This is the start of a guest-post series written by Curtis Allen
Players under contract for 2021: Russell Wilson
Players under contract for 2022: Russell Wilson
2021 Cap Commitment: $32,000,000 (18% of $178m cap)
Restricted Free Agents: none
Unrestricted Free Agents: Geno Smith
Exclusive Rights Free Agents: none
Futures Contract Signings: Danny Etling, Alex McGough
Salary Cap Notes:
Russell Wilson signed through 2023 season
-Currently $7m cap hit if cut or traded before 2021 ($39m dead money)
-$11m savings if cut or traded before 2022 ($26m dead money)
-$26m savings if cut or traded before 2023 ($13m dead money)
He has been amenable to a contract restructure to acquire other players in the past
2020 Season Overview
-He started all 16 games for the ninth season in a row. He’s been incredibly durable.
-Wilson had career-highs in passing attempts, touchdowns, first downs and QBR.
-His completion percentage of 68.8 was also a career high.
-He was not supported by his teammates all that well. The team had 27 dropped passes this year — a big increase from the 18 in 2019 and the 17 in 2018. Catch six of those 27 drops and Russell hits the magic 70% completion rate number.
-He also had a career-high in interceptions.
-He was sacked 47 times, his third-worst season to date.
-His rushing and passing yards accounted for 75% of the Seahawks’ offensive yardage in 2020 – about the same as 2019 (74.3%).
The numbers on the whole do not look all that bad but a deeper dive reveals how bewildering a season it was for Russell:
After only three games, he had fourteen touchdowns and only one interception. In the final eight games, he recorded twelve touchdowns and had five interceptions.
Weeks nine and ten might be the worst two game stretch of Russell’s career. In those demoralizing losses the Bills and Rams, Russell was fighting the scoreboard the whole game. The opposing offense ran up 17 points in each game very quickly to put a lot of pressure on the offense.
As a consequence he was sacked eleven times, had an incredible seven turnovers and only two touchdown passes. It was clear that Russell was pressing, constantly hearing pass rush footsteps and trying to do too much. It appeared that defenses had figured out ways to limit this explosive offense.
After those two weeks, Pete Carroll took over the offense and the passing game was significantly reined in.
The offensive play calling and game strategy from then on did not give Russell the best chance for success but even so he constantly seemed to have trouble executing the plays called. He was obviously struggling to find a middle ground between ball security and aggression.
Another factor was the running backs once again missed large chunks of games. Russell was the leading rusher in a full quarter of the games this season and in many others the defense knew they could key on him and not worry about the running game.
In summary, Russell’s year was exhilarating, frustrating and when times were both good and bad, it was far more difficult than it should have been.
The Seahawks have one of the biggest roster assets in the modern game — a franchise quarterback, locked into a contract and in his prime.
One of the strongest points of emphasis for this offseason needs to be, how does he fit this team? And if they deem he is still a fit, how do they assure his continued success?
Offseason Questions to Address
1. Can Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson get on the same page?
It was credibly reported that Russell made a near-ultimatum in the 2020 offseason to let him be more aggressive passing the ball early in the game. The Seahawks apparently heeded the request and the results were amazing to watch early on.
But as the season wore on, the team came back to the more conservative approach that Pete Carroll favors. Carroll then in his season ending press conference dropped two big pieces of information — that he had reined in the offense to limit turnovers and had no problem with low scoring wins. Then he stated his main offensive goal for 2021 was to run the ball more.
The next day Brian Schottenheimer and the Seahawks parted ways, citing ‘philosophical differences’.
It seems evident those differences were in play during the season and Russell was caught in the middle, trying to reconcile them in real time on the field. Absent a consistent running game and above-average pass protection, the results were a seriously mixed bag.
He was trying to run the offense, protect a porous defense and keep two coaches with unaligned principles unified. That is just too many fronts to be fighting a war on. His play evidenced a mental fatigue.
There must be a meeting of the minds some time this offseason. Can Russell and Pete find a middle ground in their choice of offensive coordinator? Can they agree on core concepts that can both inform their personnel choices and get the offense working properly?
When Pete was pontificating about his run heavy philosophy in the end of season conference, he tossed in an offhanded “..and Russ knows this” comment. Pete has definitely thrown the gauntlet down — between his conference and the parting of ways with an offensive coordinator who helped Russell have his best years as a pro.
Russell then had his own press conference, where he expressed (very positively and diplomatically) a different vision for the offense.
Does Russell really understand the depth of Pete’s conviction? He said they’ve talked extensively but have they really had a heart to heart and come to an understanding about the way to offensive success with this team?
If they cannot come to a middle ground, will Russell still want to play within the bounds of Pete Carroll’s coaching?
2. What kind of roster support will the team give Russ?
Let’s assume that Russ is on the team in 2021.
They have several decisions to make at the running back position, and obviously they will affect the play of the quarterback.
Chris Carson is an unrestricted free agent. Do they bring him back? He actually proved to be a weapon in the passing game in 2020 as well. He caught four touchdown passes.
How about the center and left guard positions? They were adequate in 2020 but not sparkling. Would some cap dollars spent there give him better protection against the tough interior defensive lineman in the division and allow them to rein back the insane amount of pressure to be a one-man offense he felt this season?
And what about the defense? It could be argued that with Lockett, Metcalf, Penny, Dissly, and Parkinson and then in adding a top running back like Carson, Russ has weapons on offense, and a more consistent vision and game plan that utilizes the talent already in-house could have just as big an effect as adding new personnel.
Therefore, fortifying the defense could in fact be the most sound roster avenue to pursue when considering how to make your quarterback more successful. A stronger defense would give Russ better field position and not put the offense in giant holes to dig out of.
3. What does Russ want?
As a rookie his focus was clear, his intentions were direct and obvious. Success at whatever cost. The only phrase he uttered more often than ‘go hawks’ was ‘no time to sleep’ and ‘the separation is in the preparation.’
It is not easy to reconcile that mindset with what he presents now. The public parts of his life outside of football have grown higher and higher in profile and he seems enamored with them.
There is no questioning he is entitled to a personal life, as we all are. But it’s not unfair to wonder out loud if the volume of content he shows the public is affecting his focus on football.
He recently commented that ‘every minute of his life is scheduled during the regular season.’ Is that healthy and productive?
In 2020 the phrases he talked about changed. He wants to be the ‘best ever’, he wants to be ‘Montana and Rice’ with D.K. Metcalf and there definitely is a desire to be recognized as an MVP.
Let’s take that comparison and run with it a little.
Does Russ understand that Joe Montana only led the league in touchdown passes twice in his career?
The Niners also frequently ran out a top-10 defense during Montana’s prime.
Montana’s most revered quality isn’t his volume of numbers but his ability to marshal his team down the field and consistently be able to make winning plays in the face of massive pressure – does Russell get that?
Where is this all leading? He wants to win, there’s no doubt about that. He named his newborn son ‘Win’ this year. Does he really want to stay in Seattle and make a legacy here?
Will his preference to run a more up-tempo offense that produces huge numbers outweigh his trust in Pete Carroll to win championships with his chosen style?
He is at the peak of his sport. He speaks of having the ‘most touchdowns passes ever’ and winning the ‘most championships ever’. While lofty goals and ambition are highly desirable qualities to have, he may have to one day soon choose between stats and championships. Which will he choose?
4. How big a factor is Russell’s contract?
The guaranteed salary portion of his contract has completed but the balance of the $65million signing bonus still needs to be accounted for.
If the team were to trade Russell, there would be a balance of $39million in dead money that would hit the 2021 salary cap (or put another way, a $7m cap hit over and above what he is planned for in 2021). This would cut the team’s available cap room down significantly, as well as create a huge roster hole at quarterback.
If Russell decides he cannot play in Seattle in 2021 and requests a trade, the Seahawks would likely have little choice but to honor his request and take the cap hit in order to get max value in return. This would require getting very creative to open the cap room for the hit as well as the salary for his replacement.
What about the Seahawks? How deep is Pete Carroll’s commitment to restoring his vision? Would they be so bold as to take the initiative and trade Russell Wilson away?
Paying a quarterback top wages to run a ball control offense predicated on establishing the run has never made logical sense to many. But Pete has found someone that combines skill with grasping his positive-mentality approach, perhaps more closely than any other player he has ever coached.
Couple that with the fact he has had so much success with Russell, it would appear unlikely that he would initiate such a radical change to the roster at this stage.
But then, trading two first-round picks for a strong safety appeared very unlikely last year, and here we are.
Rob’s thoughts on this draft class and potential Seahawks targets
I think this is a reasonable class of quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence will go first overall and Zach Wilson and Justin Fields will also go shortly after.
The second tier has talent but question marks. Stanford’s Davis Mills has the big recruiting reputation from a few years ago. Everyone wanted him and his physical profile is seriously underrated. Not many quarterbacks with his frame run a 4.32 short shuttle and jump a 32 inch vertical.
He’s exactly the type of player pro teams covet. Accurate, can make every throw and poised. Don’t be surprised if he goes a lot earlier than people are currently projecting.
Trey Lance had a great 2019 season and has the movement skills and the ability to thrown downfield on the run that is very popular in the NFL these days. Yet his only game in 2020 was a clunker and teams will have to balance out his potential vs reality.
Kellen Mond has fantastic arm strength and can flick the ball downfield with great velocity and little back-lift. There’s a bit of Colin Kaepernick to his frame — although he’s nowhere near as fast as Kaepernick when running. He was a much more consistent player in 2020 and took a big step forward. He has talent.
Mac Jones was prolific for Alabama but he was also surrounded by elite college talent. Whether he has the physical upside to go as early a some are suggesting remains to be seen. He doesn’t have a huge arm and throwing into tighter windows will be a chore at the next level. Yet he can manage an offense and distribute the ball with timing.
For more on the draft please check out my interview with NC State’s Alim McNeill:
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