The speculation has been swirling like a cyclone.
The questions pop up inside and outside of news conferences, with writers, fans — and likely the man himself — wondering whether Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will be back in Seattle next season.
Twice in a four-day span last week, he stated his desire to stay. But that desire may very well depend on whether he feels content with his role and surroundings.
Would he have a satisfactory amount of offensive input? Would he feel protected in the pocket? Would he think the pieces around him are dynamic enough to win a championship?
Of course, the Seahawks have no obligation to deal him even if he were unhappy. And Wilson has a no-trade clause in his contract that could nix any potential transaction. Still, when ESPN’s Adam Schefter pens a story saying sources around the NFL think this will be Wilson’s and coach Pete Carroll’s last season together, you listen.
Could this really happen?
The case for shipping Wilson is that he’s a QB with a massive contract whose best days might be behind him. That may seem like a stretch given that he’s 33 and the top two league MVP candidates this season — Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady — are 38 and 44, respectively. But they don’t rely on the athleticism that made Wilson one of the biggest conundrums in NFL history for opposing defenses.
Yes, Russell has had some uncharacteristically bad passes this season, something that might be attributed to the busted middle finger on his throwing hand that required surgery. But that wouldn’t affect his mobility, and his 13.7 rushing yards per game this season are the fewest of his career.
Moreover, Wilson has been completely obliterated on third downs this season, which has cost Seattle deeply. Seventeen of his 32 sacks have come on third down — including two in the loss to the Rams last month and two more in the loss to the Bears five days later.
It’s not just the minimal rushing yards that are concerning — it’s the lack of escapability in the most critical situations. That was Wilson’s trademark, and if age is causing a decline in that area, it likely won’t come back.
Plus, Seattle’s NFL draft cupboard is bare. Normally, this abysmal season would at least generate some interest in who the Seahawks might select in their highest draft position in more than a decade, but they dealt their first-round pick to the Jets for Jamal Adams. A Wilson trade addresses those concerns and allows for a true rebuild.
But then there’s the case for keeping him: He’s Russell Freakin’ Wilson!
I realize that isn’t exactly front-office-worthy analysis, but I think most fans feel similarly. The Seahawks have been around since 1976 and have never had a talent under center anywhere close to Wilson. He led Seattle to nine consecutive winning seasons all while posting the fourth-best passer rating in NFL history (101.7). Even with all he’s been through this season — likely coming back too early from surgery — he has been efficient.
His 102.5 passer rating this season is above his career average. His 1.3 interception percentage is the second-lowest of his career. His 65.2 completion percentage is above his career average. And though he has taken some noteworthy sacks, his 7.9 sack percentage is below his career average as well.
Have there been some obvious flaws? Of course. Some of the wayward passes vs. the Washington Football Team and the Rams — most notably the underthrow to a wide-open DK Metcalf in Inglewood, California — likely cost Seattle a chance to stay in the playoff hunt. And when you look at his QBR — a controversial analytic created to try to evaluate a QB’s overall performance — it would say he’s having his worst season. Plus, Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 20th-best quarterback this season. He was first in 2019 and sixth last season.
Still, I just don’t know if you can ship an eight-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Fame quarterback who is just 33 and in good health. It took almost 40 years for the Seahawks to land a signal caller of Wilson’s ability. Who’s to say it won’t take another 40 to find someone like him again?
The NFL is a quarterback’s league. Wilson has had one down year, likely because of his injury. Speculating about his future may be entertaining. But actually dealing him would be devastating.