Welcome back to 4 Questions. The Lions have been weird this offseason. Just two weeks ago, the Lions had three tight ends and that position wasn’t anything that anyone had to worry about. Then the Lions cut Eric Ebron, and Darren Fells signed with the Browns. Then everyone freaked out.
That, of course, was until the Lions signed former Seahawks tight end Luke Willson last week. We all know that this is not the Luke Wilson from Old School or other Luke Wilson movies. So get your Luke Wilson jokes out of the way in the month of March. Please, I beg of you!
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Luke Willson with two Ls. The tight end market wasn’t exactly chock-full of big talent, so, needless to say, Luke was the guy that the Lions had to get at this position. The Lions lucked out that Willson has the Lions close to his heart.
The best part about this signing is that I finally got to go to Seattle. When Reisman passed the assignment to me, I knew exactly what to do. I’ve had a flannel shirt packed away in the closet for this exact occasion. So I went home and put on my ripped jeans and Converses and jumped on a plane for the home of grunge.
Once I got to Seattle, I listened to the best Pearl Jam song in their entire catalog, “Black.” Then I got my Starbucks coffee and headed to the most stereotypical Seattle place you could possibly think of. That’s right, I went to the Key Arena to watch the Rat City Roller Girls. It was there that I met with John Fraley of Field Gulls. After we rioted about the SuperSonics not being around anymore, he gave me some info on Luke Willson. Here’s what he had to say.
POD: What are your overall thoughts on Willson’s time in Seattle?
FG: “Luke Willson’s gonna be missed. He’s a bit of a goofball with the media and with his teammates, but a solid worker. He’s a fan favorite for his off-the-wall interviews and his occasional big plays. A lot of Seahawks fans will remember him for outrunning the entire Cardinals defense on an 80-yard score in 2014, and then for catching the miracle two-point conversion late in the NFCCG that year vs. Green Bay. So... you could say he’s already well trained in beating the Packers. In case that matters to you guys.
Willson never was a stat machine (1,129 yards total in five seasons), but then again he’s been in Jimmy Graham’s shadow since 2015. Still managed to score four times last year despite Graham’s 10 TDs. His catch rate is fine (career 65 percent). He was the definition of a solid TE2, and those guys have value, especially on their rookie contracts. I get the impression he’d still be here if there were any cap space left at all. But the Seahawks have to go cheap with their depth now, and so Willson’s an unfortunate casualty.”
POD: What are his strengths?
FG: “There’s nothing Willson does poorly. He’s got wheels, he’s been used pretty equally as a blocker and a big target, and even occasionally as an H-Back, his hands are all right, he’s durable. His elite skill is speed (don’t say he’s deceptively fast, he is outright fast, turned in a 4.51 40 at the combine). He will outrun safeties in the open field. He played almost half (49.4 percent) of the team’s ST snaps last season. A real Luke-of-all-trades (sorry/not sorry).”
POD: What are his weaknesses?
FG: “There are questions about his blocking, but I don’t see it. He disappears for games at a time, in terms of receptions and yards, but is that a function of his role in the offense and the decisions of the QB and coaches? Probably. He’s not a true TE1, though he was forced into that role in 2014 and the Seahawks won the conference anyway. Man, I am having to try hard to find real weaknesses. If anything, you could point at the Seahawks’ inability to run the ball for the last season and a half and hold him partially accountable. If you wanted. I don’t want to, but you can see what I mean -- he’s just too well-rounded of a player. His weakness is he’s not a star.
Addendum: maybe he’s too candid. In a recent interview with Barstool sports he goes into a ton of detail about the state of the Seattle locker room in the immediate aftermath of the XLIX heart-breaking loss. Maybe too much detail. It’s a great interview and I strongly suggest watching the whole thing, it gives a lot of insight into why people here gravitated to Luke. (https://www.barstoolsports.com/newyork/luke-willson-of-the-seattle-seahawks-joins-the-evening-yak/ “
POD: Can Willson make a large impact in Detroit? Or is he better served as a role player?
FG: “He will make you completely forget about that no-good Seattle export Golden Tate! ...No. He will not. Hey, speaking of which, can we have Golden back? He’s one of the most missed Seahawks of the decade. You had your turn.
Seriously, I hear you, you’re asking the big question you could ask of any free agent on any team -- did we get a steal or did we overpay for someone who’ll be fine and nothing more? I think Willson’s a role player with the capability to be more than that, if coaches choose to ask it of him. He’ll be playing close to home (Windsor) and that can work for or against a player. He just turned 28 so the age concerns should be non-existent for now. He’s the kind of weapon a playoff team needs: able to do the little things at all times and the big things when called upon. He doesn’t strike me as a game-changer; maybe a game-preserver. Which is pretty dang valuable in its own right.”
Some good stuff from John here. With links and everything. Thank you to John Fraley for all your answers. If you’re ever looking for Seahawks news, or you just want to read up on what Cliff Avril is up too, I recommend you check out his work at Field Gulls. Stay tuned, Lions fans, I’m not done in Seattle just yet.