With the 2016 NFL season now in the books, and the 2017 league year not yet upon us, now is a good time to take a look at where things stand with the Seahawks roster. This week, we'll take a position-by-position look at the Seahawks, both looking back at the 2016 season and looking ahead to 2017. Today, the focus is on tight end.
The biggest question mark coming into the season was when and how well Jimmy Graham would return from a torn patellar tendon sustained late in the 2015 season. And not only did Graham make it back from that injury by the season opener, he enjoyed the most productive season by a tight end in Seahawks history. And in addition to having a productive season as a pass-catcher, leading to Pro Bowl honors, Graham also took a big step forward as a blocker in his second season with the Seahawks.
"I thought Jimmy had a terrific year," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He was explosive, dynamic, he blocked like he has never blocked before, he became a factor on the perimeter blocking stuff. He's a highlight film, he's got so many big plays that he made during the year… I'm excited for him to come back, imagine how much better he'll feel. Look what he had to undergo this offseason to get back and be in the phenomenal shape that he was. This will allow him to come back again, he should be stronger this year and more fit this year. He's got a great work ethic about him, he's naturally built and physiqued and all that. I think nothing but really cool stuff for us as we go forward."
Luke Willson remained a productive part of the offense, though injuries caused him to miss six games, while free-agent addition Brandon Williams showed value primarily as a blocker and as a big contributor on special teams. Rookie Nick Vannett was impressive in camp and the preseason, but he struggled to find playing time during the regular season.
Notable Number: 923
Despite missing offseason workouts, some of training camp and all of the preseason, Graham still caught 65 passes for 923 yards, both franchise records by a tight end.
Willson, who has become a big part of the offense since arriving as a fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft, will be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins next month, so the Seahawks have a decision to make there.
"We love what Luke contributes to this team," Carroll said. "He has been a very good Seahawk. He has been awesome to coach and be a part of it. It's one of those deals we'd love to have him back. We did pursue that earlier and we tried to get something done and we weren't able too. We would love to have him back so he knows we want him and we'd like to have him on our team."
Williams is also a free agent, so depending on what happens with him and Willson, this position group could look a bit different next season.
What The Future Holds
As Carroll mentioned above, Graham heading into the offseason healthy means he "should be stronger this year and more fit this year." And instead of spending his offseason working to recover from a significant operation, Graham will have more time to build chemistry with Russell Wilson and potentially become an even more dangerous weapon in 2017.
"That's really why I'm excited about this offseason, being able to have an offseason with Russ," Graham said at the Pro Bowl. "My first offseason I'm learning the offense and then this past year, I got zero reps with him. So this offseason, I'm going to go to L.A. a little bit and he'll come see me. I'm going to be up there and just really work on some things and get that chemistry down."
What the position group looks like beyond Graham is a bit of a mystery at this point. If the Seahawks can re-sign Willson, they'll have good continuity with that group, and they also like the potential of Vannett as he continues to grow in the offense. If Willson signs elsewhere, that will likely open the door for Vannett to take on a bigger role so long as he can hold off challenges from players the Seahawks might add in the offseason.
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Wide Receiver
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Offensive Line
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Cornerback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Defensive Line
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Quarterback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Safety
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Running Back
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Linebacker
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Special Teams
The best photos of the Seahawks giving back to the local community during the 2016 NFL season.