Russell Wilson turns 33 in November. And while the Seattle Seahawks quarterback remains one of the top players at his position, he hasn’t come close to tasting championship success in recent years. Much of that has to do with a defense that has fallen off a cliff since the Legion of Boom broke up.
Luckily for Wilson, the Seahawks just gave him the gift he truly needed. And now that he can call an old nemesis his teammate, the future Hall of Famer should feel optimistic about Seattle’s chances of winning a Super Bowl title this season.
Seattle hasn’t finished with a top-10 defense since 2016
During the early part of Russell Wilson’s career, the Seahawks boasted a historically dominant defense. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor formed an elite safety duo. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner used their size to beat up opposing receivers. And Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Michael Bennett headlined a front seven full of explosive athletes.
However, Seattle went from finishing first in points allowed for four straight years to failing to finish with a top-10 scoring defense in each of the last four seasons. Personnel issues have played a significant factor in that regression. After all, Wagner and Wright have watched several longtime teammates depart in recent years.
Meanwhile, although the Seahawks have improved on offense, they’ve experienced little postseason success. After leading his team to two straight Super Bowl trips and consecutive divisional-round appearances, Pete Caroll has had much more time to enjoy the offseason recently.
In 2018, the Seahawks surrendered 24 points to the Dallas Cowboys in a wild-card loss. The following year, the Green Bay Packers scored 28 points in a home victory in the divisional round. And in 2020, the LA Rams brought a swift end to their opponent’s season by putting up 30 points in Seattle.
The Seahawks just gave Russell Wilson the gift he truly needed
Russell Wilson certainly could use some help up front. But in order for him to win a Super Bowl ring, he needs the Seahawks to make a sizable leap on defense. Luckily for the star signal-caller, general manager John Schneider just got him a valuable gift in the form of a proven pass rusher.
On Thursday, the Seahawks announced they signed Aldon Smith to a one-year contract. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end returned from a four-year hiatus to start all 16 games for the Cowboys last season. He totaled 48 tackles (five for loss), five sacks, 14 quarterback hits, two passes defended, and two fumble recoveries—one of which he returned 78 yards for a touchdown.
Smith entered the NFL as a first-round pick back in 2011. He established a reputation as one of the league’s most feared sack artists during his time with the San Francisco 49ers. However, Wilson’s old nemesis spent four years away from the game because of suspensions for violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
But after putting together a rock-solid campaign in 2020, Smith has a chance to take his game to another level in 2021. And given some of the other moves the Seahawks have made this offseason, their defense now looks capable of shutting down opposing offenses.
Aldon Smith joins a unit that suddenly boasts scary potential
The addition of Aldon Smith gives Seattle yet another weapon up front. Of course, he represents the latest move to build a strong defensive line.
Earlier this offseason, the Seahawks retained Benson Mayowa—who recorded six sacks and nine quarterback hits on just 50% of the defensive snaps—on a two-year deal. They also signed Kerry Hyder, who parlayed a career-high 8.5 sacks (plus 19 QBH) into a two-year deal that will pay him almost double what he made last season.
Carlos Dunlap and Al Woods also elected to stick around in Seattle. The former still has enough juice in the tank to threaten for eight to 10 sacks. The latter projects to start next to criminally underrated nose tackle Poona Ford.
With a defensive line that suddenly boasts impressive depth, the Seahawks should take a significant step forward on that side of the ball. If that occurs, Russell Wilson and the offense won’t have as much pressure on them. A more balanced team represents a much more difficult challenge for opponents.
Ultimately, if the Seahawks can become a top-10 defense and at least maintain their standing as a top-eight offense, they will be a tough out come playoff time. Perhaps Wilson will erase all the offseason rumors of wanting out once he hoists the Lombardi Trophy again.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.