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The roster race is back on at TE with the signing of free agent Ricky Seals-Jones

Cleveland Browns v New York Jets Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The starter

In Washington, it’s absolutely clear who the #1 tight end on the roster is, which is a big change from a season ago.

In 2020, beyond the 2-year contract that the Football team had given to Logan Thomas, there was absolutely no clarity about who would be on the roster at tight end when the training camp dust settled. Eventually, players like Richard Rodgers and Hale Hentges were released, and the unlikely last man standing was the former quarterback, Logan Thomas.

Thomas went on to have a breakout year at the tight end position, pulling in 72 receptions for 670 yards and 6 touchdowns. In some games, especially when players like Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin were out injured or hampered by double-team coverage, it felt like Thomas was the only reliable threat on the team’s offense.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into 2021, more offensive weapons have been added, but Logan Thomas is unambiguously the team’s starting tight end. Despite the 2020 season being the only statistical highlight on his tight end resume, he is the most proven player on the roster at the tight end position.

After that? Well, it looks like a horse race.

The betting favorite

Having just drafted John Bates in the 4th round out of Boise State, it’s highly unlikely that the WFT would cut him this year. Besides, he appears to be a well-rounded player who is an eager and fairly talented blocker as well as a receiver with reliable hands, if somewhat limited route running skills.

Related article: John Bates: a film review - 9 plays against Utah State

Whether Bates eventually ends up getting the second- or third-most snaps on the team is immaterial. He looks like the only lock to make the 53-man roster behind Thomas.

NFL: Washington Football Team Rookie Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

After that, there is competition for what is likely to be the last tight end spot on the roster, and the competition just got more heated on Tuesday with the signing of veteran tight end Ricky Seals-Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs.

The two-man race for the last open roster spot

Aside from Logan Thomas, there are only two tight ends on the roster with any meaningful playing time in the NFL. In a situation that is a bit similar to the reunion and competition between two former Bears linemen in Leno and Lucas, the two tight ends were teammates and competitors in Kansas City last year. Fate -- or Ron Rivera at least — has thrown the two of them together again.

The two players are Deon Yelder and the newest member of the WFT roster, Ricky Seals-Jones.

Here’s a quick side-by-side overview of their careers:

While, at a glance, Ricky Seals-Jones seems to have the edge in experience and career production, in head-to-head competition in Kansas City, where the two were on the roster together for only a single season, Yelder clearly won the battle. In fact, Yelder had more targets than any TE on the Chiefs roster not named Travis Kelce in 2020.

Related story: Deon Yelder is a sneaky solid addition to the TE room

While Yelder spent his entire NFL career in KC prior to signing with Washington earlier this month, Seals-Jones is on his 4th team in 5 seasons. He was signed by Arizona as an undrafted free agent and began his career on the practice squad before being quickly promoted to the regular roster.

Ricky Seals-Jones career statistics

Seals-Jones was active for 25 games in two seasons for the Cardinals and was targeted 97 times, pulling in 46 receptions (47.4%), which may account for the fact that he was waived ahead of the ‘19 season.

Claimed off of waivers by the Browns, Seals-Jones had a fairly productive season. With David Njoku injured much of the year, Seals-Jones actually led the TE group in receiving yards, and was #2 in targets and receptions.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In college at Texas A&M, Seals-Jones had been a wide receiver who had never fully reached his five-star-recruit potential before dealing with injuries throughout his junior year and entering the NFL Draft instead of returning for his senior season. With a 4.69 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, Seals-Jones didn’t really have the speed to stay at receiver in the NFL, so the Arizona Cardinals signed him as a UDFA and converted him to tight end.

His transition to NFL tight end has not been a painless one, as he has landed in 4 different cities in his short career.

It will be familiar territory for Ricky Seals-Jones and Deon Yelder to be on the same team, competing for the same roster spot on a team with a clear #1 TE; for the two of them, it will be like deja vu all over again.

The Dark Horse

There’s one other player who can’t be overlooked, and he’s something of a wild card. Sammis Reyes is a project — a basketball player who is trying to leverage his incredible physical gifts and athleticism into a role as an NFL tight end despite having never played competitive football in his life.

NFL: Washington Football Team Rookie Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Reyes is from Chile, and came to the US as a teenager to pursue the dream of playing in the NBA. When that didn’t materialize, he shifted his sights to the NFL and signed with the Washington Football Team ahead of the April draft.

It would be an incredible accomplishment for the 25-year-old to make the team, but the 6’5”, 260-pound Reyes is so incredibly athletic that it’s possible the coaches could try to ‘protect’ him by keeping him on the 53-man roster rather than trying to stash him on the practice squad.

Long shots

Washington has three more tight ends on the training camp roster — Tamarrick Hemingway, Dylan Cantrell and Tyrone Swoopes. The accomplishments of each seem modest even when compared to career backups, Yelder and Seals-Jones. The best that any of these three is likely to accomplish this year is a spot on the practice squad following training camp. One or two of them may be facing the end of his NFL dream.

Related article: Is the bell finally tolling for Temarrick Hemingway?

That said, hope springs eternal, and a strong showing in training camp and the preseason could see one of the three survive the end-of-training camp cut down. After all, they wouldn’t be on the roster at all if there wasn’t something in each of them that the coaches like.

2020 Training camp article

The seven tight ends on the Redskins training camp roster

Bottom line

Similar to last year, the Washington Football Team has eight tight ends on the training camp roster. This time, Logan Thomas is a solid roster lock; however, in a change from last year, the Football Team has a rookie draft pick, John Bates, who, as a result of his draft status, seems destined for the final roster. That leaves five guys competing for what should be one roster spot, two at the maximum.

It will be a tough-fought and interesting camp battle as each player will be hoping to keep his NFL dream alive when September comes.