The 2021 NFL offseason has been one filled with quarterback rumors and movements. Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks have been a big part of those trade rumors this offseason. On the March 10 episode of Draft Insiders, Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline reported on the latest he was hearing out of Seattle.
Russell Wilson could be set for his final year with the Seattle Seahawks
For several weeks, it appeared Russell Wilson was the party intent on catalyzing a trade. However, as Pauline discussed on the Draft Insiders, the Seahawks also seem to be open to trading Wilson.
“There may have been talk in the past about the Seahawks trading Russell Wilson. I don’t know how legitimate it was. Obviously, it is legitimate now. What I was told by someone close to the situation yesterday is that the Seahawks want to trade Russell Wilson as much as Wilson wants out of Seattle, which kind of surprised me.”
However, trades in a league with a salary cap are not as simple as just making it happen.
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As Pauline discussed on the show, a trade for Wilson may have to wait another season.
“It’s going to be tough for it to happen this year because of Russell Wilson’s salary cap number and the fact that you have a deflated salary cap. The salary cap just came in at just over $182 million. So that’s going to make it very tough for the Seattle Seahawks to move Wilson. Or at least that is what people are telling me. They are also telling me that if they can’t move him this year, which they don’t expect to happen, this will be Russell Wilson’s final season in Seattle.”
If the Seahawks are open to trading Wilson, several teams will be flirting with Seattle. However, Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, recently told Adam Schefter that Wilson would only consider joining four teams. Those teams are the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders, and New Orleans Saints.
Why is his contract potentially preventing a trade this offseason?
When Russell Wilson signed his four-year contract extension, the Seahawks gave him a $65 million signing bonus. With the deal being signed ahead of the 2019 NFL season, that signing bonus was prorated across five seasons, at $13 million per year. Entering the 2021 NFL season, three years of that prorated bonus money remain.
Therefore, if the Seahawks were to trade Wilson this year, they would be left with $39 million in dead money. Essentially, by trading Wilson, the Seahawks would be costing themselves an extra $7 million in cap space than it would cost to keep him. Trading him next offseason would leave $26 million in dead money, which would save $11 million over Wilson’s current cap number in 2022.
Could there be a way to work around the contract issue this offseason?
There is a potential workaround for the Seahawks and the team they negotiate with. The $39 million number is fixed and they cannot change that. However, if the Seahawks have a target in mind, the team trading for Wilson could “pre-pay” a large amount of that contract to reduce the burden on the Seahawks.
Let’s take Khalil Mack as an example. The Bears could pay the majority of Mack’s 2021 salary ($17.05 million) as a signing bonus. That signing bonus would then remain with the Bears following the trade, and Mack would cost the Seahawks just $1.075 million in salary for the 2021 season.
Unfortunately, the problem with that theory is that the team trading for Wilson would be taking on dead money and Wilson’s $19 million salary in 2021. They could certainly restructure his deal and push more of that money into the future, but it is a lot of moving parts.
Potential landing spots for Russell Wilson
We already know Wilson’s preferred landing spots if he were to be traded. However, if a deal went on a one-year hiatus, the situation around the NFL could look quite different. Let’s take a look at the destinations Wilson is apparently open to.
The Chicago Bears just gave Allen Robinson the franchise tag. Are they willing to put a stop-gap QB in place for 2021 in the hope of trading for Wilson next offseason? It is possible, but it is a big risk to take. While it seems as though the relationship between Wilson and Seattle is at a breaking point, we see relationships fixed regularly in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are currently looking at their potential QB of the future. It may seem as though the Saints’ salary cap situation makes it impossible for them to acquire Wilson.
However, if Wilson were to be traded, $13 million of his $32 million cap hit would remain in Seattle. Additionally, so would the $13 million in prorated bonuses in 2022 and 2023. Therefore, the Saints could immediately reduce Wilson’s salary to $1.075 million for the 2021 season. They would then push the remaining $17.9 million into the final two years of his deal.
If the trade was not to happen until 2022, that could suit the Saints fine as well. They could evaluate Taysom Hill or another QB for the 2021 season, and subsequently move on Wilson when he became available.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have been seemingly open to moving on from Derek Carr for a couple of seasons. Carr has been fine for the Raiders, but there is little doubt that Russell Wilson would be an upgrade. Adding Wilson, either this offseason or next, would be a perfect splash move for a franchise looking to make waves in a new home.
After the Cowboys and Dak Prescott agreed to a four-year, $160 million contract, this destination looks unlikely. Even if 2022 is viewed as the potential time for a trade, Prescott would still count heavily on dead money. Trading Prescott next offseason would lead the Cowboys with $52.8 million in dead money. Stranger things have happened, but this one seems almost inconceivable.
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