What we hope the Seahawks learned from the Russell Wilson trade
The Seahawks’ trade of their franchise quarterback sent shockwaves throughout the NFL last spring. It’s not that there weren’t rumors of a rift between Russell Wilson and the organization – those rumors had been circulating for years – nor was talk of potential trade unbroached in the months leading up to the move. It was that few actually thought Seattle would do it.
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Here was a then 32-year-old quarterback who was just two years prior the No. 2 player on the Top 100 Players list – a group voted on by fellow NFL players – and was the winningest quarterback in franchise history. How often had something like this been done before? When had a team previously traded away a quarterback with whom it won a super bowl, especially one who was still widely regarded as a top-10 passer?
Seattle did it. And, as we know now, ended up on the better end of that trade after the Broncos gave Wilson a five-year, $242 million extension ahead of his worst year as a pro and one of Denver’s worst offensive seasons ever (oh, and that second first-round pick they gave up ended up being No. 5 overall as a result).
There’s plenty to be learned from the trade about Wilson as a quarterback, but here are the two larger points Curtis Rogers and Stacy Rost learned.
Don’t hang onto assets for too long if you can afford to let go
No one loves the business side of the NFL, but it’s something Curtis Rogers pointed out as a lesson learned from the Seahawks’ trade.
“Let’s say they held onto Russell Wilson this season and next season, and his value dwindled to the point where they couldn’t get anything out of him,” Rogers said. “They still managed to get two first-rounders, two second-rounders, and three contributors out of this trade.”
Some teams have cut ties with a star earlier than expected in a way that benefits both sides. Six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill was a valued part of the Chiefs offense, but contract issues loomed. Hill lamented a lack of targets in Kansas City while general manager Brett Veach probably wasn’t too keen on giving Hill the guaranteed money Hill could’ve asked for following an offseason of skyrocketing receiver contracts. Hill was and is one of the NFL’s best offensive weapons and Kansas City needn’t have traded him quite so soon, but they also had other weapons (Travis Kelce was second in the league this year in receiving touchdowns) and a chance to capitalize on Hill’s value. So, they pulled the trigger and got five draft picks from the Miami Dolphins in a deal. Meanwhile, Hill got $72.2 million guaranteed.
The trade of Wilson is a bit different. For starters, he was a franchise quarterback. But he’d previously hinted at a desire to open up the passing game, something that wasn’t going to happen often in a more balanced Pete Carroll offense, and invest in the offensive line, something his own contract (and Seattle’s success) made difficult. Seattle could’ve hung onto Wilson through 2023, but perhaps recognized that after two up-and-down seasons his value as a normally consistent starter was diminishing.
It would feel blasphemous at the time, but in hindsight, should Seattle have tried to trade one of their defensive stars during the tail end of their careers?
“Looking at the most successful era of Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s tenure here – that would be the Legion of Boom era when they won the Super Bowl – there were so many guys on that defense that came and left without them being able to get anything in return for them,” Rogers said. “Bobby Wagner was cut because of salary cap purposes. Richard Sherman was cut coming off an injury and also for cap purposes. Earl Thomas walked in free agency. I’m not going to lump Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril in this because their careers were cut short due to injury, but still, you didn’t get anything out of those guys. I believe Michael Bennett was the only guy on that defense (they traded) …
“So what I hope they’ve learned is that holding onto your assets for too long can stunt an organization’s growth going forward. The Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill (at the height of his value) and look at where the Chiefs are: they’ve got homefield advantage still, they have an extra first round pick coming up in this year’s draft. They’ve widened their contention window by making a tough decision on a key member of their roster. The Seahawks have widened their contention window now by having dealt Wilson to Denver. I think they could learn that if you’re in a place where there are some questions going forward about a guy on the roster, maybe it’s best to search out the trade market.”
A bad culture fit doesn’t have to mean bad people are involved
The trade affected how Stacy Rost viewed team culture. Wilson might’ve lost a few Seahawks fans toward the end of his career – and certainly following his trade – but make no mistake: he was a positive contributor to both his team and his community. Put more simply, Wilson wasn’t a bad guy; he just wasn’t the right fit anymore for the team Seattle wanted to be, and that feeling may have been mutual.
“Culture fit is important, and sometimes a lack of a culture fit doesn’t mean either party is toxic,” Stacy Rost said. “But it does mean that it’s time to move on. That’s the lesson I hope they took from this and that I really do think (Seattle) did too… there’s nothing wrong morally with a player (being hard to identify with). It’s very difficult to request that a player who is older than a lot of teammates, who is a franchise guy, who’s getting paid more, be super relatable… but all of that considered, he was a good guy. Went to Children’s Hospital, did a lot of work for charity, never said a bad word about the team publicly. He wasn’t a toxic locker room presence; however, he wasn’t a culture fit anymore. He was philosophically at odds with the head coach… and I think Pete Carroll recognized that ‘Hey, if you’re not buying into my philosophy, respect, go be who you want to be… but if you don’t buy in you’ve gotta go.'”
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