When the offseason began, Washington only had three tight ends on the roster. It was considered a major need position. Washington addressed it with several moves, so how do they look heading into the 2021 NFL season?
There are now seven tight ends listed on Washington’s depth chart. In all likelihood, there will be three roster spots and one, maybe two practice squad slots available.
What We Know
Logan Thomas is the starter. Last year was his first opportunity to be a full-time starter in the NFL and he responded brilliantly. Thomas started 15 of 16 games for Washington and hauled in 72 catches for 670 yards. He also had six touchdowns. He had only caught 37 passes for 317 yards in his career, previous to that. Thomas’ season defined the phrase breakout year.
The big tight end was a bonafide threat by the end of 2020. He can be even better in 2021 if he can add a few more routes to his repertoire. At 6’6″ and 250 pounds, he is a nightmare for anybody in the secondary to contend with. Expect him to absolutely truck someone in 2021 as he continues to gain confidence in his abilities at the position.
We also know that Jeremy Sprinkle will not be filling one of the 2021 roster slots, as he left for Dallas via free agency.
What We Think We Know
Washington signed Ricky Seals-Jones this past week, and he is expected to compete for the back-up tight end role. With only a handful of NFL games under his belt, and just two last year with the Chiefs, Seals-Jones isn’t expected to challenge Thomas any time soon, but he can provide some security.
Washington also snagged another Chiefs’ tight end, Deon Yelder. Yelder had been with Kansas City for three seasons and had appeared in 26 games (2 starts). Ironically, Yelder came off IR last season to play in the Super Bowl game, and replaced Seals-Jones. Wether that’s conclusive proof of their relative abilities or not, both provide the Washington tight end unit with the same thing – some depth with some NFL games under their belt.
Washington also still has Temarrick Hemmingway and Tyrone Swoopes. They fit this category because not only did Rivera see them last year, but saw enough in them to bring them both back. Hemmingway appeared in eight games for Washington in 2020, and had one catch.
Only one or two of these four, will win a roster spot at training camp.
What We Hope
Washington drafted tight end John Bates out of Boise State in the fourth round of the draft. Bates isn’t a first or second rounder that is expected to step right in and start. He has good hands and blocks well. He has a legitimate shot at filling one of the three roster slots if he can have a good training camp. Especially if he can contribute on special teams. That’s why the above group may only yield one roster spot, because Bates might steal the third.
The WFT also have project Sammis Reyes from the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. He dazzled scouts at a Pro Day in March after spending ten weeks at the IMG Academy in Florida. At 6’5″ and 260 pounds, he ran a 4.65 40, had a 40-inch vertical, and did 31 bench press repetitions. He possesses fantastic athletic gifts but has zero football experience other than the Academy. It’s doubtful that he is ear-marked for anything but a spot on the practice squad, to learn and to grow.
What It Means
Washington will have a competitive camp battle at tight end, something that head coach Ron Rivera believes in.
The only thing carved in stone is that Thomas is the number one. The rest is up for grabs.
If you only had to rank the starter and not the unit, it would be a resounding A. Thomas proved last season that he had found his groove at tight end, and played with more and more confidence as the season progressed. He’d be a shoe-in for an increase in numbers, were it not for the addition of Curtis Samuel, and a few less looks coming Thomas’ way. As it stands, he will likely post very similar numbers in 2021, which still bodes well for Washington.
After Thomas though, there’s no clear cut back-up. There isn’t even a tight end that offers much in the way of a different look.
And what if Thomas gets hurt? Then what? None of the other guys on the roster is an established offensive threat. It’s doubtful that they would even be used in the same manner. Washington have other threats offensively obviously, but it would change the dynamic of the entire unit if Thomas were to get injured.
That’s probably the appeal of Reyes. The hope that he can find what Thomas found, and grow into a similar NFL tight end, with similar skills. That isn’t likely to be in 2021 though.
Overall Grade: B-
Only Thomas’ progression and emergence, keeps this from falling to a full-on average C.
This could rise to a B+, if Bates can shine at camp, block well, and earn a back-up spot.