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The Seahawks Should Be Preparing to Trade Russell Wilson

Seattle’s star QB returned to the field but likely too late to save the season. Both sides should now realize it’s time to move on.
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As he is wont to do, Russell Wilson took the blame for Sunday’s Seahawks loss in a press conference coiled around his desire for eternal optimism. Despite missing a few games for the first time in his career, Wilson kept saying he did not want to “complicate things” upon his return. He was looking forward to figuring out what went wrong. His surgically repaired finger felt fine. He could have taken snaps under center if he needed to.

It’s hard not to wonder, in these moments, if the atmosphere starts to feel a little old for Wilson—as if he is giving and giving and not getting much in return. Seattle’s defense has played well of late, clawing its way back to a middle-tier unit statistically thanks to holding the Saints to 13 points in a loss and the Jaguars to seven points in a win. The Seahawks held Aaron Rodgers, also returning from an absence, to his second-lowest quarterback rating of the year. As they’ve found over the course of this 3–6 season, though, it is nowhere near good enough to buoy a potential playoff run from underneath the best division in the NFL. In each of the last three seasons, Seattle has been unable to crack the top 15 in defense-adjusted value over replacement, a metric that usually predicts with a fair amount of accuracy which teams are going to be playing in the postseason, save for the Chiefs, whose discrepancy between their offensive prowess and defensive abilities was almost off the charts.

Before Sunday’s game, Wilson was already one of the most established deep throwers in the NFL. This season, he led the league in completion percentage over expectation, completion percentage and yards per attempt on midrange throws below 20 yards. These numbers are complicated by the greater and greater lengths he seemingly has to go through in order to attain them via a series of schemes that have not been amenable to his skill set and the overarching conservatism that hangs over the team’s philosophy. Sunday, for example, neither of his top receivers attained even the league-average in wide receiver separation per route run, seemingly lost in a series of unflagged fistfights with Packers defensive backs. Wilson had to rely almost solely on tight end Gerald Everett, who had more than twice as many receptions and yards as anyone else on the team. Pete Carroll’s decision to punt on fourth-and-1 with 9:18 to go in the first quarter was rated by analytical service EdjSports as the third-worst coaching decision of the week, costing Seattle nearly 6% chance off its chances of winning the game.

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So, at that press conference, was Wilson thinking about getting out of dodge? Probably not. But the people who control the administrative aspects of his career should be. Wilson’s injuries and limitations aside, Sunday was a perfect reminder of why Wilson and the Seahawks should part ways. They are entities headed in opposite directions. One is a team desperate for a quick rebuild and an injection of new life and personality. The other is a cemented quarterback star looking for more than the franchise can possibly give him right now.

This is the perfect offseason for Seattle to deal Wilson. There is no consensus budding quarterback star in the draft and, save for an eye-opening bowl and All-Star Game season, teams will be more dependent than ever on veteran quarterback movement. Off the top of our heads, we could easily list the Dolphins, Panthers, Washington, Lions, Texans, Eagles, Vikings, Broncos, Saints and Steelers as teams that will need an upgrade at the position next year. Four or five of those rosters are built to win immediately. The pool of applicants is also slim. Deshaun Watson still has to emerge from the legal process before any reasonable general manager would deal for him. Aaron Rodgers, if he is so inclined to leave Green Bay, probably has his mind made up already as to what that might look like, who he might follow and where he’d like to land. From there, maybe Minnesota would move on from Kirk Cousins? Maybe the Browns will stumble amid the process of forcing Baker Mayfield to play on his fifth-year option?

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Seattle could desperately use the draft capital, which would be significant. Wilson is 32, plans to play into his 40s and carries with him no baggage. He is a stable locker-room presence and is self-motivated. One would assume that, as long as the roster complements his abilities, he would be one of the easier superstars in the NFL to manage. The return he would get on the open market would surpass the Bears’ offer of three first-round picks, two starting-caliber players and a third-round pick last spring. In the hands of a mid-round savant general manager like John Schneider, this could be franchise-altering currency. After this season, the dead money on Wilson’s contract becomes manageable, in the realm of what the Rams inherited by moving Jared Goff, which clearly hasn’t been killing the Rams.

It would also buy Seattle out of a lengthy, passive-aggressive tango with Wilson, who managed to channel his desire to play elsewhere before the start of the 2021 season.

In his postgame press conference, Wilson also leaned on another worn aphorism.

“What’s next is tomorrow,” he said. “The sun comes up in the morning.”

This is the same wording Wilson has used to parse some of his most difficult on-field moments, like the interception he threw to end Super Bowl XLIX. But wouldn’t it be great if this was more than just another season for Wilson to get through? Wouldn’t it be great—scary at first, no doubt—for Seattle to stop grinding itself to the bone in an attempt to maximize its flawed roster and keep up with a star-hoarding general manger in the division for one second, to fix some deep internal issues?

Making an internal commitment now, at 3–6, that there would be only a handful more of these press conferences could give both parties the ideal peace of mind, before Wilson’s tight grasp on eternal positivity begins to wane.

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