We may not really know if Russell Wilson wants to be traded.
Despite several reports of unhappiness with the Seahawks, neither Wilson nor his agent, Mark Rodgers, have publicly said he wants out, and the Seahawks have made no comment.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that if Wilson were to be traded he has four preferred destinations — the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders or Chicago Bears, an oddly specific list considering Wilson reportedly says he wants to stay in Seattle.
The Seahawks don’t want to trade Wilson and never have, and it would also be cost prohibitive to do so. They would take a $39 million hit against their 2021 cap if he is dealt before June 1.
After June 1, that changes. The $39 million (which is what remains of bonus money Wilson has been paid that counts against the salary cap) could be spread out over the last three years of his contract. That would mean the Seahawks would take a $13 million cap hit for each of the 2021, 2022 and 2023 seasons if Wilson were traded after June 1.
Unlike with cutting players, where two players can be designated as post-June 1 cuts for salary-cap purposes even if they are cut after the new league year begins (which this year is March 17), trades cannot be executed earlier and designated as post-June 1.
If the Seahawks were to trade Wilson before June 1 — which most logically is when any trade would probably happen — it would hugely torpedo the team’s chances of being competitive in 2021.
With Pete Carroll turning 70 in September and signed to a new five-year deal with the team last fall, the last thing anyone wants is a rebuilding year, which the dead cap hit would make likely regardless of the quarterback the Seahawks might get in return (and we’re going on the assumption the Seahawks would want a ready-made QB in any trade).
Wilson has a no-trade clause, something his side asked for when he signed a four-year, $140 million extension in April 2019. The Seahawks put up zero fight on that, not envisioning having to trade him.
But it’s relevant now as the clause essentially gives Wilson veto power.
With Wilson’s side naming four preferred teams, we at least have some names to ponder. (None of which is Houston, which has a QB issue of its own with Deshaun Watson wanting out. But any possible Watson-for-Wilson deal is off the table if Wilson doesn’t want to go there.)
Let’s look at the four teams Wilson has named.
The Cowboys make some sense in that they also have a disgruntled quarterback in Dak Prescott, who the Seahawks could get in return (and he is expected to be ready for training camp in July despite suffering a broken ankle last season).
The issue is Prescott’s contract.
He is due to be an unrestricted free agent March 17 though that likely won’t happen. Either he’ll get a contract, or Dallas will slap him with a franchise tag. But with the tag at $37.169 million, either one would mean a big cap hit in 2021. A team trading for Prescott could do something to ease the cap hit some, but in the hypothetical case of the Seahawks, taking on his cap number and the dead money on Wilson’s contract would just about write off the 2021 season, unless this was a deal worked out after June 1.
But delaying any deal until June 1 also means not including any 2021 draft picks, making this a deal that might not do a lot of good for the upcoming season.
This is a surprise entrant in the possible Wilson sweepstakes.
The Bears could sure use a quarterback. But that also means they don’t have a good one to deal in return with only Nick Foles — who has a $10.4 million dead cap hit — under contract (and the view here is the Seahawks wouldn’t want just picks unless it writes off 2021 or has some hard-to-figure way to get a good QB elsewhere).
The Bears do have their next three first-round picks — recall that a report from Michael Silver of the NFL Network last week stated the Seahawks would need at least three first-round picks to even begin to discuss a trade.
But the Bears don’t pick until No. 20 this year, and the supposed “sure-thing’’ rookie QBs of this year will be long gone.
New Orleans Saints
It’s easy to see why Wilson might want to go to the Saints as they have a roster that has been among the most talented in the NFL the last few years with a likely opening at QB with Drew Brees expected to retire.
The Saints are in salary-cap hell, listed as being over the 2021 number by $69 million, according to OvertheCap.com. Cap space can be manipulated. But trying to cut that deficit plus taking on a contract such as Wilson’s seems a hard ask.
The Saints also don’t really have a QB to give back unless you’re a big fan of Taysom Hill.
Las Vegas Raiders
Of any of the teams on this list, the Raiders might make the most sense from the Seahawks’ standpoint.
They could get back Derek Carr, whose cap situation is not bad at all — only $2.5 million in dead money for 2021 and with no guaranteed salary either this year or next on his contract. The Seahawks could easily rework a deal for Carr to bring down his cap numbers of $22.1 and $19.8 the next two years.
The Raiders also have all their upcoming first-round picks, including No. 17 in 2021.
If you’re gambling on where Wilson could end up someday, Sin City might be your best bet, but the smartest money remains on Wilson not going anywhere this year.