Luke Willson just became the latest Super Bowl veteran to say goodbye to the Seahawks--and to an era gone by.
Seattle’s No. 2 tight end for the last five seasons, his only five in the NFL since the Seahawks drafted him in the fifth round in 2013 out of Rice, typed his Seattle farewell and posted it online late Tuesday night. The Seahawks let his one-year contract he had extended this time last year expire at the end of the 2017. He entered unrestricted free agency last week.
Early Wednesday morning, he had agreed to a one-year contract for what is believed to be $2.5 million plus incentive bonuses to play for his home-area Detroit Lions.
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Willson becomes the 12th former starting player to leave the Seahawks or be turned loose by the team into unrestricted free agency in the last two weeks.
Willson, 28, is from LaSalle, Ontario, 25 minutes across the Canadian border from Detroit. In the last week he has made free-agent visits to the Lions, Jacksonville and Carolina. Detroit was his obvious first choice. He and wide receiver Golden Tate, his Seahawks teammate when Willson was a rookie, reunite on the Lions, who let starting tight end Eric Ebron go last week.
“It was incredible,” Willson said of his time as a Seahawk, in which he earned more than $5.1 million in his rookie contract then one-year deal for 2017.
Willson was an outgoing, at-times goofy voice of the personality-filled Seahawks locker room. He was the one behind the team’s zany “Techno Thursday” movement of dance music playing incessantly and laughably short shorts. Willson and teammates all the way through quarterback Russell Wilson wore those through practices on Thursdays all last season.
Willson blared techno music from a retro, neon-green boom box off the locker room’s walls most Thursdays, and many other days last season.
Willson was the second tight end with Jimmy Graham is Seattle’s offense the last three seasons. Graham signed a free-agent deal with the Packers last week.
Willson had 15, 15, 17, 22 and 20 catches with 11 touchdowns total in his five years with the team.
His most famous Seahawks play is his wild, across-the-field catch for the two-point conversion on a jump-ball pass from Wilson late in regulation of the NFC championship game against Green Bay in January 2015. It helped ensure the overtime period that day in which Seattle won and advanced to Super Bowl 49.
The Seahawks signed free-agent tight end Ed Dickson from Carolina last week to a three-year contract worth $14 million, with $3.6 million guaranteed to him this year. He is more of a pass blocker than Willson or Graham, who are receivers first--and in Graham’s case, almost exclusively.
Nick Vannett, entering his third season with the team, and 2017 undrafted rookie Tyrone Swoopes, the bullish former quarterback at the University of Texas, are the other two tight ends currently on the Seahawks’ roster. Given Pete Carroll has promised to return the Seahawks to the run this year, expect the team to draft next month if not sign another tight end or two before training camp begins in late July.