For starters, let’s get one thing out of the way: Russell Wilson may be unhappy following the Seattle Seahawks’ disappointing end to the 2020 season, but at this point, it remains very unlikely the team will trade him this offseason.
Unlike the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston, Wilson hasn’t actually asked for a trade, and his agent Mark Rodgers noted Thursday in his statement to ESPN that Wilson wants to remain in Seattle. His contract situation also pretty much kills any chance of a trade this year, because to do so the Seahawks would need to take on a $39 million salary cap hit, the highest in league history and a number that would cripple their chances to build a successful roster this season. (That cap hit would only be $13 million if he’s traded after June 1, but that would prevent Seattle from recouping any draft picks in 2021.)
With Wilson, Seattle is a Super Bowl contender. By trading him, Coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider would almost certainly be forced to completely rebuild. There’s no incentive for the Seahawks to trade Wilson, and the situation is not at the point where they have no other choice but to do so.
Moreover, none of the potential trade destinations that Rodgers gave in his statement on Thursday – Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas and New Orleans – are in particularly good position to make a blockbuster trade offer for an expensive franchise quarterback.
But as recent reports from the Athletic and others have indicated, Wilson is indeed frustrated with the Seahawks. The offensive line has been a problem in recent seasons, and Wilson – even though he shares some blame for the amount he gets hit, due to his penchant for extending plays – was sacked 47 times last season and has been sacked at least 40 times every year since 2013. He has also disagreed with Carroll’s preferred offensive philosophy, which is to go back to a run-first approach.
So what can the Seahawks do to lower tensions with their franchise quarterback? Here are some of Seattle’s options:
Say little about Wilson publicly for now and hope the issues calm down: Unlike San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, who said recently that he expected Jimmy Garoppolo to be the team’s starting quarterback this year, the Seahawks don’t need to do the same. It should be obvious that Wilson will be the Seahawks’ quarterback this year, and the best thing might be to let a little time pass and Wilson’s frustrations subside.
Moreover, it doesn’t hurt Seattle if other teams think a Wilson trade is possible. Schneider would benefit from at least hearing what teams are offering, just to know what the market is for Wilson in case it does get to the point that he is demanding a trade.
Keep communicating with Wilson about what the team is doing to upgrade the offense: The Seahawks can’t let Wilson dictate which players they acquire, but they should keep him in the loop on major decisions. They have pulled him into their discussions previously, including when the team considered signing wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had worked out with Wilson.
Believe it or not, Wilson and the Seahawks are on the same page in trying to build the best roster to get the team back to the Super Bowl. Schneider is aggressive. Last year, he traded for cornerback Quinton Dunbar, safety Jamal Adams and defensive end Carlos Dunlap and signed tight end Greg Olsen and running back Carlos Hyde. Wilson keeps saying he wants the Seahawks to sign as many star players as possible, and with the leaguewide cap reduction, there could be better players available at lower prices in the coming weeks.
At running back, the Seahawks need to re-sign Chris Carson or add another quality veteran back. Seattle should also talk to Wilson about who they are looking at as a third receiver. They have one of the best one-two punches with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, but while David Moore was a solid third receiver, but he’s a free agent.
Continue to upgrade the offensive line: Lost in the Wilson complaints is the fact that last year’s offensive line was the best the Seahawks have had in three years. It needs to get better, but Brandon Shell was an upgrade at right tackle and guard Damian Lewis was one of the best rookie offensive linemen in the league. Duane Brown had an excellent year at left tackle.
But two spots are uncertain. Mike Iupati retired at left guard and center Ethan Pocic is unsigned. Wilson would be thrilled to see the Seahawks try to sign Packers center Corey Linsley, but he might be too expensive if he commands $10 million a year. He’s the best center in free agency. The Seahawks could go for guard Gabe Jackson if the Raiders cut him. Carroll and Schneider should keep Wilson in the loop on the offensive line decisions.
Make structural changes to the offense: Carroll did keep Wilson informed in the hiring of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, whom Wilson seems to like. Over the next month or so, Waldron should go over with Wilson the scheme adjustments he’s planning to help Wilson get rid of the ball quicker next season. Waldron comes from the Rams and has a similar offensive philosophy to Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Over the past four years, the 49ers and Rams have only had a quarterback sacked more than 30 times one season each.
Don’t get intimidated by the pressure campaign: It’s clear that through Wilson’s own comments in the wake of the season, and with Rodgers’ statement to ESPN Thursday that included possible trade destinations for Wilson, that the quarterback is hoping to apply some pressure against the Seahawks.
But some of the reason this is playing out in the media could be a result of the fact that Rodgers is a baseball agent whose only NFL client is Wilson, meaning he doesn’t have the option that most NFL agents do of contacting teams about other players and using then pivoting the discussion to Wilson. (Agents aren’t allowed to talk to teams about players who are under contract elsewhere.)
Treat 2021 like a Super Bowl-or-bust season: Seahawks’ management should approach this season as though it’s their last run at the Super Bowl, and max out to assemble the best roster possible. They clearly aren’t all that far away, having won the NFC West last season with a 12-4 record.
If Wilson isn’t satisfied with the team’s changes and they suffer another disappointing finish to the season, it’s possible he could demand a trade next offseason, putting the Seahawks in a difficult position. But, ultimately, if the Seahawks win, they’ll be fine. Wilson just wants to win, and run deep into the playoffs or to next year’s Super Bowl would certainly solve a lot of problems.