End of an era for Seahawks but trade of Russell Wilson offers hope of renewal in Seattle
Tuesday 8th March 2022 — It is a day that will forever linger in the memory of the Seahawks faithful. It was the day that the Seattle Seahawks agreed to trade franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for two first round draft picks, two second round picks, a fifth round pick and three players. In return, the Broncos receive the aforementioned Super Bowl 48 winner, alongside a fifth round pick.
The merits of this trade are self-explanatory for the Broncos; a team who believe that they are close to contention. A franchise who have cycled through multiple failed experiments at the most important position in football now have a serial winner, a proven commodity at signal-caller who will immediately elevate the team into contention within what is possibly now the best division in football.
Those who believe that the Broncos have given up too much are incorrect, for this is the price you pay for a franchise altering talent in today’s NFL.
On the flip side, there are those who feel as though the Seahawks could have gotten more. Many will look at the Washington Commanders’ reported mega-offer of “multiple first round picks” and feel as though this should have been favoured and used as additional leverage in negotiations with the Broncos to fleece them for more assets.
Whilst this argument is interesting, it does not truly carry weight when Wilson’s no-trade clause is taken into account — if Russ did not fancy D.C., as is believed, then a simple execution of his veto power forced the Pacific Northwesterners to look elsewhere.
The AFC is loaded with talented QBs — Wilson’s addition here only adds to the gauntlet of gifted hurdles that teams from this conference will have to leap in order to make the Big Dance in 2023, but in Wilson the Broncos will know that they are now at least a horse in that formidable race.
If it is as simple as that from a Denver perspective, then how should this trade be viewed from a Seattle point of view?
Seahawks shake up a stale situation
Many will point to a downgrade at quarterback to Drew Lock and a lack of elite talent at the position in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft as reasons why Seattle ‘lost’ this trade. In a vacuum, this is true, but the Seahawks needed to do something to shake the decayed feeling from the franchise into which it had been descending over the past four or five seasons.
Pete or Russ? Russ or Pete? That is the question that Hawks fans had been opining over in recent years, but the question is less about a perceived internal power struggle and more about how the franchise could refresh itself and forge its way to renewal.
Pete Carroll is a legend in Seattle and will rightly go down as the greatest head coach in franchise history, but discontent amongst fans has been aimed at a apparent stubbornness from Carroll to adapt to the ever-changing face of the modern NFL and lack of willingness to admit outside voices to a stale personnel staff.
Seahawks fans: this trade may not be for every single one of you 12s, but it clearly signifies a distinct change of approach that you have been crying out for, for nigh on half a decade. I suggest you embrace it.
So what are the Seahawks gaining in return for their favourite son?
Seattle now has a shot at a top 10 talent in the 2022 NFL Draft
Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Sam Howell, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder. These are the names of the top five — in no particular order — quarterbacks available in the 2022 NFL Draft.
By obtaining Denver’s pick at number nine overall this year, all of the above names are within striking distance for the Seahawks should they wish to take one. Seattle now have four picks within the top-72 and could even move up if they believe that another QB-needy team such as the Carolina Panthers are likely to take one at number six. Additionally, it enables them to make a move if they catch wind that a team like the Commanders are looking to gazump them by jumping up into the top eight from their native number eleven slot.
I believe that the two likely options, should the Seahawks opt to move on any of these five, would be Malik Willis or Matt Corral. Both offer excellent mobility and intriguing upside.
Willis is more of a project who needs time to develop but has a cannon arm with the highest ceiling of all and could enable the Seahawks to get back to taking efficient deep shots off the back of using their play-option game effectively again, a la Wilson earlier on in his career.
Corral has excellent short to intermediate accuracy and is a leader on an Ole Miss team and is beloved by his teammates. He also offers a rushing threat and rumours emerged from the NFL Combine that the Seahawks admire him. He was pictured with Pete Carroll, meeting with Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and Carroll mentor Monte Kiffin — evidenced by Lance Zierlein’s tweet below.
This of course could merely be a case of jumping to conclusions and may very well be a smokescreen to guard the Hawks’ true intention, but it does give some food for thought. Either way, Seattle will have a shot at one of these guys either at number nine overall, or preferably after a slight trade down.
Picking at 40 and 41 hits the sweet spot of this draft
The second round pick that Seattle will receive from the Broncos in 2022 is pick number 40. This means that they will now make two consecutive selections near the top of round two and this is the sweet spot this year. It is a draft with a lack of true blue chip talent early on, but it does carry depth. This depth can be exploited by the Seahawks in this range at positions where they are particularly needy.
The release of Bobby Wagner has created a need at linebacker and by manoeuvring into this position at the top of the second frame, the Seahawks can tap into an impressive resource at this position — Channing Tindall, Leo Chenal, Darrian Beavers, Quay Walker and Damone Clark to name but a few, could all be available replacements here.
Furthermore, if the Hawks decline to retain Rashaad Penny and/or Chris Carson, this is where the running back position selections could begin in earnest — Kenneth Walker, Dameon Pierce, Tyrion Davis-Price or Rachaad White all provide intriguing options.
Ideally, the Seahawks would love to add multiple edge players this off season to pair with the exceptional Darrell Taylor. They could seek a lengthy athletic specimen here such as Boye Mafe, Arnold Ebiketie or Drake Jackson. They could also plausibly elect for such a player at nine overall and address QB in 2023.
Combining some of these theories could jolt start an exciting new core for Seattle in 2022 and beyond; the point being that Seattle now have options this year and next with first and second round picks in 2023 to add to their cache.
Drew Lock a clear downgrade for Seattle but has the tools to revitalise career
Now, this has to prefaced by the fact that Drew Lock is not a quarterback that resides in the upper echelon of football. He is not a player who has even proven himself as a reliable starter at the NFL level and can display wayward accuracy and inconsistent decision making. Though what he lacks in fastidiousness can be countered by traits within his possession that hint at impressive raw tools.
He has a good arm, throws with excellent velocity and seems to have an arrogance that provides him with a short memory when he does make turnover worthy plays.
Drew Lock could flourish for the time being under the watchful eye of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron if he can implement a favoured play-action and bootleg style offense. It would maximise Lock’s big arm, but minimise erratic plays where he is forced to rely on his own decision making. Tyler Lockett is the ideal complement for him in this new world; a receiver who knows how to consistently get open, improvise and be a quarterback’s best friend.
If the Seahawks can temper the mistakes and harness his big play ability then they may have an adequate bridge quarterback for the time being.
In all likelihood though, Pete Carroll and John Schneider still have moves to be made. This could mean that they make another play for a second veteran QB, or roll with a 2022 draftee as suggested, creating the kind of camp battle they did between Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson in 2012. They could even seek to do both and truly reestablish Pete’s ‘Always Compete’ mantra that served him so well at the beginning of his tenure.
As long as this is only part one of a longer plan, it is not the worst start.
Noah Fant could become the best Seahawks tight end of the Carroll/Schneider era
Fant was most likely a prospect that Schneider and Carroll coveted in the 2019 NFL Draft. His short area burst and athleticism was highlighted at the combine that year by a 4.50 second 40-yard dash, 6.81 three cone and 4.22 short shuttle — all elite amongst his peers and thresholds that check every box for the Seahawks when compared to other players at the position employed by the team.
He will provide a familiarity to Lock — a safety blanket of sorts — and is an excellent pass catcher at all levels of the field. An exceptional ability to track the ball over his shoulder, win in contested catch situations and reliable hands provide the Seahawks a genuine third threat after Lockett and fellow 2019 draftee, D.K. Metcalf.
The ex-Bronco is also a better blocker than often given credit for and should provide an upgrade on Gerald Everett, not to mention a cap saving of circa $4 million (projected in 2022) based on what Everett made in 2021.
The 2022 NFL Draft tight end class is reasonably deep, but in order to get an immediate contributor such as Trey McBride or Greg Dulcich, it could require a second round pick. By including Fant in this deal, the Seahawks have negated the need to reach for one of these players.
Fant, aside from the picks attained, is probably the jewel of the deal.
Shelby Harris is an underrated player and excellent addition for the Seahawks
Lastly, but certainly not by least, Shelby Harris was included in this deal and is an unheralded but underrated piece for Seattle to add.
Harris is a 30-year old interior menace. He led the Broncos in sacks in 2021 with 6.0, and ranked third in overall pressures on the team with 18, despite playing only 56% of their defensive snaps.
He was a vocal leader on the Broncos defense and will provide a veteran presence to the Seahawks’ defensive room as they seek to become younger and more aggressive. He’ll be the apple of new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt’s eye, and provide the interior pressure that the team has been lacking since the likes of Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel, Jarran Reed and even Jordan Hill left town.
The top interior pressure merchants — Devonte Wyatt, DeMarvin Leal, Jordan Davis, Travon Walker — could be long gone by the time Seattle pick in the second round. Adding Harris allows them the opportunity to pick a QB early and not be forced into reaching into the second tier of similar players too early in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Harris also provides excellent special teams value, having blocked multiple kicks during his time in Denver.
Seahawks will be content and feel as though they achieved what they wanted from the trade
Forget trade value ‘grades’, forget ‘who-fleeced-who?’ All trades are made for specific reasons, at particular moments in time and in this case all parties will be content.
In summary, Pete Carroll, John Schneider and Russell Wilson will be as happy as they could have been from such a trade. Everyone wanted to part on amicable terms and the Seahawks were able to stockpile picks, whilst gaining a trio of players that address immediate needs as well as regaining a sense of control over who they are likely to target in the 2022 NFL Draft from a positional and prospect value point of view.
Wilson will have the chance to build on his legacy in Act Two of his Hall of Fame career, and will be content that he used his leverage to exercise a trade to a favourable destination. He will always be a legend in Seattle, but the Seahawks faithful must embrace this, as one must embrace change.
For the most part, change is good. A new dawn is on the horizon in the Pacific Northwest.