Russell Wilson’s mini media blitz happened two weeks ago, but the fire we thought flamed out in the time since roared back to life Thursday morning. Turns out, there’s more Seahawks drama for this offseason.
The Athletic reported an inside look at the tension and power dynamics at play between Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll. Before a Week 11 contest against the Cardinals, Wilson reportedly “stormed out” of a meeting in which he “outlined his own ideas for how to fix” Seattle’s ailing offense—ideas that the coaching staff “dismissed.” Additionally, Wilson’s camp has reportedly “broached potential trade destinations” with the Seahawks. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Wilson has not demanded a trade and told the team he wants to play for the Seahawks. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler added that while Seattle hasn’t approached Wilson with any potential deals, some league executives believe he’ll eventually be made available because of the ongoing rift.
Wilson’s words from two weeks ago, when he expressed frustration over the number of sacks he’s taken in his career, indicated that he and the Seahawks are no longer happily married. And while their relationship has reached higher highs than most pairings, the foundation appears to be iffier than ever before. It’s all left outside observers pretty confused, if not entertained. Richard Sherman and Jermaine Kearse, Wilson’s former teammates, appeared to tweet reactions to the uproar. So, let’s explore how we’ve reached this point and address some of the questions lingering through the latest installment of the Seahawks’ perennial offseason drama.
Why would Wilson want out of Seattle?
Weird, right? Since Seattle drafted Wilson in 2012, the Seahawks have won one Super Bowl, appeared in another, made the playoffs eight times in nine seasons, have had a winning record every year, and have won four NFC West crowns—including last season’s. But the Seahawks haven’t reached the NFC championship game since 2014, the last time they made the Super Bowl. Seattle has rarely invested in offensive linemen over the past few seasons, and Wilson has taken 394 sacks since he entered the league. He is easily on pace to be the most-sacked QB in history.
It’s still a functional relationship, though. For all of the lumps, Wilson and Seattle seemed steady, especially at the beginning of the 2020 season, when since-fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s pass-happy scheme helped Wilson become a leading MVP candidate, veering from Carroll’s balanced offensive philosophy. But Seattle pared down its passing game after a turnover-laden Week 9 loss to the Bills, a tweak that upset Wilson. A few weeks later, the fallout before the Cardinals game occurred. The Seahawks eventually bowed out of the playoffs in the wild-card round against a Rams team without a healthy starting QB, then Wilson openly vented to Dan Patrick on February 9. Here we are.
Wilson has legitimate reasons to be frustrated, but he’s not faultless. A cluster of variables contributed to the Seahawks falling short last season, and at times it looked like Wilson was pressing, trying to put the game on his shoulders. That didn’t fly with Carroll when Wilson’s turnover rate increased, contributing to Seattle losing three out of four contests between Weeks 7 and 10. Instead of letting Russ cook, Carroll went back to his bread and butter, running a more conservative, run-oriented offense down the stretch. Wilson didn’t like that. While he did end up having input on the hiring of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, Wilson wants more say in how the franchise attempts to become a championship-caliber team again.
Which teams have been rumored as potential trade partners?
Wilson has a no-trade clause, so he can’t be dealt somewhere he doesn’t want to be sent. But right now, there is some disagreement as to what he’d want. The Athletic mentioned the Dolphins, Jets, Raiders, and Saints as Wilson’s preferred landing spots. Schefter, citing Wilson’s agent Mark Rodgers, said the only teams Wilson would consider a trade to are the Bears, Cowboys, Raiders, and Saints.
Which teams could plausibly trade for him?
NFL media has identified Miami and New York as ideal potential suitors for Texans star QB Deshaun Watson, with the two teams boasting enticing draft capital and plenty of cap space. It makes sense that they’d be considered as capable trade partners for Wilson, too, and Brian Flores’s Dolphins are an ideal spot for Wilson because they’re positioned to win immediately. Robert Saleh’s Jets haven’t proved they’re there yet but could dangle the draft’s no. 2 pick, giving Seattle its choice from one of the top QB prospects not named Trevor Lawrence. Miami could offer a package centered around the draft’s no. 3 pick and an immediate Wilson replacement in Tua Tagovailoa.
The Raiders and Saints are the overlapping teams mentioned by both reports. Las Vegas is a surprising choice but could make sense because of a potential QB swap, sending Derek Carr to Seattle in exchange for Wilson. The Raiders’ offensive line has been sturdy over the past few seasons, presenting an upgrade from the Seahawks. But Wilson would have to compete with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs twice every season, which isn’t a good place to be in if he wants to win.
In New Orleans, Drew Brees hasn’t officially retired yet, and coach Sean Payton has insinuated that he has faith in QBs Jameis Winston (who’s a free agent) and Taysom Hill running his offense, but the Saints are another interesting landing spot. New Orleans boasts a talented roster that, with good QB play, will be a playoff contender once again next season. The Saints’ window is murky, however, because of their dire cap situation, which makes them a questionable suitor for Wilson. But the appeal is clear. He’d replace Brees, one of his heroes, who’s set records guiding Payton’s offense for nearly two decades, and Wilson would be set to produce at a similar level.
The eyes of Bears fans probably lit up when they saw Schefter’s tweet, reporting Wilson would accept a trade to Chicago. Wilson would instantly be the best QB in Bears history—just ask any of their fans. Bears players are on board with the idea, too; Chicago running back Tarik Cohen took to Twitter to check in on Wilson. Receiver Allen Robinson II is a candidate to be franchise-tagged and could serve as Wilson’s no. 1 target. Darnell Mooney had an encouraging rookie campaign, as did tight end Cole Kmet, and running back David Montgomery returns after finishing tied for fifth in the league in rushing yards (1,070). The Bears’ sturdy defense returns most of its core, too, making them an intriguing match for Wilson.
But while Bears fans dreamed of such a scenario, the hearts of Cowboys fans likely dropped into their stomachs. Dallas is expected to find a way to retain star QB Dak Prescott. Amid all the Wilson reports, NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweeted that a Cowboys source told her, “Dak is our QB. Still working on getting something done.” Perhaps that’s the plan, but there’s been plenty of speculation that Prescott could be a tag-and-trade candidate, even if it’s unlikely.
What would a trade for Wilson look like?
Let’s whittle this down to the four teams Wilson’s agent told Schefter that Wilson is open to being traded: the Cowboys, Raiders, Bears, and Saints. Before we get to the hypothetical trades, let’s address each team’s cap situation.
Projected cap space (Spotrac)
- Cowboys: $23.9 million
- Raiders: minus-$2.6 million
- Bears: minus-$1.9 million
- Saints: minus-$66.4 million
Spotrac projects Wilson would cost Seattle $39 million in dead cap space if moved before June 1 and cost $39 million in dead cap spread over the next two seasons ($13 million in 2021; $26 million in 2022) if moved after June 1. This makes a deal for Wilson complicated. Any team acquiring Wilson would have to pay him $19 million in guaranteed money this season, $24 million in 2022, and $27 million in 2023. Wilson, 32, has three years left on his deal. Considering his age, the fact that he’s taken so many hits, the large cap hit, and shorter contract length, landing Wilson isn’t as intriguing as landing Watson. But Wilson is still worth a hefty price, especially after Matthew Stafford—who hasn’t won a playoff game yet and is a year older—netted two first-round picks and a starting QB. Let’s have some fun.
Cowboys receive: QB Russell Wilson, 2021 second-round pick
Seahawks receive: QB Dak Prescott, 2021 third-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
The Cowboys have the least amount of work to do in terms of managing the cap. They also could potentially execute a tag-and-trade of Prescott, who could be franchise-tagged for $37.7 million if he’s not signed to a long-term extension by March 9. A pick swap for both sides would also be ideal.
Raiders receive: QB Russell Wilson
Seahawks receive: QB Derek Carr, 2021 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick, 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick
The Raiders are the second-best trade partner. The Seahawks can swap starting QBs in Wilson and Carr, and perhaps swindle Jon Gruden into coughing up a high-round pick or two.
Bears receive: QB Russell Wilson, 2022 third-round pick
Seahawks receive: DT Akiem Hicks, TE Jimmy Graham, QB Nick Foles, 2021 first-round pick, 2022 first-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick, 2023 first-round pick
A near-perfect salary dump and a giveaway of three first-round draft picks gets the Bears their franchise quarterback—and within $170,000 of getting under the NFL’s salary cap requirements. Add in a restructuring of veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn’s deal, and suddenly Chicago has some room to work with going into the offseason with a star QB in tow.
Saints receive: QB Russell Wilson, 2022 second-round pick
Seahawks receive: CB Marshon Lattimore, OLB Kwon Alexander, 2021 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick, 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2023 first-round pick
The Saints are so deep into cap hell that it’s pretty difficult to imagine how they’d find a way to pull this off. But hey, general manager Mickey Loomis has shown he’s a master at manipulating the cap before, so anything’s possible. And trading away Lattimore and Alexander helps provide immediate and future cap relief (even if Wilson’s cap hit covers a similar cost). It would take a good amount of draft capital for the Saints to make this happen, especially since the Seahawks wouldn’t be getting a QB in return.
What are the chances Wilson gets traded?
Minuscule. C’mon, Wilson is a top-five QB who played at an MVP level through the first half of the 2020 season. Wilson wants to stay in Seattle—he just wants greater input. It makes more sense for both sides to stick together and work through the weird tension. Thursday’s reports made it clear that the situation is more serious than initially thought, but a breakup between Wilson and the Seahawks wouldn’t be prudent, nor is it imminent. Wilson and Carroll may be at odds, but it hasn’t reached the point of no return yet, where Wilson refuses to play for Seattle ever again, as Watson has with the Texans. At least things haven’t gotten that bad for the Seahawks. For now.