Maybe Russell Wilson doesn’t want out of Seattle.
But in two interviews Tuesday conducted to talk about winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award this weekend, Wilson made clear he wants to see some changes in the Seahawks’ offense and that he wants to have more say in any moves the team makes.
The interviews came in the wake of an NFL Network report over the weekend that a few teams have called the Seahawks to see if Wilson is available and a day after a report from Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com that he is “hearing Russell Wilson’s camp has grown increasingly frustrated by the Seahawks inability to protect the 8 time Pro Bowler. He has been sacked 394 times in 9 seasons. This situation warrants serious monitoring.’’
In a group Zoom interview and in an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Wilson basically confirmed La Canfora’s report.
“I’m frustrated I’m getting hit too much,’’ Wilson said in response to a question of whether he is frustrated with the Seahawks. “I’m frustrated at that part of it, you know.’’
Wilson has been sacked 394 times in the regular season, including 47 in 2020, and a league-high 48 in 2019.
As Wilson himself noted to Patrick, some of those occur because he hangs onto the ball to try to extend plays, which, as he said, sometimes turn into touchdowns.
But Wilson did lob what seemed like a little bit of an uncharacteristic criticism of the offensive line, saying to Patrick, “We’ve got to get better up front.’’
In both interviews, Wilson also said he’d like to have input on moves the team makes, in both alluding to how Tampa Bay built a Super Bowl-winning team this year around Tom Brady.
“I think if you ask guys like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, you know even Tom, you know, I think that you saw this year how much he was involved in the process — I think that’s something that is important to me,’’ Wilson said.
Seattle has three of its starting offensive linemen under contract for 2021 — left tackle Duane Brown, right tackle Brandon Shell and right guard Damien Lewis — and those three would figure to remain in those roles.
But center Ethan Pocic and left guard Mike Iupati are free agents, and coach Pete Carroll hinted at the end of the season that the left guard spot, in particular, is one where the team will look to make an upgrade in 2021.
As for trade rumors, there are two big reasons why he almost certainly wouldn’t be dealt this year — he has a no-trade clause in his contract, essentially giving him veto power, and it’s sort of hard to imagine where he’d find a better situation than Seattle’s right now unless for some reason he really just wanted out; and his contract has a $39 million dead cap hit for 2021. That means if Wilson were traded the Seahawks would have to take that hit as part of an overall salary cap already expected to be lower than last year at roughly $181 million.
Wilson’s contract runs through the 2023 season and averages $35 million per season, a deal that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history when he signed it in April 2019. He is now third behind Patrick Mahomes at $45 million and Deshaun Watson at $39 million.
Wilson, though, didn’t necessarily throw water on the idea he could be moved someday.
Asked by Patrick if he thinks the Seahawks have gotten calls for him, he said, “Yeah, I definitely believe they have gotten calls, for sure. I think anytime you are a player that tries to produce every week and has done it consistently I think people are going to call for sure. It’s part of the process.’’
Asked if he thinks he’s available, he said, “I’m not sure if I’m available or not — that’s a Seahawks question.’’
But then Wilson made an uncharacteristic acknowledgment that he could well end up playing somewhere else someday.
“The reality of professional sports is things happen, things change,’’ Wilson said. “‘I’m not sure how long I will play in Seattle. I think hopefully it will be forever. But things change, obviously, along the way. You focus on what you can control every day and try to the best version of yourself.”
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported again Tuesday morning that the Seahawks “had no interest’’ in talking to teams who called about trading for Wilson.
But Rapoport added, “It’s noteworthy that at least teams thought there might be something there and maybe they could get him.’’
The obvious implication is that teams around the NFL appear to have somehow gotten the idea that Wilson might be unhappy enough in Seattle to want out.
Wilson also had said he wanted to have input in who the team hired as an offensive coordinator. He appeared to get that in Seattle’s hiring of Shane Waldron.
In his Zoom news conference Tuesday, Wilson praised Waldron, saying, “I think Shane’s going to be a great coach. I think he’s got great knowledge of the game” and adding that Waldron has “the it factor.”
But Wilson made clear he wants to have as much involvement as possible in moves the team makes.
Asked by Patrick if he’s been involved in the past, Wilson said, “Not as much. …. I think it helps to be involved more. I think that dialogue should happen more often in my opinion. … I want to be able to be involved. At the end of the day, it’s your legacy, it’s your team’s legacy, it’s the guys you get to go in the huddle with, at the end of the days those guys, you’ve got to trust.”
Maybe some of Wilson’s apparent sudden frustration is borne out of attending the Super Bowl on Sunday as part of receiving the Walter Payton award the night before for his charitable work, and seeing firsthand at age 32 another opportunity missed and now a six-year absence from the game after playing in it two of his first three seasons.
Still, Wilson reiterated he loves playing for the Seahawks, although he isn’t happy with being hit as much as he has been.
“And so we’ve got to get better. I’ve got to find ways to get better, too,” Wilson said. “And so just continue to try to find that. But I think that as we continue to go along the process and I think about my career and what I want to be able to do, you know, I think a lot of it is, it always starts up front. Offensively. Defensively. It always does. And I think ultimately I’m grateful for the time that I’ve been able to put in every day into the process. And I love this game. I came to play this game to win championships.
“So if you asked me about the trust factor of it all, I mean, I’ve always put my trust in the Seahawks in trying to do whatever it takes to win and hopefully that will continue. I think that’s a key part and so I think part of that is how we go about the protection part of it and figuring those little things out like that. Those are important things.”