Austin Seferian-Jenkins is in Jacksonville.
Maybe for good.
A league source told The News Tribune early Thursday morning that although the Seahawks worked into Wednesday night in the hours following his free-agent visit with them, the former University of Washington star tight end from Gig Harbor High School and Fox Island is now likely to sign with the Jaguars.
The deal may happen after his scheduled visit with the Jaguars later Thursday.
“Who knows at this point, (but) it’s probably going to be a done deal in Jacksonville,” the source said.
That was a couple days after the source told me Seferian-Jenkins is “extremely interested” in playing for the Seahawks, and that he wants to “win big and win big at home.”
But by mid-morning Thursday in Florida, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was reporting the Jaguars were signing tight end Niles Paul, a free agent from Washington, for two years worth from $5 million possibly up to almost $9 million. Thing is, Paul was a number-two tight end and the Redskins’ special-teams captai. So it’s possible Jacksonville is on its way to signing him and Seferian-Jenkins.
As is often the case in this frenzied, NFL free-agency business, who knows?
Seferian-Jenkins worked out with Seahawks linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright on their own at a Seattle-area gym earlier this week, after hanging out with family and friends including from Gig Harbor last weekend.
But Seferian-Jenkins left SeaTac on an 11 p.m. red-eye flight Wednesday without a Seahawks deal--and with a connection to and date in Florida with the Jaguars instead.
Seattle’s best chance to sign him to a homecoming seemed to have departed on that plane with him late Wednesday night.
The Seahawks either have decided or are likely waiting to decide who will replace departed (to Green Bay) free agent Jimmy Graham at tight end, because they can. They have at least one other known option.
The Seahawks are next scheduled to host free-agent tight end Ed Dickson. He is five years older than Seferian-Jenkins. Dickson had 30 catches and one touchdown last season, his fourth year for Carolina. The former Oregon Duck and southern California native has 178 catches and 12 touchdowns in eight seasons, the other four with Baltimore. Dickson’s career high in receptions is 54 and touchdowns is five, both in 2011 for the Ravens in his second NFL season.
The Panthers also used Dickson as a blocking fullback. The Seahawks’ first priority on offense is getting back to Pete Carroll’s preferred running game, and Seattle has lacked an effective blocking tight end the last two seasons.
Also: Detroit on Wednesday released former first-round draft choice Eric Ebron. He’s even younger than Seferian-Jenkins, at 24.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s incumbent No.-2 tight end Luke Willson was expected to arrive late Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., for a visit with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent.
The 25-year-old Seferian-Jenkins had been in the Seattle area visiting friends and family, including in Gig Harbor, since last week. He turned down a two-year, $8 million offer last month to return to the New York Jets. The Jets came back to him Tuesday with a sweetened offer. Chicago, Indianapolis and New Orleans also were interested in signing him.
Now it appears, barring an unforeseen offer elsewhere, it’s coming down to Jacksonville and Seattle.
Seferian-Jenkins may be seeking a deal in the $6-million-a-year range or more. He would love a two- or three-year contract, so he can potentially have another round in free agency at age 28. That shorter term would likely fit the salary cap-strapped Seahawks.
Many free-agent agreements struck this week have been three years. The league’s collective bargaining agreement ends in 2020. No one truly knows how the financial landscape for players and teams will change in a new CBA.
Seferian-Jenkins caught a career-high 50 passes last season for the Jets, five 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 anniversary for his sobriety.
He wants to go back to college and finish getting his degree. From his visit to Seahawks headquarters through evening negotiations and Thursday morning’s developments in Jacksonville, it appears there’s still a chance he might be able to finish that degree where he started it, at UW.