If one report that surfaced Thursday morning — a lengthy story in The Athletic detailing Russell Wilson’s increasing frustrations with the Seahawks — only raised more questions, another at least answered a big one.
A few hours after The Athletic story broke, stating that Wilson’s side “has broached potential trade destinations with the Seahawks” came a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who reported that Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers said Wilson has “not demanded’’ to be traded and has “told the Seahawks he wants to play in Seattle.’’
However, if a trade were to be considered, according to Schefter’s tweet (and presumably from Rodgers), the only teams he would go to are the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders or Bears. And maybe, some thought, that only further muddied the waters — if Wilson isn’t thinking of a trade, why is his side mentioning teams he’d like to be traded to?
A little later, Schefter tweeted again, taking out the part that Wilson has not demanded a trade, but stating that Wilson “has told the Seahawks he wants to play in Seattle but, if a trade were considered, the only teams he would go to are the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders and Bears, his agent Mark Rodgers said to ESPN.’’ But ESPN’s story on the matter stated flatly that Wilson has not demanded a trade.
A further report from Jeremy Fowler of ESPN stated that Wilson does not expect to be traded and that Seattle “has not approached Wilson with any potential deals.’’
So, while the reports may have seemed somewhat confusing — which is par for the course on this story — Wilson for now doesn’t seem to be asking to be dealt. At least, not yet. Rodgers did not respond to a request for comment from The Seattle Times.
Wilson’s camp apparently naming teams he would be interested in if a trade were to be considered, though, is important as Wilson asked for, and got, a no-trade clause in his most recent contract with the Seahawks, signed in April 2019. He is reported to be one of only eight players in the league with such a clause.
That no-trade clause, which essentially gives Wilson veto power on any deal, and Wilson’s enormous contract continue to mean that a trade this offseason — no matter how much fire and smoke revolves around the topic of his future with the team — is probably more unlikely than likely.
If the Seahawks were to trade Wilson, the team would take a $39 million hit on its salary cap for the 2021 season if he is traded before June 1, a year when the cap may be as low as $182-183 million after standing at $198.2 million in 2020, a decrease due to a decline in leaguewide revenues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s also the matter that the Seahawks have no desire to trade Wilson. The idea was nowhere on the team’s offseason to-do list — which was lengthy enough as it was.
But the story in The Athletic and resulting reports from other national and NFL media figures will only further heighten the talk of Wilson’s future with the team — as well as possibly further fracture the relationship between the two sides.
The story in the The Athletic Thursday stated that Wilson “stormed out” of a meeting the week before a November game in Arizona when Seattle coach Pete Carroll stated that the offense was going to return to a more conservative style following a spate of 10 turnovers in the previous four games, three of them losses, and all by Wilson. A source later confirmed the basics of the story to the Times.
The story further noted the team’s plans for how to fix the offensive line this offseason were not relayed to Wilson, “at least not to Wilson’s satisfaction.’’
While neither Wilson nor Rodgers were quoted in The Athletic story, Wilson had earlier made some of his frustration with the team’s offense and the offensive line public in several interviews earlier this month, including one in which he stated he was frustrated “with getting hit so much’’ and referenced that he has been sacked an NFL-high 394 times since entering the league in 2012.
Wilson made those comments after he had attended the Super Bowl, having traveled to Tampa to pick up his award for being named the NFL Man of the Year. The Athletic story stated that watching the Super Bowl in person had been a trigger for Wilson’s frustration with how last season ended and Seattle having not advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs since 2014.
Indeed, Wilson had indicated no real frustration with the team when he held his regular end-of-season news conference five days after the end of the season with local media via Zoom.
The Athletic story — followed by the report that Wilson has not asked for a trade — only further caused some close observers of the situation to wonder what Wilson’s end game is. Does he really want out of Seattle? Does he just want his feelings heard and respected more?
In interviews after the Super Bowl, Wilson said he wanted more of a say in the direction of the team. But Wilson is thought to have had a heavy say in the team’s hiring of Shane Waldron as the new offensive coordinator and in personnel moves in recent years, such as the team’s public pursuit of receiver Antonio Brown each of the past two years, thought to have been in part at Wilson’s urging.
And Wilson is said to have had increasing latitude in operating the offense on the field as the years have progressed, though he’s always had some. Recall that one of the most famous plays in team history — Wilson’s touchdown pass in overtime to Jermaine Kearse that won the 2014 NFC title game — was a play Wilson changed at the line of scrimmage (though those close to Wilson might say such a play only underscores that Wilson should be given more freedom).
But as The Athletic detailed, what is also at the heart of it issue the future direction of the team — and Wilson’s career, which is entering Year 10.
And Carroll stepped in to revert the offense to a more conservative style in the second half of the season — some would note the Seahawks were 6-2 in both halves, the first when Wilson was passing at a clip he never had before, the second when the Seahawks played more like they have for most of the Carroll era, favoring the running game and a strong defense.
What also happened during the season is that both Carroll and general manager John Schneider signed extensions, keeping them with the team through the 2025 season and the 2027 draft, respectively.
Wilson is signed through the 2023 season, when he will be 35 years old (he will turn 33 in November).
Knowing that the power structure of the team isn’t going to change anytime soon, but that he also is bound to the team contractually for three more years (and with the franchise tag, possibly longer) may have Wilson’s camp feeling more urgency than ever for Wilson to either create the situation he wants in Seattle, or try to find one elsewhere.
Wilson has mentioned his legacy several times in recent interviews, and some in Wilson’s camp may feel like he has a better chance at creating a more favorable one playing elsewhere, especially since the credit for Seattle’s 2013 Super Bowl title usually tends to go largely to the defense and the Marshawn Lynch-led running game (though the label often handed to Wilson in that time of being “a game manager’’ was never accurate as the team only really took off once the Seahawks opened up the offense midway through the 2012 season, something Carroll has often acknowledged).
The spate of stories has led to increasing questions about why Carroll and/or the Seahawks haven’t responded. Undoubtedly, the Seahawks aren’t happy, and probably feel somewhat blindsided.
Indications Thursday are that the team has no plans to make any comment until Carroll and/or Schneider talk to the media again in a regularly-scheduled setting.
Usually, that would have happened this week at the NFL combine. But that was canceled this year, leaving it unclear when either will be made available.
The team has generally had a policy of not responding to rumors, other than when asked in general media settings. And the team may still consider this a rumor, with neither Wilson nor Rodgers having gone on record as publicly requesting a trade.
Certainly, on-the-record comments from either side are what would help clear this up right now.
But Wilson’s side may also be happy to have the Seahawks feeling some pressure this offseason to try to fix the offensive ills of the end of the 2020 season — though Carroll and Schneider would likely note that Seattle did win 12 games last year, better than all but two seasons in franchise history.
Clarity may only come once the season rolls around and Wilson is still in a Seattle uniform saying “Go Hawks’’ at the end of every interview (which many noted was conspicuously missing following his Man of the Year news conference), instead of some wondering if he really wouldn’t just prefer that the Hawks go away.