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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Zwiller: What's next for Russell Wilson?

My plan for this week had been to turn my attention to the NBA. The second half of the season was just released, and the All-Star Game signaled the season’s halfway point. I thought it could be fun to make picks for the postseason, but all that changed when Russell Wilson asked to leave Seattle. So like my Carson Wentz column last week, I want to breakdown potential trades and predict how I think Russ will do cooking elsewhere. 

Russell specifically pointed out four teams as potential trade partners; the Bears, the Saints, the Cowboys, and the Raiders. The reason I say they are potential partners is that he didn’t ask to leave per se; according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, he said that “if a trade were considered, the only teams he would go to are the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders and Bears.”

I first want to start by saying that this trade is financially impossible, which is why I think it won’t get done. Seattle would be dealing with a dead cap hit of $39 million by dealing Russ. That’s only this year; every year, he would cost them a cool $13 million until 2024. That would eliminate Seattle from contending this year and continue to be a financial burden even after this season. 

Then there are the financial restrictions of the teams Russ listed. The Cowboys have $20 million in cap space, allowing them to take care of Russ. The Bears are already $2 million over the cap, the Raiders $7 million, and the Saints are $69.5 million over. These cap situations are solvable but make things trickier. So with the understanding that the trade is likely financially restricted, let’s begin. 

First up, the Cowboys

This deal realistically is a financial impossibility. The most straightforward deal would be Dak Prescott for Russ straight up, but Seattle doesn’t have a cap situation allowing for that. I also think that Dak wants to make it work in Dallas and doesn't want to leave the Cowboys; the contract negotiations will work themselves out eventually. 

But, let's say the trade does work financially for all those involved. I believe that going from Seattle to Dallas would be a massive defensive downgrade for Russ. Dallas ranks 28th and 23rd in points and yards allowed, respectively. Seattle meanwhile ranks at 15th and 22nd in both categories. That means, to me at least, that Russ sees the Cowboys’ offense as an upgrade that can cancel out the defensive downgrade. Dallas has a trio of weapons in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, and Ezekiel Elliott at running back. While those weapons are an upgrade, he would also be leaving behind DK Metcalf, one of the league’s best young talents.

However, I think Russ could see a massive improvement on the offensive line. Pro Football Focus ranks Dallas as 27th and Seattle at 14th, which seems like a significant dropoff in quality. However, the Cowboys did have critical injuries to their line, which might result in drastic improvement next season — all the more reason for Dak to want to stay in Dallas and not leave for Seattle. 

Second, the Saints

This deal is a lot more farfetched to me. It’s not because I don't like the fit; I think the Saints with Wilson are easily a Super Bowl contender. This is the one team that is better on both sides of the ball than Russ. It's more because I think the deal is going to be limited by financials. As of right now, the Saints are $69.5 million over the salary cap. There are ways to make it work, like releasing the more expensive defensive pieces and restructuring deals. It is without question worth trading for Wilson, but of the four locations, I think it is the one that will struggle to make it work financially.

To me, the Saints should decline the trade for Russ and keep as many pieces of their core as possible, then see if Jameis Winston can step up and become their next franchise QB. It allows them to hold onto their draft picks and get cheap replacements for veterans who are due for a lot of money. 

Third, the Raiders

Much like the Cowboys, for Russ, this trade would be about upgrading offensively at the expense of downgrading defensively. He would gain Josh Jacobs and Henry Ruggs at the expense of DK Metcalf, a proven commodity. The Raiders could send Derrick Carr for Russ and then have to give away fewer draft picks, but it likely would still cost a few first-round picks. The Raiders need those picks to shore up a defense that has plenty of needs. The situations are similar enough that by going to the Raiders, Russ would weaken their ability to improve the defense. He should stay in Seattle because Pete Carroll can improve that defense this season in the draft. 

And finally, the Bears:  

This destination is one of the weirder ones to me. While yes, the Bears have a much better defense than the Seahawks do, the Bear’s offensive line is arguably worse than the Seahawks. Pro Fantasy Focus ranks the Seahawks Offensive line as 14th overall, 16th in pass-blocking. The Bears O-Line ranked at 20th, so Russ would mainly be in the same situation when dropping back as he is now. Chicago doesn’t get Wilson a weapons upgrade; yes, the Bears have Allen Robinson and David Montgomery. But Seattle has DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and a decent running back corps in Carlos Hyde and Chris Carson. 

Russ wants to go to Chicago because of that great defense; he can make a mediocre offense great. I honestly don’t think that going for the defense is a good reason; over the past few seasons, the Bears have fallen considerably. In 2018, the Bears ranked first and third in points and yards allowed, respectively. In 2019 they fell to fourth and eighth respectively, and in 2020, dropoff continued; they dropped to 14th and 11th. That defense is on the decline. While yes, it would rank better than Seattle, which is at 15th and 22nd, that is a marginal increase.

On top of that, it would likely take multiple first-round picks to get Russ. That would hamstring the Bears’ ability to build around Russ — a problem that Russ could avoid by staying in Seattle. I don't see the Bears as being the right destination for Russ.

In conclusion, I would rank the teams in terms of fit: Saints, Cowboys, Raiders and then the Bears. However, none of them are likely to happen due to the cap. Fear not, 12th man; you guys will see Russ in a Seahawks uniform next season.