Russell Wilson’s agent made a statement today to ESPN that indicated while his client has not made a trade request, he would entertain offers to four specific teams if the Seahawks did want to trade him.
Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson has not demanded a trade, his agent Mark Rodgers told ESPN. Wilson has told the Seahawks he wants to play in Seattle but, if a trade were considered, the only teams he would go to are the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders, Bears.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 25, 2021
It is a bit of an odd statement to make and one that seems to be a subtle way of saying that Wilson would not mind being traded this year. Trading Wilson would be very expensive for the Seahawks due to the structure of the contract. Wilson received a gigantic $65 million signing bonus in 2019 when he signed a four year extension with Seattle. The Seahawks would owe $39 million to the salary cap if they traded him, a loss of $7 million, pushing the Seahawks over the salary cap for 2021 and in the market for a QB. So odds are this trade is not even a remote possibility but for the sake of answering questions I’ll be getting about the trade anyway let’s look at the four teams he mentioned.
Option 1: Cowboys
Why it makes sense for Dallas: Dallas is a win-now team that is currently in the middle of a contract dispute of sorts with Dak Prescott and are looking at a $37.69 million salary cap charge and cash payment for Prescott on the tag. If they come to a long term agreement the price should be in the ballpark of $38-$40 million a season and that would cover Dallas from 2021 to 2024. Wilson would only cost $19 million this year and $70 million over from 2021 to 2023, an average of just $23.3 million. This takes the Cowboys out of the contract game with Prescott and gives them cheap stability for a player many would consider better, albeit older than, Prescott.
Why it does not make sense for Dallas: Prescott is just 28 years old and conceivably could have at least 8 good seasons with the Cowboys. Wilson is 33 and Dallas would have to look to re-up him when he is 36 years old. They went down that route with Tony Romo years ago and it was a disaster as his body broke down.
What would be the cost: Seattle really would need a starting QB and Dallas does not have one. Most likely this would be pretty complicated with Dallas having to tag Prescott just for the purpose of trading him, which really is not the way things are supposed to work. Dallas would need to give Prescott’s agent the ability to negotiate direct with Seattle and come to terms on a contract extension. That makes almost no sense for Seattle unless Dallas picks up some of the cost as relief for Seattle having prepaid so much of the Wilson contract. That would still be cheaper for Dallas than signing Prescott to a new contract. I’m not sure Seattle could ask for much more than Prescott in a straight up trade. If the numbers worked out financially this is probably a fair trade for both sides.
Option 2: Saints
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: The Saints are a Super Bowl quality roster lacking a true quarterback with Drew Brees likely retiring. A trade for Wilson would make the Saints the NFC favorites and a deadly offense with Wilson, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and a good offensive line. The Saints could lower Wilson’s cap charge as low as $4.66 million making it one of the few contracts that could fit in their nightmarish salary cap situation.
Why it does not make sense for New Orleans: There is nothing that all that should be looked at as a downside for New Orleans in the short term. Long term the trade cost could be so high that the team is effectively selling out the franchise for the next three seasons to maximize their window with this core group of players.
What would be the cost: It is hard to come up with a realistic cost here that would make Seattle happy. The Saints do not have a QB to offer unless the Seahawks were a believer in Taysom Hill. Their top pick in the draft is number 28 which is useless for a team that would be in need of a QB. Basically you would likely have to trade your number 1 pick for the next three seasons plus more. In a sense you are going to sell out the future of the team which could look ugly two or three years from now when Wilson is nearing the end of his contract and you are still trotting out the same group of players who will now all be in their 30s
Option 3: Raiders
Why it makes sense for Las Vegas: Wilson would be an upgrade over Derek Carr. Las Vegas has been trying since they hired Jon Gruden to find a faster recipe for success using free agency and this would be the fastest track to relevance. The raiders have some nice parts on the team and can create cap room to continue to add in free agency. In a strong year for free agent wide receivers they could conceivably add some good starters to be able to compete with the more explosive teams in the AFC West.
Why it does not make sense for Las Vegas: While Wilson makes the Raiders relevant I am not sure it makes them a playoff team. They have a ton of holes on the team and should be in a very competitive division. Even with Wilson they would not be as good as Kansas City and their standing with the Chargers would likely depend on the growth of the QB. They would certainly be in competition for the playoffs but is the short term playoff appearance worth the long terms costs?
What would be the cost: The Raiders do have two quarterbacks that they could trade over to Seattle with Carr being the more likely player that Seattle would be interested in. Carr costs $19.6 million this year and $19.9 million in 2022 which is fair value but would leave Seattle in a bind with the cap. It would make sense to have Oakland pay Carr about $10 million before a trade. I would look at this a bit like the Lions/Rams trade with Seattle asking for two first rounders and Carr. The Raiders have the 17th pick in the draft this year which I think would be included plus a future 1 and maybe a mid round pick.
Option 4: Bears
Why it makes sense for Chicago: The Bears are desperate for a QB. The last two years the team has trotted out Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles, and Chase Daniel as starters and amazingly backed into the playoffs this year. Wilson would give them such a huge boost at the position and likely position them to have the top QB in the division for the next three years with Green Bay likely moving on from Aaron Rodgers at some point.
Why it does not make sense for Chicago: The window in Chicago is pretty much closed at this point. The team has drafted poorly and their better veterans are on the wrong side of the age curve. Trading for Wilson would basically force the team into a massive extension for Allen Robinson and lots of restructured/extended contracts for players most teams would be looking at more as a one year contributor rather than a long term answer. This could very easily be a one year push and then a salary cap disaster where they struggle even with the top QB. To be honest I am not even sure why Wilson would consider this situation.
What would be the cost: I guess they would send over Nick Foles as part of a deal but that is a pretty low level starter. Their draft pick is in the same range as the Saints (they have number 20) so I think the cost is the same here with the three first round picks which would basically put Chicago in a really tight situation with their cap.
From the Seahawks perspective, other than landing Prescott, I can not come up with a reason for why Seattle would trade Wilson. They already paid him a lot of money and have a team that needs a quality QB right now. They might talk themselves into Carr if the situation got bad enough but Foles and Hill would not even be remotely close to what they need. Seattle already mortgaged their future to acquire Jamal Adams and moving on from Wilson in almost every scenario would require a complete change in direction.
Seattle just needs to smooth over whatever hurt feelings their were from the coaches comments that insinuated they shouldn’t pass as much as they did and map out for Wilson what they have in mind for improving their offensive line and roster around Wilson. Both sides are probably better off together than apart.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.