Clayton: Will Seahawks change offseason formula to add more talent like Russell Wilson wants?
Jan 30, 2020, 1:46 PM
Russell Wilson made a bold statement the other day when he said the Seahawks need to add more superstars in free agency.
Coming off his Pro Bowl trip, Wilson had to be enamored with what he saw in this All-Star game. He’s starting to be considered the first- or second-best quarterback in the league after years of being in the top five or six. Were it not for Lamar Jackson’s incredible run to a 14-win season, Wilson would be waiting for Saturday’s announcement to be named NFL MVP.
In the second year of a rebuild of the Seahawks, Wilson’s great play and comeback ability got Seattle to 11 wins plus a victory in the wild card round of the playoffs. Had the team not lost three running backs and watched the offensive line get banged up toward the end of the season, they were two home wins away from securing home-field advantage in the postseason.
Naturally, there was going to be some criticism for Wilson making a public statement. I don’t have a problem with it. In some ways, his position is similar to what he did last year when he mandated his contract extension be done in the early part of the offseason instead of in training camp.
That worked out well for both sides. He became the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL at $35 million a year, and not having the distraction of hearing about extension negotiations allowed him to work with his pass-receiving corps and develop perhaps the best relationship he’s had with his offensive players in his career.
Being able to get his offensive players into Los Angeles and other places in the offseason allowed the receivers to feel more comfortable with his improved throwing and it helped with timing of wide receiver routes.
Last year, the Seahawks turned the Seahawks over to Wilson and Bobby Wagner, the two remaining potential Hall of Famers on the team. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were gone. Marshawn Lynch was out of sight until he came out of retirement to help the Seahawks when they lost their top three running backs during the final stretch of the regular season.
Wilson knows how general manager John Schneider works. He’s aggressive in trying to make moves to improve the team in the short-term and to help the team in the long-term. Schneider wants sustained success. If the Seahawks lose good players to free agency – which they tend to do because Schneider drafts well – he likes to get something in return. That comes in the form of compensatory picks. A team can get as many as four extra draft choices for the following year if they lose more unrestricted free agents than they re-sign.
Because of that, Schneider is one of about eight or nine GMs who don’t bid big in unrestricted free agency. Those third- and fourth-round compensatory picks are valuable even though they can’t be used until a year after players leave. Those picks can also be used in trades.
Two years ago, the Seahawks needed players after clearing out several members of the core group from their run of back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, so they weren’t able to cash in on four compensatory picks. After trades, the Seahawks entered last offseason with only four picks.
Trading defensive end Frank Clark to Kansas City in the week leading up to the draft gave Schneider the ability to wheel and deal and end up with 11 draft choices, however.
Wilson is right in thinking the teams needs a couple more stars, though. Clearly he’s pushing for the return of Jadeveon Clowney. It will cost between $18 million and $22 million a year and he can’t be franchise tagged because of a mutual agreement.
Wilson knows that with the division rival Rams and 49ers having been in the last two Super Bowls, talent needs to be added for Seattle to get over the top and win the NFC West. If they lose Clowney, the Seahawks might have to come up with two defensive ends who can rush the passer.
The 49ers’ success this year was in part because they did that. The traded a second-round pick for Dee Ford and used the No. 2 overall pick in the draft on Nick Bosa. The 49ers ended up with 48 regular season sacks and have added nine more in the playoffs. The Seahawks tied for second-to-last in the NFL with only 28 sacks last year.
Schneider’s aggressiveness in trades allowed him to add Clowney and safety Quandre Diggs to the defense in 2019. Wilson knows the formula. The Seahawks scored 25.3 points a game. They gave up 24.9. Usually those numbers translate to an eight- or nine-win team, but the Seahawks won 11. They need to cut points allowed down to 21 or lower.
Analytics tell you that teams that win 10 games by eight points or less usually drop a game or two in the standings. That could cause the Seahawks maybe to sacrifice a comp pick to add talent, but Wilson is the equalizer.
Should be an interesting offseason.