Russell Wilson Contract: Why Trading the $37M QB Is Now Easier for the Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks quarterback (kind of) requested a trade last offseason, but the Russell Wilson contract made that deal unlikely. After a disappointing year in the Pacific Northwest, speculation is growing that the signal-caller will push for a ticket out of town once again.

In 2022, this is a much more realistic possibility, thanks to some changes to Wilson’s contract situation.

Rumors swirled that Russell Wilson wanted a trade last offseason

Shortly after the 2020 NFL season wrapped up, reports surfaced about a Russell Wilson trade. The gist of the reports was that while the veteran quarterback wasn’t requesting a trade but if the Seattle Seahawks wanted to deal with him, he would accept a move to several teams.

Some outlets reported these teams were the Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, or New Orleans Saints. Others suggested it was the Saints, Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Chicago Bears.

Either way, the whole fiasco was the most transparent non-trade-request-trade-request of all time.

The problem, though, wasn’t not-so-subtle Russell Wilson trade suggestions. It was the Russell Wilson contract.

Heading into the 2021 season, Wilson was in the middle of the four-year $140 million extension he signed with Seattle in 2019. The signal-caller’s cap number for that season was $32M. However, his dead cap number at the time was $58M.

That means that trading the now-10-year veteran would have cost the Seahawks an additional $26M on top of what it paid him to play in 2021. This trade alone would have moved the Seahawks cap from $11M under in 2021 to $15M over.

As we head into the 2022 offseason, on the heels of another disappointing season for Seattle and its QB, let’s look at what’s changed, specifically with the Russell Wilson contract situation.

Why it’s easier for the Seattle Seahawks to trade the QB this offseason

Quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks runs out for the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field on October 7, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Russell Wilson contract makes it much easier to trade the QB this offseason.
Russell Wilson | Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images.

The 2021 season was brutal for Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. The former Wisconsin and NC State QB missed the first three games of his NFL career with a finger injury. The team went 1-2 during those games on the way to a 7-10 season.

Wilson had a solid year, personally, though. He threw for 3,113 yards with a 64.8% completion rate with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. It was enough to get the QB his ninth Pro Bowl nod.

The passer proved he’s still a viable force in the league, although the team may no longer be. This means that a trade is now the best option for both the QB and the organization.

And, the new reality of the Russell Wilson contract in 2022 makes that easier.

This season, Wilson will be on the books for $37 million. However, his dead cap number drops significantly, down to $26M. So, if general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll decide to trade Wilson this summer, the team will knock $9M off its salary cap commitments while also stockpiling draft capital to help rebuild.

It now seems like trading Wilson — and the Wilson contract — finally makes sense for all involved.

NFL Teams that can afford the Russell Wilson contract

The simple answer as to which NFL teams can afford the Russell Wilson contract in 2022 is, almost any of them with enough salary-cap maneuvering.

That said, Wilson wants to win, so he probably won’t agree to go to a team that is totally capped-out with no real path to adding talent through free agency. From last year’s approved list, that would rule out the New Orleans Saints and their league-worst $76 million over the cap.

The New York Jets and Chicago Bears are out in 2022 with Zach Wilson and Justin Fields at the helm, and Dak Prescott is now untradeable in Dallas.

The Miami Dolphins are still a possibility and have the most cap room in the NFL, with a $62M surplus. The Las Vegas Raiders also have a pretty good salary cap situation with $19.7M in cap room. And, trading QB Derek Carr (who has no dead cap penalty this offseason) would free up almost $20M.

New teams that may jump into the Wilson Sweepstakes in 2022 include the Washington Commanders ($30M under the cap), Pittsburgh Steelers ($29.5M under), Philadelphia Eagles ($20.9M under), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6.8 under).

The fact that it seems like Wilson wants out, combined with plenty of suitors with plenty of cap room, makes a trade seem inevitable this offseason. While that might be bittersweet for Seahawks fans, it’s the best decision for everyone involved.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac

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