The end is nigh.
That became very clear after The Athletic detailed Russell Wilson’s losing power struggle with Pete Carroll and word emerged that Wilson has passive-aggressively asked for a trade.
And you know what? It’s OK.
All things come to an end, and the Carroll/Wilson era is nearly at its terminus. It has been a good run – the best in the NFC over the past decade – but not nearly as good as it could/should have been. And that’s why it’s about time to finish cleaning the slate from the Super Bowl team.
The LOB was dismantled in 2018-19, and now it appears to be Wilson’s turn – either this year or next. Carroll, who turns 70 in September, also is in his final few years as a new five-year deal kicks in. By 2024, John Schneider could be picking a new coach.
But first he has to decide if/when he is going to replace the quarterback.
The Athletic report confirmed a month of innuendo about the tension between Carroll and Wilson, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter followed up with a very passive-aggressive message from the uber image-conscious Wilson (via his agent): He is ready to leave.
Yeah, Wilson apparently told the Seahawks he wants to stay. But he also revealed four teams he has told the Hawks he would accept a trade to. That’s definitely a backhanded trade request, surely meant to gauge interest/calls from among Dallas, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Chicago. Don’t rule out the New York Jets and Miami being added to the list; The Athletic report included them, too.
Brandon Marshall recently said the brand-focused Wilson was looking for a “classy” way to get out of Seattle because he has lost trust in Carroll. Wilson’s strategy is now clear: Try to convince the NFL public he is the victim of Carroll’s power trip (Wilson mouthpiece Colin Cowherd has pushed this erroneous message), then tell everyone he wants to stay while listing the places he would go if Seattle decided it didn’t want him anymore.
As more than one person said on Twitter, this is like telling your wife you are not asking for a divorce but you already have four other women you’d like to marry if she wants out.
The question is whether the marriage can be salvaged in 2021. Will Carroll relent and allow Wilson the input he wants? Or will the coach just remind Wilson who is in charge for another year? Or will Carroll and Schneider decide Wilson has become too much like former LOB malcontents Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett? As much as fools like Cowherd think “superstars” should call the shots, that is not how life works. Nor should it be.
A trade still appears very unlikely this year, but there are ways to make it happen if the situation is as untenable as all reports make it seem.
So far, the Seahawks reportedly have rebuffed a third of the league’s teams as they have asked about Wilson, and Schneider is thought to want three first-round picks if/when he does consider dealing the most prized draft pick of his GM career. Of course, only four (maybe six) teams would even be considered, so that narrows the chances of a deal perhaps more than the cap problem already did.
From the cap standpoint, it would be easier to deal Wilson after June 1, but it is not impossible to move him before that. (And we’re not talking about him repaying his bonus money, which he would not do.)
To trade Wilson before June would incur a $7 million additional salary cap hit, while dealing him after June 1 would save the team $19 million in 2021 (he would count just $13 million in dead money) and save $11 million in 2022 (he would count $26 million in dead money).
The problem with a June trade is most teams’ rosters – especially at quarterback — are set by then. It is possible that Seattle and another team could agree to a deal in March or April that would not become official until June 2, but that also would mean any draft picks involved would have to be for 2022 since this year’s draft would have passed already.
The other major part of this to consider is that Carroll would not move Wilson without getting a playoff-caliber quarterback in return. The coach certainly is not interested in rebuilding in the final few years of his career.
As for the teams Wilson lists as acceptable, only a couple seem like possible trade matches. The Saints are a cap mess and not a realistic option. And Dallas seems married to Dak Prescott, even if they still don’t have a long-term deal.
Vegas reportedly is looking to extend Derek Carr, not trade him, but Jon Gruden has a relationship with Wilson from his ESPN days and certainly could change his mind.
The Bears might be the best option. They are not in bad cap shape and could easily make enough moves to fit in Wilson on a lesser 2021 cap hit (i.e., converting his $19 million salary into mostly bonus). People wonder why they are on his list, and it could be because Jimmy Graham – Wilson’s good friend and former Seattle teammate – is on that team (although he is a possible cap casualty). Also, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, “He’s thinking about turning around a franchise that is historically great but has had struggles on offense for … 20 years. He would love that kind of story.”
If Schneider decides it is time for Wilson to go, he should do everything he can to create a three-team deal that brings Deshaun Watson to Seattle. Watson reportedly reiterated to Houston this week that he wants out. Wilson would not go to Houston, so it would have to be a three-team deal involving the Seahawks, Texans and a club Wilson would play for.
The best three-teamer would be SEA-HOU-NYJ – if Wilson would accept a trade to New York. It’s the biggest media market in the league, surely a big draw for Wilson. And the Jets are now coached by a familiar face: Robert Saleh, who was an assistant in Seattle in 2011-13 before he became San Francisco’s DC. And the Jets have four first-round picks in the next two drafts.
As for trade prices, the Seahawks are thought to want three first-rounders for Wilson, and the Texans (whenever they finally start taking calls) reportedly want at least two 1s, two 2s and two young defenders for Watson.
If we go by the updated trade chart and use middle-of-the-round picks for consistency in valuation, the Hawks want at least 915 points for Wilson and the Texans want at least 1,000 for Watson.
The Jets have Seattle’s first-round picks the next two years, thanks to the Jamal Adams blockbuster last year. And they are drafting second overall this year. So they have a lot of ammo to satisfy this scenario and upgrade at QB over Sam Darnold.
It would be pretty easy for them to send the No. 2 pick to Houston, along with one of next year’s 1s and Darnold. The Jets then would send Seattle its old 2021 first-rounder, and the Seahawks would send a second-rounder (2021 or 2022) and Jarran Reed to Houston.
So, Seattle effectively would get Watson and a 1 for Wilson, Reed and a 2. Houston would get Darnold, Reed, two 1s and a 2. The Jets would get Wilson.
As for cap effects, Watson has a $10.54 million salary in 2021, then $35 million, $37 million, $32 million and $32 million over the next four years. Moving Reed would save about $9 million for Seattle, which would more than offset Wilson’s $7 million added hit. So, the net hit from the trade would be more like $8.5 million.
The Seahawks still could do the other things they need to do by pulling over $6 million on a restructure of Bobby Wagner’s salary, saving $8 million on a short extension for Carlos Dunlap and $9 million on an extension for Tyler Lockett.
They still could tender Poona Ford at $3.4 million and sign Packers center Corey Linsley for $13 million a year ($5 million cap hit in 2021), a veteran running back (Carlos Hyde?) for a couple million, plus do their ERFA tenders and re-sign some minimum guys like Geno Smith, Phillip Dorsett, Branden Jackson and Jordan Simmons.
It’s also possible the teams agree to make the Wilson trade official in June, which would help salary caps for both Houston and Seattle. That would give the Seahawks $26 million more in space than if they traded Wilson before June; the $19 million in savings would more than offset Watson’s $10.54 million salary. They also might be able to avoid trading Reed.
In that case, though, they would need to find a team willing to add Wilson just before training camp. The Jets might not mind, since it would allow them to use their two first-rounders this year. The picks in the trade obviously would come from 2022 and 2023.
Of course, if Wilson nixed the Jets or they were not interested, Schneider would have to see whether he could make a three-teamer work with Chicago or Vegas (which could send Carr to Houston, where his brother once played).
If Houston stands firm (unlikely) on not dealing Watson and Schneider still decides to move Wilson, the Hawks could acquire Carr or Marcus Mariota from the Raiders. Or, if Wilson were to go to Chicago, Schneider would have to find a QB in a separate deal.
But Watson is the best answer. A trade that brought the 25-year-old star would be a great solution to the Carroll/Wilson conflict and keep the Seahawks contenders well beyond Carroll’s time.