It remains too early to know how quarterback Russell Wilson’s long-term future will play out in Seattle. It’s not too early to identify the potential outcomes.
On the surface, there are three options for the Seahawks and Wilson beyond 2015: (1) new multi-year contract with Seattle; (2) exclusive franchise tag, which prevents him for entertaining offers elsewhere; and (3) non-exclusive franchise tag, which allows another team to sign Wilson to an offer sheet, and to give up two first-round picks if the offer sheet isn’t matched.
There’s also a fourth option. The Seahawks could trade Wilson.
A trade on or before the 2015 deadline for doing so is highly unlikely; with the offseason programs concluded, it would be too hard for Wilson’s new team to get the most out of him. It also would be too hard for the Seahawks to prepare another quarterback, whether it’s a quarterback on the roster or someone who would be signed or, in theory, acquired via a Wilson trade.
Making a trade before October even less likely is the reality that, before the two sides would divorce, they’d have to want that outcome. They’re not there yet, and there’s no reason to think they’ll be there before the trade deadline.
But they could be there by February. If ongoing discussions (discussions that could be continuing as soon as this week) fail to result in a long-term deal, the Seahawks could opt for a trade of Wilson over mere placement of the non-exclusive tender and acceptance of a pair of first-round picks from whichever team convinces Wilson to sign.
Here’s how it likely would unfold. The Seahawks would apply the exclusive franchise tag, preventing another team (like the Rams, a division rival) from pursuing Wilson. The Seahawks then could shop Wilson, simultaneously controlling his next destination and seeking compensation other than a pair of first-round picks.
They could seek more than two first-round picks. (If Robert Griffin III was worth three ones and a two, what is Wilson worth?) The Seahawks could seek the first overall pick from whichever team earns it, if there’s a clear-cut franchise quarterback emerging in the 2016 draft. They could try to get a veteran quarterback as part of the package.
And that’s where it gets very intriguing. Three and a half decades after the Raiders and Oilers swapped Ken Stabler and Dan Pastorini, the Seahawks could send Wilson to another team for its starting quarterback.
Plenty of teams would consider that. From Seattle’s perspective, the challenge would become finding the right fit for the offense — and for the short-term and long-term interests of the franchise.
In the end, Wilson would get what he wants, a contract making him the highest-paid player in the game. And the Seahawks actually could end up with an arguably “better” quarterback who is willing to accept less money in order to pursue championships and to cement his own NFL legacy.