It seems like just the other day that Willie Keeler was reporting that jolly old John Schneider met with chipper Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace to parse picks for a particular passer in his prime. In the time that has passed since this ultimately non-tumultuous evening in Seattle Seahawks history, many things have gone horribly wrong. For both organizations.
So from the vantage point at which we now stand and with our sights set on 2022 — a precarious precipice, to say the least — I am left thinking once again about this trade and how it is starting to look in hindsight. That is not to say that I have digressed from my original assessment; but I am admittedly questioning my originally unwavering opinion that Seattle made the right call to take a pass on this offer, outright.
A Brief Refresher
This is for me as much as anybody else; I originally wrote this off with such voracity that I honestly forgot the package allegedly included three first round picks. Given what we know now, we have some reasonable expectations for how at least some of those picks are turning out today;
- Chicago traded their original first round picks in 2021 and 2022 to the New York Giants in order to move up to 11th, where they would draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
- The Giants selected Florida Gators wide receiver Kadarius Toney with the 20th selection in the 2021 draft.
- The 2022 first round selection, as currently held by the Giants, is projected to be eighth overall, per Tankathon.
- Five quarterbacks were selected in the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft; the Top 3 were never going to be within Seattle’s reach (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance), with Justin Fields and Mac Jones rounding out this questionable quintuplet.
Hindsight is 21/22
Looking at who the Bears and Giants picked doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what route John Schneider and Pete Carroll would have taken; in some universe, they would have been trying to move the opposite direction in the draft, sliding down the board to amass picks in what was otherwise their slimmest allotment of assets in their collective tenure together. But whatever the scenario, there are at least a few things we do, in fact, know:
- Seattle selected a wide receiver, corner, and tackle in the draft (Dee Eskridge, Tre Brown, and Stone Forsythe, respectively).
- In addition to these players, the team also added a plethora of defensive backs and defensive linemen in free agency. I think it is safe to say, they viewed defense as a need.
- Regardless of both of the above statements, I find it hard to believe that the team would have felt comfortable trading their franchise QB without adding a legitimate replacement on the roster, and I don’t believe that they believed for a minute that Geno Smith was this player. So in all likelihood, whatever they received from the Bears was going largely into finding their next signal caller.
This all unravels into a bit of a flow chart (for the Tired), or a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story (for the Wired). Would the Seahawks have felt comfortable surrendering two of their newfound first round picks to move up nine spots and draft Justin Fields as the Bears did? If you answered “no,” to this question, then move on to the next option. Would they have felt better doing so for Mac Jones? Because unless you think that somehow Pete was convinced that Kyle Trask was going to become the Seattle Slinger in short order, then the point is essentially moot; maybe the team would have rolled the dice with one or the other of the former two players, but to what ends? Mac Jones has been having an impressive season, but to think that the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks are comparable organizations at this point is foolhardy. And that is not a dig, just the reality that Pete and Bill are different coaches and play to different strengths on their teams; I would be hard pressed to believe that Waldron and Carroll would be getting similar efficiency out of Jones.
But what if the team had done the unthinkable and not selected a quarterback? What if this was all part of a long-con, with the intention of targeting a passer in the coming season — one who would certainly have more representative film under his belt, as the NCAA Football season was certainly not going to be impacted by Covid as it had been in 2020, right? Sort of. While NCAA football was much closer to resembling normalcy in 2021, the quarterback class is looking exciting but uneven, and certainly will not feature three signal callers off the board in the first three picks. This means a couple things; first, if the Seahawks had accepted the Bears initial offer and all other things stayed the same, they would be sitting on the eighth pick in this years draft, and they would have likely been in reaching distance of most — if not all — of this season’s top quarterback prospects. But who are these prospects? Well, suffice to say this class is lacking in the star power of other years.
This quarterback class is . No other way to describe it. Worst I've seen in YEARS.— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) November 12, 2021
I do not wholeheartedly agree with this harsh assessment, but I definitely think it emphasizes the assertion that banking on finding a franchise QB in any draft is difficult; but I can’t see a team planning multiple years out when there isn’t a clear cut “can’t miss” prospect/known entity who the team is targeting (who are rarely as “can’t miss” as advertised...See: Andrew Luck, Trevor Lawrence, et al). And I just don’t see that from Sam Howell, Matt Corrall, Desmond Ridder, or Kenny Pickett. Liberty’s star in Malik Willis is exciting, but after seeing the 49ers go big for Trey Lance and mostly come up empty in year one, I just can’t see any of these guys making a seamless transition to the NFL. Translation: if they draft one of these guys and don’t have Russell Wilson on the roster, Pete Carroll would be on his way out as well, because that is a multi-year rebuild about to happen.
What if they just stockpiled playmakers?
Last year’s draft class featured some talented players, to be sure. But of all players drafted, only four will be represented in the Pro Bowl this year (Micah Parsons, Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts, and Rashawn Slater), and all were selected 13th or earlier. That is to say that the Seahawks would never have been able to select these guys anyway. But they could have had a shot at any one of the following players:
If the Seattle Seahawks had taken the Chicago Bears up on the originally reported trade offer for Russell Wilson, they likely would have either had to trade up for Jones/Fields or taken a flier on one of these dudes stats pulled from Pro Football Reference @pfref pic.twitter.com/RPaeTFmZm1— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) December 31, 2021
Some recognizable names and a few starters mixed in with a quite a few unknowns. I have no doubt some of these guys will grow and continue to etch their legacy in the books, but... we are talking about Russell Wilson here. No amount of Najee Harris making plays on Sundays is going to convince me that any of these guys could have been more than a footnote in Seahawks lore unless they had a true franchise signal caller on the roster. And this brings me to my conclusion.
Yes, Russell Wilson’s trade value is diminished. No, this doesn’t mean that the Seahawks should have traded him a year earlier.
Russell Wilson has had about as disastrous of a 2021 season as could have been realistically imagined. The previously impervious passer found out that his Achilles heel is actually located on a finger on his throwing hand, and unfortunately Aaron Donald was the one to figure this out. Fast forward through the initially uplifting but ultimately unsatisfying stint of Geno Smith proving that Shane Waldron’s offense looks lukewarm no matter who is running it and we are left with little else than a sobering season of sadness. One question that has been stumbling around the internet is whether or not this has dramatically impacted Wilson’s value in trade; would any organization offer three first round picks for this guy anymore?
Maybe not. Or maybe. Because the answer is actually pretty hard to predict; there is no position group in the NFL that is as consistently highly valued and mediocrity is often rewarded as the quarterback position; teams overpay to have a shot at finding the guy who is going to lead their team to the Super Bowl. And this works out for one team every season, and fails for thirty-one others. Ultimately, teams invest some form of capital in their signal callers, whether this is financial or draft-based, and we have seen guys like Carson Palmer fetch first round picks in the past after far worse careers than the one put forth by Wilson. So to think that one rough year is going to capsize Russell Wilson’s apparent standing in the eyes of other teams seems unrealistic. And in all likelihood, this won’t even matter. As Tyler Alsin just pointed out, there is a path forward for this team. But that path is looking worn and this team is looking tired; how much energy do they have left in them to reboot? And if the answer is “not enough,” then the question turns to how they will rebuild. If they end up electing to go with the latter, it may start with a deal that sends Russell Wilson to another team.