (Kenny Clark, Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne), so is he a $10 million/highest paid player on the team type of defensive tackle?
It’s not meant to demean Poona or Dissly when I talk about their contracts, it’s only meant to take an objective and unbiased look at how their deals are impacting the entire roster.
There is, of course, the duality of tight end and the value of blocking. But it is not blocking that makes Darren Waller a $12 million tight end. It is not blocking that usually causes a tight end to reach the top-10 highest-paid at his position. Additionally, Dissly and Noah Fant have received equal playing time in 2022 and Fant has been much more productive as a pass catcher: 34 catches for 370 yards and three touchdowns compared to 22 catches for 233 yards and no touchdowns over the last 11 games.
Fant carries a $6.8 million cap charge in 2023 on his fifth-year option and should Seattle need to choose between the two, the decision should be easy.
Colby Parkinson, the youngest tight end of the trio, has appeared in 35% of the snaps as compared to 60% for the other two, and he will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023. The Seahawks could be going into an offseason in which they decide to part with Dissly ($3 million savings), start Fant, give it one more year to see what they have in Parkinson, and either draft a tight end or acquire a veteran from another team to round out the position for next season.
With two first round picks, two second round picks, and a third rounder, Seattle will have the capital to pick someone like Mayer or Washington and still have selections remaining to fortify some of the more obvious positions with openings. I understand why it may be difficult to process a decision to draft a tight end with one of the first four or five picks at this time, the Seahawks could repeat next season with Dissly, Fant, and Parkinson and be more than fine.
The combined forces of those three: 96 catches for 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns on 118 targets.
But Dissly has an injury history and an exorbitant salary. Fant hasn’t hit the next gear yet. Parkinson has yet to show that he will become a number one tight end. A draft pick, even a cast off from another team, could have a higher ceiling than all three and provide important cost savings in the near future.
For the coach who traded for Jimmy Graham and Noah Fant, who signed Zach Miller, who re-signed Will Dissly, we can’t discount it as a possibility.
In today’s bonus post, we’ll explore those 2023 possibilities. Join Regular Joes to finish reading and to impart your comments on today’s tight end article if you have anything to add to what I’ve written so far.