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Pat Freiermuth

Russell Wilson may have a favorite target

It’s so early it’s hardly meaningful, but it seems like there might be a connection between Russell Wilson and Pat Freiermuth. The tight end is looking like he might be the new quarterback’s favorite target.

“It’s hard to not notice the connection that Wilson and Pat Freiermuth had,” write Mark Kaboly, the Steelers beat writer for The Athletic. “The two had a throwing session in San Diego earlier in the spring, which might have helped. But I couldn’t tell you how many times Wilson and Freiermuth connected over three days.”

I’ll take that as a good sign. The Steelers don’t really have a proven, meat-and-potatoes receiver. George Pickens has shown the ability to make specular downfield catches as an outside guy, but it’s up in the air whether he can be a traditional No. 1 receiver. And they don’t have much else at wide receiver. Rookie Roman Wilson might start. The other options are nominal veterans – Calvin Austin, Van Jefferson, Quez Watkins.

The big-picture numbers aren’t great. Arthur Smith’s offense in Atlanta last year ranked next-to-last in passing. He has a history of using tight ends extensively, but he’s usually using multiple players at the position. On a typical Smith offense, there will be multiple tight ends catching 2-4 touchdowns.

Smith was an offensive coordinator in Tennessee for two years, and he was a head coach in Atlanta for three. Those teams had two top-15 tight ends (Kyle Pitts went for 1,026 yards as a rookie, and he was the 13th-most productive tight end last year using PPR scoring.

ARTHUR SMITH'S TIGHT ENDS (2019-23)
YearPlayerTgtRecYdsAvgTDPPRRk
2021Kyle Pitts, Atl.11068102615.11176.66
2023Kyle Pitts, Atl.905366712.63137.313
2020Jonnu Smith, Ten.654144810.98140.216
2023Jonnu Smith, Atl.705058211.63126.217
2019Jonnu Smith, Ten.443543912.53104.720
2020Anthony Firkser, Ten.53393879.9183.725
2022Kyle Pitts, Atl.592835612.7275.634
2021Hayden Hurst, Atl.31262218.5366.136
2019Delanie Walker, Ten.312121510.2254.543
2022MyCole Pruitt, Atl.21161509.4455.045
2019Anthony Firkser, Ten.241420414.6140.449
2020MyCole Pruitt, Ten.85499.8227.967
2023MyCole Pruitt, Atl.12911012.2126.068
2021Lee Smith, Atl.119657.2121.569
2020Geoff Swaim, Ten.129839.2123.370
2019MyCole Pruitt, Ten.869015.0121.072
2022Anthony Firkser, Atl.13910011.1019.082
2022Parker Hesse, Atl.119899.9017.984
2021Parker Hesse, Atl.65438.609.389
2023John FitzPatrick, Atl.111212.002.2106
2023Tucker Fisk, Atl.1199.001.9107

Russell Wilson’s history with tight ends has been even worse. He’s been starting for 12 years, and he’s had only two tight ends that have ranked higher than 20th in production using PPR scoring.

So while Freiermuth caught a few balls in a practice, I’m thinking he’s much more likely to wind up in the teens rather than being a top-10 player at his position.

RUSSELL WILSON'S TIGHT ENDS (2012-23)
YearPlayerTgtRecYdsAvgTDPPRRk
2016Jimmy Graham, Sea.956592314.26193.34
2017Jimmy Graham, Sea.96575209.110171.07
2021Gerald Everett, Sea.634847810.04121.820
2015Jimmy Graham, Sea.744860512.62120.520
2019Jacob Hollister, Sea.59413498.5393.923
2013Zach Miller, Sea.563338711.75101.725
2014Luke Willson, Sea.402236216.5376.228
2022Greg Dulcich, Den.553341112.5286.130
2018Nick Vannett, Sea.43292699.3373.930
2012Zach Miller, Sea.533839610.4395.630
2019Will Dissly, Sea.272326211.4473.937
2023Adam Trautman, Den.35222049.3360.439
2012Anthony McCoy, Sea.281829116.2365.139
2020Jacob Hollister, Sea.40252098.4365.940
2017Luke Willson, Sea.221515310.2454.341
2020Will Dissly, Sea.292425110.5261.143
2018Ed Dickson, Sea.131214311.9345.246
2020Greg Olsen, Sea.372423910.0153.946
2015Luke Willson, Sea.261721312.5144.346
2013Luke Willson, Sea.282027213.6153.248
2016Luke Willson, Sea.21151298.6239.949
2014Cooper Helfet, Sea.241218515.4242.550
2021Will Dissly, Sea.262123111.0150.151
2018Will Dissly, Sea.14815619.5235.658
2022Eric Saubert, Den.24151489.9135.860
2014Tony Moeaki, Sea.13813416.8127.460
2017Nick Vannett, Sea.151212410.3130.461
2015Cooper Helfet, Sea.221313010.0026.064
2022Eric Tomlinson, Den.139798.8228.967
2022Albert Okwuegbunam, Den.1810959.5125.571
2023Lucas Krull, Den.1489511.9123.572
2013Kellen Davis, Sea.433210.7112.275
2014Zach Miller, Sea.767612.7013.678
2019Luke Willson, Sea.108799.9015.982
2022Andrew Beck, Den.1156913.8011.989
2021Colby Parkinson, Sea.85336.608.391
2016Nick Vannett, Sea.433210.706.294
2016Brandon Williams, Sea.323618.005.695
2023Nate Adkins, Den.54225.506.296
2023Greg Dulcich, Den.43258.305.597
2023Chris Manhertz, Den.42168.003.6102
2020Colby Parkinson, Sea.22168.003.6102
2018Tyrone Swoopes, Sea.112323.003.3111
2019Tyrone Swoopes, Sea.1155.001.5112

—Ian Allan

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