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Seaside Joe: Should the Seahawks trade Russell Wilson?

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Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Good morning Seahawks fans and my dentist, Dr. Gould,

This week you may have seen that I’ve started a new Seahawks daily newsletter. Just a quick (or in today’s case, not so quick) extra piece of team related info, thoughts, opinions, a poem, a joke, a reader question, a memory — I mean, it could be anything. It’s just unfiltered, unedited Seahawks stuff that I want to share every morning. It’s called Seaside Joe and if you’re interested in signing up, I’ll leave the link at the bottom of the article. I wanted to share an example of what a Seaside Joe looks like and if you think you might be interested in more, join the mailing list! If you do and you don’t like it, I’m legally obligated to have an “unsubscribe” button. If it’s not your thing and you already know it, no problem.

Here is Thursday’s Seaside Joe:

I never planned for Seaside Joe to take reader questions or anything, but then I got a question so what the hell, why not answer it? I have no idea what Seaside Joe will look like as it evolves, which is exactly why I started Seaside Joe. To see what evolves. Onto the question.

”Can you do a future Seaside Joe on the possibility of trading Russell Wilson? I love him and think there’s no better QB in the league, I’m just not sure we can win with a long term $35M to Russell and $20M to Frank. That’s 29% of our salary cap. I miss the days of Rookie Russ.

- Dan”

Thanks for the question, Dan. Let me answer it bit by bit.

I think that the mere fact that questions like this are present around the Seahawks right now is a byproduct of the most natural motivation we have as fans and humans: fear. Specifically FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. “What if they trade Russell Wilson and we miss out on his best years?” “What if they keep Russell Wilson and we miss out on seeing the Seahawks get a big haul of draft picks?” FOMO can drive us to nearly contradict ourselves too: You said you love Russell Wilson and that there’s no better QB in the league. That should make just about any quarterback in the league indispensable, especially one who is likely in the middle of his career. Is there any scenario in which you should trade away a top-tier QB who is still only 30?

There’s no more valuable asset than the best QB in the league. None. Not even a great QB on a rookie contract. Why do I feel comfortable saying that? Because Tom Brady has won three of the last five Super Bowls. Brady has been paid below the market value of a quarterback of his caliber and this must be taken into account, but maybe Brady’s willingness to negotiate with the Patriots in a way that allows him to be paid in the middle class is part of what goes into him being the NFL’s best QB. Maybe strategic negotiation should be factored in with all quarterbacks, including Russ. “What are they willing to do for the greater good?” (I have no idea what Brady and Robert Kraft have worked out on the side, but they’ve been creative enough to make it work without getting caught, which is probably a good way to title the majority of New England’s dynasty.)

Brady and Bill Belichick have won three Super Bowls together in two different eras separated by nearly a decade. If you think Russ has a chance to be that stable as a quarterbacking talent, then trading him or choosing to not re-sign him will result in you missing out on over a decade of top-five QB play. That would be more than half of Wilson’s career. Think about it this way: If you trade Russ today, he might end his career being more well-known somewhere else, like how Randy Johnson ended up as more famous than a Diamondback than a Mariner in the eyes of many. More successful at least.

The rest of your question -- the salary, the cap, and Frank Clark -- is all moot in the face of having an elite quarterback who most likely has at least six good seasons left in him. My advice, not that you asked for it, would be to enjoy Wilson while he’s here. Focus on the present. Revel in the moments you have with Wilson, the best quarterback in franchise history and it’s not even a race. Seven seasons into his NFL career, nobody in the previous 36 seasons is even close to compare. Why are we in a hurry to see the post-Wilson era? Don’t worry about the details as they pertain to the salary cap. The Seahawks pay people six, in some cases seven, figures to worry about those details. Unless Seattle is paying you to worry about the salary cap, I’d say you shouldn’t.

I’ll add this: your numbers are off anyway. All the Seahawks need to worry about right now is Wilson’s $26 million hit for 2019 and Clark’s $17 million hit on the franchise tag. That’s $43 million on a cap of $188 million (22.8%) next season. The San Francisco 49ers just paid Jimmy Garoppolo a cap hit of $37 million and he made three starts so trust me, you can have worse expenditures than Russell Wilson and Frank Clark. The Seahawks also may want to delay long-term decisions until the 2020 CBA is renegotiated. We also don’t even know if franchise tags will still exist beyond this year, at least in their current form, but again it’s not something we need to worry about. But they’ll make it work, these guys are trained to put together salary cap puzzles.

Finally, I do think some team will trade a franchise quarterback in his prime (top-6 QB, age 29-34) to avoid paying him $35 million per year and to build around a rookie contract QB even though the rest of the team is playoff worthy already. It will be a risk but I’ll give you a non-Russell example scenario. This is meant to be creative so don’t bite my head off for it being a lot of bold predictions: Mitchell Trubisky continues to get better under Matt Nagy, he plays the next two years as a 30 TD/10 INT player, the Bears get to the Super Bowl one year, maybe even win it, they pick up his fifth-year option for 2021. He either plays that out and becomes a free agent in 2022 or threatens to holdout in 2021 and force Chicago’s hand to pay him $40 million per year or trade him. The Bears see Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence hanging out around the top of the draft, so they trade Trubisky to a team with no QB, a lot of cap room, and a belief that they’ll be Super Bowl contenders with a veteran QB who can play now. So the Denver Broncos trade the top overall pick to the Bears for Trubisky. John Elway gets an established QB and pays him $39 million per season, Chicago relieves themselves of cap room to re-sign three of their own starters, and both teams feel they are better contenders for the following season.

None of the above may ever happen, including Trubisky being good or the Broncos still letting Elway make decisions with QBs in two years, but I bet some similar scenario with different specifics eventually ends in a team doing something a team has never really done before: trade a QB in his prime to save cap room and targeting a rookie to replace him. We basically already saw it happen with the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s just that they acquired the rookie contract QB a year before trading away their established veteran QB, and look how that turned out.

Crazy is only crazy if you’re doing something that is proven to fail. We need a team to try before we can call it crazy. Are the Seahawks going to be the team willing to be crazy? -Kenny

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