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Fallout of Seahawks' Russell Wilson, Jamal Adams Deals Show Volatility of Blockbuster Trades

As the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos have both learned, NFL teams considering giving up first-round picks and paying big contracts for acquired star players might want to think things over again.

When it comes to aggression, few executives in the NFL have been more willing to roll the dice looking to put their team over the top acquiring premium talent via trade than Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider.

Since arriving in 2010, Schneider has dealt away first-round picks for proven stars on multiple occasions, including receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Jimmy Graham, and most recently safety Jamal Adams, who the team released on Wednesday. While Harvin returned a kickoff for a touchdown in Seattle's Super Bowl XLVIII victory, however, none of those mega deals had near the impact expected when they were made for a variety of reasons.

On the flip side, when Schneider has dealt away a star player, as evidenced by the Broncos stunningly releasing quarterback Russell Wilson just two years after trading a boatload of draft picks to the Seahawks for him, he's generally been a big winner, further illustrating the volatile nature of blockbuster deals.

This isn't to say that an NFL team can't get over the hump by trading first and second-round picks for established talent. As just one example, the Rams gutted their draft capital in separate deals for Matthew Stafford and Jalen Ramsey, who played starring roles in the team's run to a Super Bowl title in 2021. Even though the team's win-now strategy ultimately caught up with them, grabbing a Lombardi Trophy made the all-in approach well worth it.

Denver thought trading for Russell Wilson would put the franchise back in Super Bowl contention, but after failing to come close to those expectations, the franchise will be paying for mistake for years.

Denver thought trading for Russell Wilson would put the franchise back in Super Bowl contention, but after failing to come close to those expectations, the franchise will be paying for mistake for years.

But no franchise may better encompass the pitfalls of such trades and their low success rate than the Seahawks, who have swung for the fences frequently and ultimately struck out swinging every time while also serving up nasty curveballs to other teams that deployed the same tactics at the plate.

With Seattle in the midst of a championship window, Schneider's first big gamble came prior to the 2013 season when he traded a first-round pick, a seventh-round pick, and a future third-round pick. Immediately after the trade, he signed the speedy receiver to a six-year contract worth $67 million, tabbing him as a foundational piece for the organization moving forward.

From the outset, the trade proved to be an unmitigated disaster for the Seahawks. Harvin missed almost the entire regular season in 2013 with a labrum tear in his shoulder, catching one pass for 17 yards, Allegedly fighting with teammates in the locker room and opting himself out of games, the team traded him to the Jets for a conditional pick in October 2014, ridding their hands of the mercurial receiver.

Acquired for a first-round pick and handed a massive extension before playing a game with the team, Harvin ended his brief tenure as a Seahawk with 23 receptions for 150 yards and no touchdowns in six regular season games, with his lone highlight being his kick return for six points to open the second half of a Super Bowl blowout win over the Broncos.

Only two years after the failed Harvin deal, Schneider tried to swing for the long ball again adding a receiving weapon for Wilson, this time dealing for a perennial All-Pro tight end in Graham. Along with trading Seattle's 2015 first-round pick, he included starting center Max Unger as part of the trade package, leaving the team with a massive hole in the middle of the offensive line.

Statistically, Graham had three solid seasons with the Seahawks, snagging 170 passes for 2,048 yards and 18 touchdowns while making two Pro Bowl teams. But the trade didn't push the team any closer towards returning to the Super Bowl, as they still have yet to find a viable long-term replacement for Unger in the middle of the line and their run game suffered in part due to the veteran tight end's blocking deficiencies.

After three seasons in Seattle, Graham was allowed to walk in free agency, joining Green Bay on a three-year deal. Though the trade was a substantially more successful one than the prior Harvin swap, that's not saying much, and they never advanced past the Divisional Round with him on the roster.

As far as head scratching deals go, Schneider's most desperate blockbuster trade happened days before the start of training camp in 2020, and the franchise is still dealing with the consequences. Looking to add a superstar to the Seahawks defense, he traded two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Jets for Adams, who had been at odds with his former team over his contract situation and previously demanded to be dealt elsewhere.

Like the Harvin deal seven years earlier, Schneider made the move with the understanding Adams would need a new contract, but the defender was satisfied to wait a year before negotiating an extension. Initially, the trade looked to be a good one for the Seahawks, as the physical safety set an NFL record for defensive backs with 9.5 sacks in just 12 games and helped the team post a 12-4 record with an NFC West title.

But since earning Second-Team All-Pro distinction that season and receiving a five-year, $70 million extension in August 2021, Adams has battled non-stop injuries that have diminished him to a shell of his former self when healthy.

Over the past three seasons, Adams has missed a total of 29 regular season games while only playing in 22, undergoing a pair of surgeries to repair torn labrums in his shoulder as well as surgery to fix a torn quad tendon and separate procedures fusing troublesome fingers. He has ended all three of those campaigns on injured reserve, most recently having to be shut down by the Seahawks last December due to chronic knee discomfort stemming from the quad tendon injury.

Considering his injury history, the fact Adams hasn't had a sack since his record-breaking season in 2020, and his outrageous $26 million cap hit in 2024, it seemed inevitable the team would finally turn the page on the catastrophic trade. By taking on a massive dead cap hit and releasing him with a post-June 1 designation, they will create $17 million in salary cap relief.

For those who prefer to view the glass half full, Schneider did redeem himself for the Adams gaffe by pulling off what will go down as a historic heist trading Wilson to the Broncos in March 2022. At the time, critics panned the Seahawks for moving on from their franchise quarterback, expecting him to carry his new team back into Super Bowl contention while his former employer sunk to the bottom of the NFC without him.

Receiving two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, and three veteran players in exchange for Wilson, Seattle took full advantage of the picks acquired from Denver, reeling in an exciting pair of draft classes headlined by cornerback Devon Witherspoon and edge rusher Boye Mafe. Rallying around veteran quarterback Geno Smith, the team won nine games each of the past two seasons and made the playoffs in 2022, vastly exceeding expectations while building a bright future.

As for the Broncos, the Wilson trade couldn't have been any more disastrous for the franchise and will go down as arguably the worst in NFL history. Signing him to a five-year extension before he ever took a snap with the team, he struggled through two losing seasons in the Mile High City, throwing 42 touchdowns and 19 interceptions as they stumbled to an 11-19 record with him under center.

In the aftermath of being benched by coach Sean Payton in December, less than two years after offloading an immense amount of draft capital to acquire Wilson, Denver will now eat a record $85 million dead cap hit over the next two seasons while the veteran plays elsewhere on their dime. Along with being hamstrung financially, the team has limited draft capital to find his replacement thanks to trading for Payton.

The moral of the story? Not all trades are created equal and sometimes, as evidenced by the Adams trade, back luck and misfortune can turn a deal that looked good at the time into a franchise-altering miscue. Once in a blue moon, teams that swing for the fences connect on a fastball as the Rams did with Stafford and Ramsey and round the bases with a Lombardi Trophy in hand.

More times than not, however, trades such as the ones Schneider signed off on for Harvin, Graham, and Adams don't achieve desired results. Offloading multiple high draft picks can have negative long-term ramifications for the franchise and most of these deals come with lucrative extensions attached to them, making it difficult to build around the star. If the incoming player doesn't live up to the hype or struggles with injuries, such a gamble can blow up on a team in quick fashion.

After fleecing the Broncos with the Wilson deal that helped rebuild the Seahawks foundation seemingly overnight and seeing how a move of desperation can set back a franchise from a view on the other side of the fence, those cautionary tales must be a lesson for Schneider and other general managers moving forward. Even if the title window sits wide open, with such a low probability of striking gold while giving up an abundance of resources, think twice about going all-in trading for star players.