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Clayton: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s schedule just became NFL’s toughest

Russell Wilson will have six games against three of the best pass rushes i 2021. (Getty)

Russell Wilson has taken heat for saying the Seahawks’ offensive line needs to get better, but the Arizona Cardinals just made his pleas more realistic.

Heaps: Watt’s move to NFC West increases Seahawks’ needs at OL

That’s because three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year, $31 million deal with the Cardinals.

In Arizona, Watt joins a strong pass rush that also includes linebacker Chandler Jones, who tweeted out to Wilson a little shot about Watt coming to the Cardinals on Monday.

Since 2012, Jones has had the most sacks (97.5) in the NFL while Watt has the second-most (95.5). Now they play in the same defense, and the Cardinals, who had 48 sacks last year, could get over 50 in 2021 with Watt.

Wilson’s Seahawks suddenly find themselves in a division that has Jones, Watt, the Rams’ Aaron Donald, the 49ers’ Nick Bosa, and a bunch of other first-round defensive linemen. That’s six games of torture every season coming with the potential of more hits on Wilson.

This will make it more important that Wilson not hold onto the ball on average of 2.97 seconds when he drops back, which was fifth-highest in the league last year. This also makes the Seahawks’ hiring of Shane Waldron as the offensive coordinator that much more important. Waldron brings the Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVay offensive style to Seattle, which means a little more running, a little more two-tight end schemes, and an emphasis on getting rid of the ball quicker.

Watt’s addition to the Cardinals should push Wilson to work with Waldron on how to scheme the offense away from these great pass rushers. It also puts Seahawks general manager John Schneider in position to move improvements to the offensive line to the most important thing on his agenda.

Schneider has to make the right moves at guard and center and make sure he has a solid third tackle in case Brandon Shell or Duane Brown suffer an injury. The six games against NFC West rivals for the Seahawks will be the toughest any quarterback in the league faces this year.

Give credit to Cardinals general manager Steve Keim. Ten teams were bidding on Watt, but Keim stepped up and met Watt’s desire to get more than $15 million a year. Watt is a future Hall of Famer and comes from the great first-round draft class of 2011.

There are a lot of interesting things happening with that class. Cam Newton was the first pick and had a great career in Carolina, but he doesn’t have a team at the moment after a disappointing year with New England. Cornerback Patrick Peterson, the eighth pick in that draft, is expected to leave the Cardinals in free agency. The Denver Broncos are deciding whether to pick up the option year of linebacker Von Miller, who has been to eight Pro Bowls. Center Mike Pouncey just retired from the Los Angeles Chargers. He was the 15th pick in the 2011 draft and went to the Pro Bowl four times. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowler, is heading into free agency.

Say what you want but the NFC West remains the most aggressive division in football.

The Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams. The Rams traded for Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford. The 49ers traded for Trent Williams. The division is loaded with great talent. But teams now have to watch out for the Cardinals. Kyler Murray is an emerging star at quarterback and the defense got that much better with the acquisition of Watt.

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