It has been eight years since the Seattle Seahawks took the NFL by storm; with their defense taking a huge leap forward, they earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the best record in the NFC at 13-3. They took it a step further by going undefeated in the playoffs. They enjoyed one of the most lopsided victories in Super Bowl history with their 43-8 demolishing of the most prolific offense the league has ever seen.
Since then? It’s been a bit of a downhill ride. They got back to the Super Bowl in 2014 after a 12-4 season, but they didn’t look the same. Despite that, they were back where they wanted to be, but they lost the game on a last-second interception. The following year they won 10 games but finished second in their division and lost in the divisional round. In 2016, they again won 10 games but rebounded to win the division and again lost in the divisional round. In 2017, they won just nine games and missed the playoffs. The 2017 season would become a very unfitting end to the Legion Of Boom, as they finished outside the top-10 in scoring defense for the first time since Richard Sherman joined the team in 2011. Seattle was a wild card team in 2018, and lost in the wild card round, then was a wild card team again in 2019 and made it to the divisional round. In their most recent season, they won their division before suffering a disappointing loss in the wild card round at home to their division rivals LA.
Which brings us to the present day and the concerning task at hand – how do they get back to where they were in 2013? One way would be to put a halt to all of the turnovers. Between 2015 and 2019, the team saw these players depart, many of them starters along with some valuable role players:
CB Byron Maxwell
CB DeShawn Shead
WR Doug Baldwin
FS Earl Thomas
DE Frank Clark
CB Jeremy Lane
WR Jermaine Kearse
P Jon Ryan
G JR Sweezy
SS Kam Chancellor
C Max Unger
RB Marshawn Lynch
CB Richard Sherman
T Russell Okung
K Steven Hauschka
FB Will Tukuafu
I won’t bore you with the details, but Seattle has just two players left on the roster from that 2013 Super Bowl victory – QB Russell Wilson and LB Bobby Wagner. Every other roster position has experienced at least some player turnover, and some have experienced several. There has been a revolving door at offensive line, defensive line, secondary, and receiver. DK Metcalf looks to be a problem for NFL defenses for years to come, but Tyler Lockett is playing on the final year of his contract. Chris Carson is now a free agent, and his replacements have many question marks. Seattle traded for edge rusher Carlos Dunlap last November, and now less than a year later, they released him to save money. I won’t sugar coat it; they don’t have another Dunlap on the roster. His departure hurts. Since the team traded two first-round picks for safety Jamal Adams last season, they don’t have a first-round pick this year. With their first selection not coming until #56, don’t expect an influx of players who can contribute right away.
Here is the shortlist of free agents that Seattle will have to figure out how to bring back, or at least sign a replacement:
DE Carlos Dunlap
LB Bruce Irvin
RB Chris Carson
RB Carlos Hyde
TE Jacob Hollister
LB KJ Wright
CB Neiko Thorpe
CB Quinton Dunbar
CB Shaquill Griffin
Then they have these restricted free agents still under contract, and they have the freedom to sign offer sheets from other teams, and force Seattle to decide if they can afford to keep them:
DT Poona Ford
LB Shaquem Griffin
This team has a lot of tough choices to make. They have just over $22M in cap space, which is next to nothing in today’s NFL. Based on their projected market values, the Seahawks could perhaps bring back Shaquill Griffin at around $10M per year and Quinton Dunbar at $8M per year to keep their secondary intact. Then they would have a few bucks left to sign an offensive or defensive lineman. Unless one or more of these players are willing to take a discount, they are likely stuck with a very short-handed roster and will have to rely heavily on backups and rookies to get them by.
They also have an entirely new offensive system to install under new OC Shane Waldron, replacing Brian Schottenheimer. Wilson has not publicly demanded a trade, but he’s done just about everything else to make the team think he wants one. And why shouldn’t he want out? He’s basically being told he’ll need to actually carry the team this year, where he was only mostly carrying them the last few years. There will be a depleted roster on both sides of the ball and minimal means to bring back the guys they already had, let alone add upgrades. Not exactly what you want to hear if you are turning 33 this year and have limited prime years remaining to make a run at another Super Bowl – or at least – the division crown.
With a cap hit of $32M, perhaps Wilson would be willing to restructure his deal so that he can free up more cash, but what assurances does he have they will use that money on the guys he wants? The front office has been more than happy to let him shoulder the load and take a beating while he does it, and seems to wait until the last minute to get him some help, and it’s usually a bargain deal when it finally happens. If there isn’t a team willing to deal an unhappy veteran this year, how will they bail out Wilson? At some point the front office needs to veer from their current strategy playing the wait and see game, ignoring the obvious holes around Wilson until they don’t get the results they want.
What happens if Wilson refuses to play or he is seriously injured at some point? What might worry you even further is that Seattle currently does not have another QB on their roster. They will undoubtedly bring one in, but they have Wilson and literally no one else as of right now. They might bring back Geno Smith, who was the backup the last two seasons, but if Wilson gets hurt, does anyone have confidence in Smith to lead the way? Smith has many athletic talents but played some really bad games with the Jets before bouncing around the league and landing in Seattle, behind one of the most durable and consistent QBs ever. Does that sound like a guy the team ever expects to start? I certainly hope not, but there isn’t another plan in place at the moment. There are some quality QBs on the market right now, but Seattle might have a challenge picking one up with the money they have to work with, and if the team doesn’t improve the protection around Wilson (or a fill-in QB), it won’t really matter how good the QB is anyway. Cam Newton, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Tyrod Taylor would all be capable fits in this system if Wilson missed any time. If you miss on any of those names, there are second-tier guys like Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, and Colt McCoy out there.
Some of you might be wondering why the Seahawks opted not to use their franchise tag on any of their pending free agents. The easy answer is money. If you tag a player, you now have to pay them the average salary of the top five players at their position. Regardless of who they tagged, they would likely be paying them either more than they are worth or more than they can afford. Either way, it made sense to pass on the option rather than throw a large portion of their available cash at a player they probably couldn’t afford next year either, and there’s no guarantee you get a top-5 performance out of said player.
As much as no one (literally no one) wants to hear this, the easiest way to get the team put back together would probably be to trade Wilson for a king’s ransom and use those assets to expedite the rebuilding process. The team will take a huge step backward in the QB department, but they will gain many ways to put them back together. Both scenarios (keep Wilson and have a lot of holes around him, vs. trade him and have a hole at QB but a lot of other pieces) have drawbacks, but at least in one, you aren’t asking one of the greatest players in franchise history just to shut up and use what little supporting cast he has to win. Now, if you get too much back for Wilson, you likely risk the new team’s ability to keep quality players around him, right? Maybe. It really depends on what Seattle is looking for and what the teams in question have available, coupled with what they are willing to send.
The Bears, Texans, and Jets could all be viable trade partners. They have draft assets to send and have some pieces to help support Wilson. The Jets defense will likely take a huge step forward with the new staff on hand, and the Bears have a lot of great offensive weapons and an above-average defense. Houston is the wild card; it just seems like Seattle and Houston are always talking trades, and Wilson for Deshaun Watson is probably the cleanest way to make both players happy, although the team they go to is not any more talent-rich than the one they would leave, so who knows if they would go for it.
Before you ask if Seattle would go for any of these deals, consider this – Wilson has a no-trade clause in his contract, meaning he can only be dealt if he approves the deal. So Seattle can’t just send him to the Jaguars for a pile of picks; they would have to get his approval first. Wilson isn’t just an amazing athlete; he is an astute businessman. He’s not going to approve a deal that sends him to a team with less of a supporting cast than the one he has now. He is also a winner, he wants Seattle to improve, but he doesn’t want to go somewhere else if they aren’t any better. He wants to see this team brought back to the championship contender they were in 2013-14, and he knows they don’t have the roster to get there at the moment. But perhaps someone else would, and would also have the expendable assets to trade for him?
It sounds crazy, but you either get Wilson now with a limited roster and expect to go on shallow playoff runs (if you can get there at all), or you deal him and get a lot back and build for the future. It really depends on what you want to see from Seattle on Sunday afternoons in 2024, not just 2021.