Because international law dictates that everything happening this NFL offseason must be viewed through the lens of how it affects Russell Wilson, let’s take stock after the first two days of free agency.
Once again, there were crickets on the Seahawks’ end Tuesday when it came to boosting the offensive line. The lone reported Seattle deal to come out of the second day of the so-called legal tampering period was the signing of former 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to possibly replace the departed Shaquill Griffin.
Which means, Wilson-wise, that the Seahawks clearly are not feeling any undue pressure to respond to the quarterback’s gripes with an immediate and showy free-agent signing designed to assuage his complaints. The top three available interior offensive linemen, all of whom would have filled holes in Seattle, all went elsewhere.
That can’t have made people in the Wilson camp happy, but it’s been a while since we heard any utterings, public or private, from them. It would be instructive to know their take on the day’s other notable development as it pertains to Wilson: the Chicago Bears’ signing of quarterback Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract with a chance to earn another $3 million.
That would seem to remove from consideration the last of the four teams to which Wilson’s agent said he would accept a trade. Dallas was lopped from the list the moment it signed Dak Prescott to a four-year, $160 million deal. The Saints appear to have faded into the background with the new deals they’ve given out in the past couple days to Taysom Hill (four years, $140 million, though fully voidable) and Jameis Winston (one year, up to $12 million). And the Raiders have recommitted to incumbent Derek Carr, while at the same time tearing asunder their offensive line, which isn’t the way to get Wilson to waive his no-trade clause.
And now the Bears, who last week were said to have been in the process of throwing all their efforts into facilitating a Wilson trade, are signaling that they struck out.
These developments reveal a few truths. The first should not be a surprise: That Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have a philosophy of team-building to which they adhere with every fiber of their being, and they aren’t going to alter it for anything. Not a discontented quarterback, and not a growing amount of key holes to fill, a list that grew by one Tuesday when cornerback Griffin agreed to sign with Jacksonville.
Carroll and Schneider believe it is unwise to jump in with guns blazing on the first few days of free agency. They believe that it is better to spread out their money rather than throw a huge sum at one player. And they believe the longer you wait and the more patient you are, the better chance that a great deal eventually presents itself with the inevitable second and third waves of free agency.
That could be especially true this year, with the lowered salary cap forcing teams all over the NFL to reckon with the reality of not having enough money under the cap to cover all of their needs. That means two things – a glut of players flooding the market as cap casualties, and a buyer’s market that should reward those who have the wherewithal to wait it out.
It’s a strategy that has served the Seahawks well. With all the consternation hovering over the team this offseason, it’s easy to forget they did win the ultra-tough NFC West with a 12-4 record last season. But you could also make the counterpoint that the Seahawks have lacked, and still lack, the roster strength to get them beyond the first or second round of the playoffs.
The fact that Carroll and Schneider didn’t feel the need to immediately appease Wilson seems to reinforce a belief that they ultimately hold the strongest hand in the ongoing dispute. Despite all the trade rumblings, if they come to the logical conclusion that they are a better team with him than without him – and they indisputably are – then they can proceed with business as usual. And that is to slow-play free agency, not to create a vast new hole by trading Wilson, or to go against their time-honored philosophy by using the bulk of their limited salary-cap space on one or two players.
The counterpoint here is that you still may well have a disgruntled quarterback who is watching keenly to see what the Seahawks do to address his concerns about the offensive line. On Tuesday the Raiders cut Rodney Hudson, a former Pro Bowl center who would seem to be another perfect candidate to augment Seattle’s line.
We’ll see where that goes. It’s important to realize that the offseason isn’t judged by the first 48 hours of free agency.
Keep in mind that some of the most impactful moves by the Seahawks in recent seasons have come weeks, even months, down the road:
The Duane Brown acquisition from the Texans on Oct. 30, 2017.
Sheldon Richardson from the Jets on Sept. 1, 2018.
Jadeveon Clowney from the Texans on Sept. 1, 2019.
Quandre Diggs from the Lions on Oct. 23, 2019.
Jamal Adams from the Jets on July 25, 2020.
And Carlos Dunlap from the Bengals on Oct. 28, 2020.
That’s a dangerous game to play, however, when you have as many needs as the Seahawks – including a replacement for Dunlap if they can’t re-sign him after releasing their leading pass-rusher last week. They also need a running back if they can’t sign free agent Chris Carson, as appears to be the case; the one strong Seahawks rumor Tuesday involved their pursuit of Leonard Fournette at running back. They might still need additional help at cornerback, too, with Griffin’s departure, on top of the offensive-line situation.
The Seahawks can restructure the contracts of Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner or extend the contracts of various players to create more salary-cap room. They reportedly were close to giving a two-year deal to Poona Ford, a would-be restricted free agent. They also likely have to come up with a massive new deal with Adams to make him happy entering the final year of his contract.
It won’t be easy to pull all that off – and remember, at this point, they have just four draft picks, none in the first round, because of the Adams trade. Oh, yeah – each of their division rivals has gotten better since the season ended.
In other words, mollifying Wilson is the least of their worries right now. And they’re acting like they know it.