Austin Seferian-Jenkins would love to come home to play.
They are growing signs the Seahawks are working to possibly make that happen.
A league source told me Monday Seferian-Jenkins, the 25-year-old free-agent tight end from Fox Island who was a star at Gig Harbor High School then the University of Washington, began the NFL’s free-agency week home working out in the Seattle area with some Seahawks players on their own, in an area gym.
The source said Seferian-Jenkins is “extremely interested” in playing for the Seahawks, that he wants to “win big and win big at home.”
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He is a free agent who recently turned down a two-year, $8 million offer to remain with the New York Jets. He hired his new agent after this past Thanksgiving, Doug Hendrickson, with an eye on possibly getting a contract done with Seattle for 2018 and beyond. The Bay Area-based Hendrickson has represented Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett, and in past negotiations with them and players Hendrickson knows the Seahawks and general manager John Schneider well.
Multiple league sources have indicated the Seahawks are, in turn, very interested in the 6-foot-5 receiving target who often physically dominates defenders--and that they entered Monday considering whether to make Seferian-Jenkins a contract offer. Monday was the start of the league’s 48-hour “legal tampering period” when teams can contact representatives for pending free agents about new deals. Those contracts can become official starting on Wednesday, the first day of the new league year.
Seattle will have competition if it indeed makes an offer. The league source tells me the Bears, Jaguars and Colts are also interested in Seferian-Jenkins in free agency.
The Buccaneers on Monday agreed to a six-year, $41 million extension with Cameron Brate, one of Seferian-Jenkins’ successors in Tampa Bay. So $6.83 million per year could be a target number for Seferian-Jenkins. It stands to reason that he’s seeking a shorter-term deal, such as two or three years, so he can potentially become a free agent again when he’s still just 28 years old.
The Seahawks have the need at tight end. And a shorter-term deal would fit their finances.
Jimmy Graham is too expensive to bring back at age 31 following a 10-touchdown season for Seattle in 2017. He will become a free agent on Wednesday. A league source with knowledge of Graham’s thinking told me as of Monday he’s expected to sign either with the New Orleans Saints, in a reunion, or the Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks are also weighing whether to make an offer to Luke Willson. Their incumbent No.-2 tight end is also due to become a free agent when the market opens Wednesday. Seattle could retain him at a much more team-friendly cost and still have money to spend on its many other needs (pass rusher, offensive line, running back) in free agency.
Nick Vannett, who has played two seasons since the Seahawks drafted him in 2016 out of Ohio State, is the only tight end with any real experience on the depth chart who is signed for 2018. Undrafted former University of Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, a Seahawks practice-squad player for most of his rookie year of 2017, is also on the roster as a tight end.
Seferian-Jenkins caught a career-high 50 passes last season for the Jets, fewer than his total from his first four NFL seasons before that combined. He was suspended for the first two games of the 2017 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy in 2016. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in the second round in 2014 out of UW, then gave up on him and waived him two years later, two games into the 2016 season, after he was arrested for driving under the influence.
In 2013 he pleaded guilty to DUI while playing for the Washington Huskies. He was sentenced in Seattle Municipal Court to 364 days in jail with 363 suspended.
He fought through his addiction to alcohol in the winter following the 2016 season, working out in Las Vegas and losing 30 pounds. The Jets claimed him off waivers and gave him another NFL chance. And he flourished; Jan. 21 was the one-year mark for his sobriety.
Now he’d love to flourish at home. For the Seahawks.