As Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gets set to play in the Pro Bowl for the fifth time Sunday, he’s making it increasingly clear he hopes any future links of his name to that game are solely for getting an invitation.
Wilson has been named to the Pro Bowl seven times, but didn’t play following the 2013 and 2014 seasons because he had a, well, more super “bowl” to play in instead.
A year ago, when Wilson played in the Pro Bowl, his future was still somewhat uncertain as he was working on a new contract with the Seahawks. He eventually signed a new deal on April 15, paying him an average of $35 million a year from 2020 to 2023 and making him the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Now, with his future secure and entering the heart of the prime of his career — Wilson will be 32 next November — he seems to be sending some messages to the team of what he expects this offseason.
On the day after Seattle’s season-ending playoff defeat against Green Bay, Wilson noted that other quarterbacks, such as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, had “pretty special” seasons in the “eight to 13, 15” years of their careers, seasons in which he said those quarterbacks helped cement their legacies.
“So I want to make sure that mine are pretty special,” said Wilson, who had just concluded the eighth year of his career.
“The question for us is, what are we going to do to take the next step?” Wilson said then. “I think that’s what we’ve got to figure out as players and as coaches and the whole organization as we continue to try to be the best in the world. To be the best in the world, you got to do all the necessary things to get there.”
This week during an interview in Orlando with ESPN, Wilson spoke even more forcefully about what he thinks the team needs to do this offseason.
“I think we need a couple more (players),’’ Wilson said. “I think we need a couple more. (Defensive end) Jadeveon (Clowney) is a big-time guy that we would love to get back on our football team. He was so good in the locker room. He brought so many just havoc plays to the field. Hopefully, we can get a few other players there on the defense. Then also on offense, we have a great offense, but I think we can always add more pieces. I think that’s going to be the part that’s going to be great with (general manager) John Schneider and (coach) Pete (Carroll), as well, in terms of this offseason’s free agency. Free agency is very, very key to getting those superstars on your team and try to get great players that can fill the space.”
Wilson obviously knows that the Seahawks figure to have as much cap space to play with entering this offseason as they’ve had since early in his career.
Seattle currently is listed as having $59.4 million in available cap space for the 2020 season, eighth-most in the NFL according to OvertheCap.com.
The Seahawks had a similar amount entering the offseason last year, but had three significant players of their own whose futures they had to address first — Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Frank Clark.
Seattle re-signed Wilson and Wagner to contracts making each the highest-paid players in history at their positions and initially placed a franchise tag on Clark before working out a trade for him in late April.
This year, Clowney is the only player on the current roster warranting a deal at the top of the market, though Seattle also will face decisions on players such as offensive lineman Germain Ifedi and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who will also command significant salaries, if not quite at the top of their position value.
OvertheCap has estimated Clowney could get a deal averaging $21 million a season over five years, while projecting that Reed’s value could be one year and $10 million when free agency begins March 18.
But as last year, when the Seahawks made moves in May to remove Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor off the roster and create more cap space (roughly $9.1 million), they could find ways to create more room. Last year, they signed defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah and Al Woods after cutting Baldwin and Chancellor.
It all points to a busy offseason — maybe as busy as any Seattle has had since the formation of the core that won the Super Bowl in 2013 — one that Wilson is making clear he hopes gets the Seahawks over the hump and deeper into the playoffs in the near future.
“We’ve got to be better,” Wilson said on locker clean-out day. “We’ve got to find ways to be better and we’ve got to make sure we make that happen for years to come.”