RENTON, Wash. - Wednesday marked five months since the Seahawks were shockingly defeated by the Rams in the wild-card round of the playoffs in January. A lot has happened since that fateful night at Lumen Field, from the firing of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and the hiring of his replacement Shane Waldron to one of Seattle's busiest free agency periods to date.
But many of those events were ultimately overshadowed by a slew of reports depicting a brewing tension between the organization and quarterback Russell Wilson. Rumors of a potential divorce began to mount, accompanied by four of Wilson's reportedly "preferred" trade destinations for which he would waive his no-trade clause: the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders and Bears.
Assisted by Wilson's controversial comments on the state of Seattle's offensive line on The Dan Patrick Show in February, the legitimacy of these claims gained more traction. Later that month, The Athletic's Mike Dugar, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks detailed something of a power struggle between the Seahawks and the star quarterback, stoking the flames even further.
With the pressure being applied by Wilson and his camp, the Seahawks never wavered in keeping their comments on the matter in-house. Eventually, once the rumors began to die down and discussions were had with Wilson, general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll put the saga to rest.
"When all of the conversation went about trades and all that, I knew what the truth was," Carroll explained to reporters in a pre-draft press conference in April. "We weren’t trading Russell. So we plan on him being here for a good while. I don’t know how many years it is now, but we’re in great shape and a long future ahead of us is shared. Russ knows that. I know that. We’re very clear about it."
Despite receiving calls from several teams, Seattle remained firm that no trade would take place—not this year, at least. In speaking with Wilson, Carroll asked that he share in the Seahawks' silence for the rest of the offseason.
"I had made a clear statement to Russ: 'Let's just shutdown and be quiet on this stuff. We don't need to say anything. We know the truth of what's going on.'"
"Truth" has been a key word used by many within Seattle's organization when it comes to Wilson's situation. Following the team's 10th OTA of the spring on Thursday, it came up once again—this time via another member of the 2012 draft class, linebacker Bobby Wagner.
"I talk to Russ every day so I knew what was true, what wasn't true," Wagner revealed. "And so I wasn't too concerned about it. I wasn't thinking about it. I knew it was gonna work out however it was supposed to work out."
Having established this "truth," Wilson accepted Carroll's advice and didn't address—nor progress—the situation any further. But Wilson was bound to break his silence eventually, especially with his arrival to voluntary OTAs earlier this week.
Well over an hour after Wagner and cornerback D.J. Reed wrapped up their scheduled press conferences, Wilson finally stepped in front of a microphone to an avalanche of questions in regards to his offseason.
"I did not request a trade," Wilson opened. "I've always wanted to play here. ... I'm here and I'm here to win. I'm here to win it all."
Winning has always been at the forefront of Wilson's mind, and losing eats at him to no end. Nearly a decade removed from his lone championship, the quest for another has been a road long traveled. Early playoff exits in five of the six seasons since the nightmarish ending to Super Bowl XLIX have prevented him from merely sniffing another ring.
Perhaps none of their recent eliminations were more brutal than the last, when a historic 2020 season for Wilson and the Seahawks came to an abrupt end by the hand of the team they edged out for the NFC West crown just two weeks prior. Having started the season on a red-hot pace that earned him early MVP frontrunner buzz, Wilson and the offense began to falter in the weeks leading up to their eventual demise in January.
Wilson and his teammates were understandably frustrated by the anticlimactic finish, which, by his account, played a role in his turbulent offseason. But for Wilson, the solution is simple: winning.
"My focus is to win," Wilson reiterated. "Winning is everything to me."
But if the Seahawks don't win in 2021, some believe this could lead back to yet another offseason's worth of drama. Adding more fuel to the fire is Seattle's unwillingness to restructure Wilson's contract up to this point.
Doing so would free up more salary cap space for a Seahawks team that currently has just $8.3 million to work with, per OverTheCap.com, while staying involved in the respective free-agent markets of linebacker K.J. Wright and cornerback Richard Sherman. But a restructure would also inflate Wilson's future cap hits, complicating a potential trade in 2022.
Wilson isn't opposed to the idea if it helps Seattle get better, and has even gone as far as to approach the organization about restructuring. It's certainly not something he's unfamiliar with—he restructured his contract in 2017 to help the Seahawks fit offensive tackle Duane Brown on their roster following a midseason trade with the Texans.
"We've talked about it," Wilson confirmed. "Pete and I have talked about it for sure. Me and him had a long conversation about it, I brought it up and he talked about it too and we both, you know, in the sense of just doing whatever it takes to win. ... If the situation calls for it. Like I said, winning's everything."
Reflecting back on the offseason, Wilson believes his feelings were "blown out of proportion." And while he spent most of his press conference maintaining that he did not request a trade, he admitted the four-team list of Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and Las Vegas came from him as a precaution in the event the relationship with Seattle became unsalvageable.
"There was a whole thing saying I requested a trade and that's just not true," Wilson stated. "I think everything kinda started from there, and then obviously tons of teams were calling. And I think the reality was that I didn't really want to go anywhere else, I wanted to play in Seattle—but if I had to go somewhere, these were the teams I would go to."
In the midst of the rift between Wilson and the organization, Seahawks team president Chuck Arnold issued a letter to the team's season ticket holders. As fans quickly noticed, the letter mentioned several of Seattle's star players but interestingly omitted one name in particular: Wilson's.
Asked about his reaction to the letter, the quarterback jokingly brushed it off, but not without alluding to some offense taken.
"Maybe there was a typo," Wilson laughed. "Chuck and I had a great conversation, Pete and I had a great conversation, John, you know, after that. Obviously that was a big thing during that time, that made it a little bit interesting, I think, along the way. ... The reality is your mind's gotta be stronger than your feelings."
"Your mind's gotta be stronger than your feelings sometimes," he repeated. "You can't get emotional or have feelings about little things, this and that, what's left out, what's not—you know. I think more than anything else, I know what my intent is and what my goal is for this football team, when I get under center every day, and that's to win—that's to win it all for us—and for us to do it together, and that's what I'm excited about. So, I don't know, I think they made a typo or I think it was on accident. I think somebody left it out on accident."
For now, Wilson has seemingly turned the page, saying that his relationship with Carroll and the Seahawks' organization has never been stronger. Now, his focus shifts towards the 2021 season and his goal of hoisting another Lombardi Trophy.
Whether an encore of the past five months is in store for 2022 or not remains to be seen, but ultimately, it comes down to the level of success Wilson can have with the pieces placed around him and a new play-caller in Shane Waldron.
"You know what heals all things?" asked Wilson. "Winning."