Greg Olsen, the Seattle Seahawks‘ newest tight end, has three Pro Bowls on his resume along with the second-most catches and receiving yards of any active tight end. He’s also two weeks away from his 35th birthday and has missed a combined 18 games the past three seasons.
Will Dissly, one of Seattle’s returning tight ends, has six touchdown catches in 10 career games. He’s also coming off a torn Achilles, his second major injury in as many NFL seasons.
Russell Wilson could have one of the league’s most potent collection of weapons at that position in 2020 if those two stay healthy, but that’s hardly a given considering Olsen’s age and both players’ recent histories.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday when asked if Olsen and Dissly could be a special tandem. “… [Dissly] was thrilled to hear that Greg was coming, for obvious reasons, because he wants to be great and he wants to learn how he can learn from Greg. They’ll both play on the field at the same time, I’m sure, and I’m excited to see that happen.”
Olsen joins Dissly, veteran Ed Dickson and 2019 undrafted free agent Justin Johnson as tight ends the Seahawks have under contract for 2020. Luke Willson (unrestricted), Jacob Hollister (restricted) and Tyrone Swoopes (exclusive rights) are free agents. The Seahawks would save $3.4 million by cutting Dickson, who missed all of last season and six games in 2018. That seems even more likely now that Olsen has been on a one-year deal that, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is worth $7 million, with $5.5 million guaranteed.
That hefty of a guarantee reflects the sizable market that Olsen had after his release from the Carolina Panthers and suggests a level of comfort with his health. Olsen missed two games last season with a concussion. He didn’t have any issues with his right foot, which was injured for much of 2017 and ’18.
“He’s in pretty darn good shape right now for all of the years he’s played,” Carroll said.
How rare would a big season by Olsen be at his age? Over the past 20 years, only five tight ends 35 and older (based on their age as of Sept. 1) have caught 50 passes in a season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Those five, which include Jason Witten (63 catches at age 37 last season), combined to do it nine times in that span.
Then again, Olsen caught 52 passes at age 34 last season, and all but 12 of them were thrown by Kyle Allen.
Olsen will go from an undrafted backup in Allen to an MVP candidate in Wilson.
“Really looking forward to Greg,” Carroll said. “We spent some time together here through this process and I was with him [Monday] again when he was signing up, and he can’t help but make an impression about his smarts and his awareness and his resolve to be great and do something great and be a part of something. Russ has already seen this … that they connect on a very high level about going for it and practicing and the playing and the concepts and the meaning of what it takes to get the work done. … I don’t think there’s any ceiling we should put on their ability to get together. I’m really excited about that.”
Dissly was off to a hot start last season, with 23 catches for 262 yards and four touchdowns in six games, before his injury. His six TDs over his first eight career games are tied with three others for the most by a tight end since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
General manager John Schneider said Monday he anticipates Dissly being ready for the start of the season. Dissly impressed the organization with the way he attacked his rehab from the torn patellar tendon that cut short his promising rookie season. That determination should serve him well as he recovers from his Achilles tear, but there are no guarantees with injuries that severe.
“Will Dissly’s a really good football player,” Carroll said. “We’ve loved everything that he’s done. He just hasn’t had enough time to really stack up numbers and all that, but there’s no doubt that Will can play the game. At the line of scrimmage and downfield and catching and running, he’s done all of that. Marvelous kid and competitor and all.”
Schneider volunteered that he wants Willson back. That likely would be to compete for a roster spot.
As for Hollister, who was the team’s most productive tight end and its third-leading receiver a year ago, the Seahawks have a few options for bringing him back.
One is to offer him the low/original-round RFA tender, which OverTheCap.com projects to be worth $2.144 million. The danger there is that because he was undrafted, the Seahawks wouldn’t receive any compensation if another team signs Hollister to an offer sheet that Seattle declines to match. The second-round tender would entitle the Seahawks to a second-round pick in that scenario but would come with a projected $3.278 million salary, awfully steep for what could be a No. 3 tight end. The Seahawks could alternatively non-tender Hollister, making him an unrestricted free agent, then try to re-sign him for less than either of those amounts the way they did two years ago with running back Mike Davis.
It could go any number of ways with Hollister. The same is true for the Seahawks’ tight end group as a whole in 2020.