Quarterback Russell Wilson rounds out our list of 16 Most Important Seahawks in 2016. He is a player whose already-immense value to the team figures to only increase this season.
The Seahawks report for training camp on Friday and take the field for the first time Saturday. We’ve been counting down the days to training camp listing who I have rated as the 16 Most Important Seahawks in 2016, unveiling one new player each day until the team reports.
It’s time to conclude the list with a player whose already-immense value to the team figures to only increase this season.
Player: Russell Wilson.
2016 contract status: Wilson is entering the first year of a four-year, $87 million contract extension signed in July 2015 (he technically was finishing the last season of his original four-year deal in 2015 though he received immediate bonus money from his extension). Wilson has a base salary of $12.3 million, ranking as the highest-paid player on the roster.
Expected role in 2016: Starting quarterback and unquestioned leader of the offense, if not the entire team.
Why he’ll be so pivotal to Seattle’s success in 2016: With Marshawn Lynch gone, there’s no longer any doubt which player is driving the Seahawks offense.
Wilson gave a glimpse he’s up to the task with his fabulous second half of 2015 when he threw for 24 touchdowns and just one interception in the last seven games, ultimately becoming the first Seattle QB to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season, among a bevy of team records (which also included a passer rating of 110.1 that ranked 14th in the history of the NFL).
But the NFL is a league of constant adjustments, and it’ll be worth watching what wrinkles opposing defenses throw at Seattle this season knowing that Lynch is gone, and having undoubtedly taken a fine-tooth comb to film of the last eight games of last season.
That Wilson threw three interceptions in two playoff games, including a pivotal pick-six against Carolina, gives just enough of an opening to those who want to question if he can carry the offense in the post-Lynch era. Coach Pete Carroll, though, professes no doubt, throwing lavish praise on Wilson at the end of minicamp.
“He’s made a clear step ahead and his command is like all-time,” Carroll said. “His ability to move defenders with his eyes to set up some things – he’s consistently doing that, almost unconsciously, he’s so clued in. We saw him throw the ball all over the field throughout the offseason and he’s been strong and accurate and really precise about stuff.”
Carroll then went further and said Wilson was at a point to fulfill every possible expectation thrown his way.
“You guys have asked me ‘when is he going to arrive’ or ‘how long is it going to take’ and all that,” Carroll said. “And I kept telling you it’s going to be down the road. It takes 4-5-6 years for these guys to develop.
“It’s a culmination of that it’s taken all this time to get to this point. And he will still improve. You can really see him as a real, true vet now.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that Wilson is now entering year five, right in the middle of Carroll’s target for when a quarterback has developed.
Wilson only added to Carroll’s high expectations in the spring when he said that he thought the offense was having the best offseason of any time during his Seattle career.
“For minicamp we are as good as it can get,” Wilson said. “I think this is the best it has been in four or five years, fifth year going on for me. But it has just been exciting.”
Quarterbacks can hardly do it by themselves in the NFL, and how the offensive line and Lynch-less tailback spots develop will go a long way toward determining Seattle’s success.
There will also be the matter of how best to utilize what might be the most talented and deepest set of receivers the team has had in the Carroll era, particularly if tight end Jimmy Graham returns at full strength.
But with the 27-year-old Wilson in the prime of his career, the expectations for what the Seattle offense can do this season are as great as at any time in the Carroll era.
“I think we’re probably as far ahead as any time since we’ve been here,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said in June.
Now to prove it on the field.