Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
With the Washington Football Team just a few weeks removed from the season finale and a critical offseason on the horizon, it's time to turn the page to the 2022 campaign.
Over the next two weeks, washingtonfootball.com will break down every position group and lay out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft. Here are the position groups covered so far:
Next up are the tight ends:
On the roster
The tight end position was one of the more pleasant surprises for Washington in 2020. Logan Thomas, who never caught more than 16 passes in any of his first seven seasons, became one of the team's most useful weapons with 670 yards and six touchdowns. It's why it was an easy decision for Washington to give him a three-year extension.
In 2021, Washington's tight ends weren't quite as explosive, mostly because Thomas only played in six games and was placed on Injured Reserve twice, but there were pieces put in place that show there's a bright future for the position.
When Thomas was on the field, he was the same reliable player he was in 2020. He caught 72% of his targets and notched three touchdowns. It's why losing Thomas from Weeks 5-12, and then for the rest of the year after Week 13, was such a gut punch for Washington, which had to look for other other options.
That void was first filled by Ricky Seals-Jones, who signed a one-year deal with Washington in May. There was certainly some hope that he could have a larger role. After all, he had delivered a sensational catch against the New York Giants that gave Washington a lead, and he had caught eight combined touchdowns in three of his previous four stops.
Relive the highlights from each week of the Washington Football Team's 2021 season by scrolling through the top photos of the year. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Karlee Sell and Joseph Noyes/Washington Football Team
It turned out that he was more than ready to be what the offense needed him to be. In his first five starts as the No. 1 tight end, he caught 20 passes for 190 yards, which contributed to most of his 271 yards for the year. He was a hard worker on the practice field, and his background as a receiver made him a more elusive target.
"He can run and it isn't too big for him at all," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner. "He's played before, and he did an outstanding job...of stepping in and making plays."
Seals-Jones missed time as well, though, with a hip injury that kept him out from Weeks 11-13, and he missed the season finale. That left rookie John Bates, who was mostly known as a blocker, to be Washington's top option.
Bates (6-foot-6, 259 pounds) is a little bigger than Thomas and Seal-Jones, and he's not as fast, but he can catch as well as both of them. He didn't drop a pass until Week 13, and finished with a catch rate of 75%.
And in terms of run blocking, Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade among rookie tight ends.
"As a blocker, he's very physical. When he first came in and started playing in the games, he started doing that and he did a nice job with that," Turner said. "He's really sure handed, he catches everything. He doesn't have the top end speed, but the quickness and the ability to separate. Then just being that big target that the quarterback likes to throw the ball to."
Looking ahead, Washington should be set at tight end for a while. Thomas is set to come back healthy next year, while Bates is about to enter the second year of his rookie deal. Seals-Jones is set to be a free agent, but Washington has the money to re-sign him if it wants to do so.
There's also the development of Sammis Reyes to monitor going forward. Reyes, the first Chilean-born player to make an NFL roster, was mostly used as a special teams player and didn't record a catch in his rookie season, but the coaches were pleased with the strides he took throughout the year.
"He's got a really good future and I think just being introduced to football this year has been big and the leaps and bounds he's come," Turner said. "I think we will see it maybe not this year, but in the years to come."
With Washington set on depth at the position, it's a longshot for the team to sign a top tight end. However, there are some solid players who will be available in March. Check out the full list, HERE.
In a similar philosophy as free agency, Washington will likely be focused on other positions in the top half of the draft. There isn't a prospect at Kyle Pitts' caliber in this year's class, but there are some players projected as depth contributors. Check out the full list, HERE.