The Russell Wilson trade rumors are gaining steam just as the Deshaun Watson trade rumors are starting to fade. Now teams looking for an elite veteran starting quarterback can turn their attention more to the Seahawks in trying to acquire the eight-time Pro Bowler and one-time Super Bowl winner.
Moving Wilson no longer is wild speculation. The Athletic has a blockbuster new report on the power struggle in Seattle and how a big rift has developed between the 32-year-old and Seahawks officials, to the point that Wilson’s representatives have brought up the real possibility of a trade.
The Dolphins and Jets, two AFC East teams also tied to Watson because they each hold two first-round picks in the 2021 NFL draft, were mentioned as potential destinations. The other two teams were the Saints, who will likely see Drew Brees retire, and the Raiders, who still don’t seem to be sold on Derek Carr.
Despite being seven years older than Watson, Wilson has similar high-ceiling appeal for teams looking for a QB upgrade. According to Michael Silver of NFL.com, “roughly third of the league” has reached out to the Seahawks about Wilson’s availability. Then ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported via Wilson’s agent Thursday that the only four teams he would want to go in a trade would be the Saints, Raiders, Cowboys and Bears.
Also like with Watson, a team would need to give up two first-rounders at least to get Wilson, and maybe even three. The other challenge is that although Wilson carries only a $19 million base salary for this year in his current Seahawks contract through 2023, he has a $32 million cap hit for 2021.
The only way for the Seahawks to trade him is by giving Wilson a June 1 designation. That would still cost them $39 million in dead money over two years, instead of one, but it also would come with $19 million in cap relief for 2021 vs. costing them another $7 million against the cap this year.
Of The Athletic’s mentioned teams, New Orleans and Las Vegas don’t seem feasible. The Saints are a league-worst $69 million over the cap and seem intent on rolling with Taysom Hill to succeed Brees. The Raiders are some $9 million over the cap and Carr is coming off the best season in his career. Neither team is in position to give up a ton of draft capital, either.
As for Schefter’s introduction of the Cowboys and Bears, those also aren’t real options for different reasons. The Cowboys wouldn’t give up a ton for a high-upside QB when they can just lock up much younger pending free agent Dak Prescott to a long-term deal. The Bears are more than $2 million over the cap. They weren’t lower-level players for Carson Wentz and can’t make a competitive offer for Watson, which suggests they don’t have enough to get Wilson.
With all that in mind, here’s ranking the only five logical landing spots for Wilson:
Russell Wilson’s most realistic trade fits
1. New England Patriots
The Patriots need to stop messing around at QB and get aggressive to get back near the top of the league at the position. Bill Belichick shouldn’t just stand for watching Tom Brady flip conferences and win another Super Bowl. Instead, he should think about the possibility of Wilson doing the same in New England.
Belichick hasn’t had a great history with recent first-round picks and the Patriots are used to not having a top-32 selection, anyway, as that’s happened in three of the past five drafts. The Patriots are also always confident that they can recover well from seasoned personnel losses in the offensive line, defensive front seven and secondary.
The Patriots should not hesitate to send up to three first-rounders from 2021 to 2023 as well as whatever young veteran help the Seahawks would like in return for Wilson. New England is also around $62 million under the cap, so it can easily fit Wilson’s contract and then have the potential to spend to get whatever help he needs to compensate for fewer draft picks.
2. New York Jets
As it stands, the Jets’ primary QB options are staying at No. 2 overall and drafting BYU’s Zach Wilson or sticking with Sam Darnold and using that high pick to get him more help. Given their natural interest in Watson, it follows that they could go after Wilson in a similar way. Their second first-rounder, No. 23 overall, was the result of GM Joe Douglas’ successful Jamal Adams trade with the Seahawks last year. New Jets head coach Robert Saleh also knows Wilson well from his days as a defensive assistant in Seattle.
Along with that 2021 first-rounder for Adams, the Jets also got an extra third-rounder this year and another first-rounder next year. New York has the big-time draft compensation for Wilson covered right there, thanks to Seattle.
The Jets are around $69 million under the salary cap, so they also have great immediate spending power to cater to whatever Wilson needs with more veteran acquisitions. The Jets also hired a new offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, who can be to Wilson what his brother, Matt LaFleur, has been to Aaron Rodgers.
3. Washington Football Team
Wilson and Ron Rivera would represent another good QB-head coach leadership fit. Wilson’s deep-passing prowess also would fit offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system well. Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson and Logan Thomas are a good baseline of skill players, and WFT is bound to upgrade the offensive line and the rest of the receiving corps, too.
Washington is $38 million under the cap, but trading for Wilson would make the team designate Alex Smith as a June 1 cut, adding another $19 million in available money. That would put WFT more in the territory of the Patriots and Jets with the ability to help Wilson well in free agency without its first-round pick (No. 19 overall).
A bonus for Wilson would be a chance to play close to Richmond, Va., where he grew up and went to high school. By going from one Washington to another, he would be a popular power player in a big East Coast market, matching what the Patriots and Jets can offer there, too.
4. Carolina Panthers
They seem intent to do everything they can to upgrade from Teddy Bridgewater, and now that Watson may not be possible to pursue, it follows that Wilson would make sense for them, too. The Panthers have great offensive weapons with Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, with a bright young coordinator in Joe Brady. They also should be upgrading the offensive line away from right tackle Taylor Moton and considering adding more impact at tight end.
Having the No. 8 overall pick in 2021 is a great starting point in creating an attractive trade package. The Panthers stand $31 million under the cap, so they can make Wilson’s cap hit work now, presuming they, like the other potential Wilson-acquiring teams, would be ready to restructure his contract in the near future.
5. Miami Dolphins
Make that three AFC East teams. The Dolphins have been mentioned with the Jets for Watson because they hold the most attractive combination of 2021 first-rounders, with No. 3 overall from the Texans along with their own No. 18 overall selection.
Like Washington, Miami is a rising young team with a strong defensive foundation, that is only a bona fide franchise QB and a little more offensive boost away from being a dangerous contender. The Dolphins are most likely to stick with tapping into Tua Tagovailoa’s upside, but where there’s a Watson will, there has to be some Wilson way, too.
Based on the multiple reports, Wilson’s trade rumors are tied to mostly unrealistic destinations. For the Seahawks to be truly motivated to move him, one of the five teams above would need to come up with a strong offer, setting up a situation that neither they nor Wilson can refuse.