By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
Missing the playoffs for only the third time during Pete Carroll’s tenure, the Seattle Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson are at a critical time for a franchise that was once a regular championship contender.
At 33, Wilson still has two years left on a deal that includes a no-trade clause.
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However, reports surfaced last year from Wilson’s portrayal that he would agree to a trade with the right team. Carroll is 70 but recently signed a new contract to coach the club through the 2025 season.
At a crossroads, the Seahawks are expected to accept Wilson’s trade request, rebuilding the roster in a bid to return to Carroll’s championship plan he created when he first took over as coach- team leader in 2010.
Yes, Wilson has helped lead this franchise to places it’s never gone before, including back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and a lopsided victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Seahawks have also won four NFC West titles with Wilson at center, and Wilson has a 9-7 playoff record with Seattle.
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However, Wilson hasn’t been playing his best football lately. The Seahawks have won one playoff game the past five seasons as the offense shifted to a more pass-first approach to take advantage of Wilson’s ability to throw the ball deep.
Going into the final game of the regular season, Wilson was averaging 7.3 yards per attempt in his last 25 starts, up from 8.3 in the previous 25 starts, according to The Athletic. Wilson’s passer rating went from 110.6 to 97.4 and his turnovers nearly doubled from 20 to 11 over the same period.
Of course, Wilson played with a broken finger on his throwing hand, which certainly affected his ability to throw the ball. The Seahawks started last season 3-8 before rebounding and finishing the season at 7-10, Seattle’s first losing record since 2011.
“The only way (a trade) makes sense is if they have the opportunity to go back to quarterback,” said Randy Mueller, a longtime NFL general manager who worked for the Seahawks. “Nothing against Geno (Smith), but I don’t think that’s the answer. So I couldn’t consider moving him unless we had something coming back that we could pin our hopes on.”
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Mueller said Wilson is no longer among the NFL’s premier quarterbacks, but Seattle can still win with him. Making a trade more complicated is Wilson’s no-trade clause and the possibility that he wants a new contract at some point this year.
“There are so many variables,” Mueller said. “He’s got his cards. If he doesn’t want to be traded, he has nothing to accept.”
Wilson still has $51 million left on his contract. If the Seahawks were to leave Wilson before June 1, they would take a $26 million charge, which is significant, but not impossible to absorb.
The Rams had $34 million in dead cap fees last season, including $22.2 million from trading Jared Goff and his contract with the Detroit Lions as part of a deal for Matthew Stafford.
Whether Carroll wants to publicly acknowledge it or not, the Seahawks are rebuilding, much like when the former USC coach took over a decade ago. While not among the top five QBs in the game, Wilson’s trade value likely won’t be higher this offseason, especially with several teams desperate for quarterback upgrades.
The Seahawks could save $11 million with Wilson no longer on the roster. And Carroll needs a talented young quarterback position in tune with his belief system for Seattle culture, much like a young Wilson a decade earlier.
Seattle has six draft selections this year. They include one in the second round, one in the third, two in the fourth, one in the fifth and one in the seventh. So the Seahawks could use more draft capital for this year and in 2023 as they revamp the roster to hunt defending Super Bowl champions the Rams in the ultra-competitive NFC West.
Even though Wilson has brushed off any mention of the Seahawks from his social media, for his part, he said all the right things.
“My goal is to win more Super Bowls,” Wilson said late last season. “And my plan is to win them here. It’s as simple as that.”
And Carroll played down all rumors of his QB trade.
“The kinds of conversations we’re having behind the scenes don’t match the rumors,” Carroll told reporters in January. “OK? There you go. Not at all. We’ve talked, we’ve been together and connected all through this season. And that’s why it’s easy to dismiss them right now.”
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, last year Wilson’s agent Mark Rodgers said his client wanted to stay in Seattle, but if a trade was seen as the only teams he would be willing to go to, that are the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders. and the Chicago Bears.
The Cowboys and Bears seem set to quarterback in Dak Prescott and Justin Fields. The Raiders have Derek Carr, but a new coach in Josh McDaniels. The Saints need a quarterback, but offensive guru Sean Payton recently stepped down as coach.
Soliciting the league, other teams on the move at quarterback include Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Titans Tennessee, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Denver Broncos.
That’s almost half the league.
According to FOX Bet sports trader Dylan Brossman, the Broncos are the most likely team to trade for Wilson, followed by the Steelers and Commanders.
Schneider and Carroll are in no rush to trade Wilson, so they can be deliberate in their approach and wait for the best deal. Schneider passed on legitimate offers from the Bears, according to reports, last season.
What Detroit received in a trade to the Rams for Stafford last year should be the starting point for the Seahawks willing to drop Wilson — two first-round picks, one third-round pick and Goff.
That said, these are the four teams that make sense as Seahawks business partners.
Denver left defensive guru Vic Fangio and hired former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett as the team’s new head coach. Hackett was a close friend of Aaron Rodgers during his time in Green Bay, so the Mile High City might be heading for a Hackett-Rodgers reunion.
However, Wilson would be a good second-place price for the Broncos.
Wilson has played in a West Coast offensive system his entire NFL career, so transitioning to Hackett’s version of the offense wouldn’t be difficult. And it gives Denver the opportunity to compete in a competitive AFC West that includes Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Carr at quarterback.
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Las Vegas Raiders
Josh McDaniels would get a Super Bowl-winning quarterback to Wilson, but in return would have to give up a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback to Carr for his services. Wilson and his wife, Ciara, are securing one of the places they would like to move to in Las Vegas. The couple have an off-season home a short flight from San Diego.
However, the Raiders would be willing to offer Carr a new contract, so perhaps McDaniels thinks Carr is the long-term answer to the Raiders’ quarterback.
The Eagles have three first-round selections in this year’s draft and a quarterback that took them to the playoffs in Jalen Hurts, who some have likened to a younger version of Wilson. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman had considered signing Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft before Seattle nabbed him with the 75th overall pick.
With the addition of Hurts, Carroll could return to the blueprint he was successful with at the start of his time with a young Wilson – miserly defense, a solid running game that sets up an action game for a receiver at big body such as DK Metcalf and deal with football.
Like Roseman, Washington coach Ron Rivera named Wilson as a possible replacement for Cam Newton in the third round of the 2012 draft, but lost to the Seahawks.
Commanders have built a solid defense, led by one of the best forwards in the league. But they need more consistency and playability from the quarterback position. Wilson grew up in neighboring Virginia, so Washington would be something of a homecoming.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for over a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @eric_d_williams.
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