SEATTLE — Even with their typically patient approach during the early negotiating window and not much in the way of cap space, the Seattle Seahawks got quite a bit done over the first week and a half of free agency.
Their trade for guard Gabe Jackson gives them a needed upgrade to their offensive line, while the re-signing of Ethan Pocic gives them a solid starting option at center. They added offensive firepower with tight end Gerald Everett and got Chris Carson back on a team-friendly deal by waiting out the slow market for running backs.
They brought back two defensive linemen in Benson Mayowa and Poona Ford, added another in Kerry Hyder Jr. and signed cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon as an option to replace Shaquill Griffin, their most significant departure.
And with the help of some of those moves, the Seahawks turned down the temperature a few degrees on the Russell Wilson situation.
As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported, Wilson and Pete Carroll have had positive communication in recent days, with one source saying the coach is hearing his quarterback’s concerns.
There is still a long way to go to repair the strained relationship between Wilson and the organization. After all, his frustrations go well beyond one or two players, and the way he publicly aired them last month led to upset feelings inside the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. But the two sides seem to be in a better place than they were two weeks ago.
Adding Jackson and Everett was a nice start.
The Seahawks traded for Jackson after a serious run at Kevin Zeitler fell short. Wilson lobbied hard for Zeitler, his college teammate at Wisconsin, but he chose a three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens instead. The Seahawks then turned their attention to Jackson and acquired him for a fifth-round pick after the Las Vegas Raiders declined to release him.
Barring a restructure or an extension, the Seahawks are inheriting the remaining two years and $19.2 million on Jackson’s contract, none of which is guaranteed. While that’s a move the Seahawks might have made without public pressure from Wilson — they had a hole at left guard — it’s a unusually pricey addition for an organization that hasn’t signed another team’s free agent for more than $9 million APY under its current regime. Plus, giving up the fifth-rounder leaves Seattle with three selections — a second, fourth and seventh — in April’s draft.
Either way, it’s an answer to Wilson’s call for better pass protection. Jackson ranks 18th in ESPN’s pass block win rate as a guard over the past two seasons. Pro Football Focus did not attribute a single sack to Jackson last season.
Bringing back Pocic probably doesn’t excite Wilson as much as Jackson, but the $3 million they’re giving him is not the type of commitment that suggests he’s assured of starting in 2021 after a solid first season at center. It suggests they could continue to look — albeit with limited resources — for someone to compete for that job.
Everett’s ties to offensive coordinator Shane Waldron from their four years together with the Los Angeles Rams made him a logical free-agent target for Seattle. He gives Wilson an athletic weapon who should help with the short-to-intermediate passing game that wasn’t there for the Seahawks’ offense during its decline late last season. Everett’s 5.88 yards after catch last year was third-best among tight ends, according to ESPN charting.
And while every move need not be viewed by how much it will appease Wilson, it’s worth noting he was encouraging Carson to return once the down market for running backs made that more realistic.
The Seahawks added a voiding year to Carson’s deal and several others to help with their tight 2021 salary-cap situation. They could clear more cap space by restructuring Wilson’s deal and/or linebacker Bobby Wagner‘s. That would add to the already-whopping amount of dead money the Seahawks would incur by trading Wilson, making it more financially punitive to do so and thus seemingly less likely — at least this year.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last week the Chicago Bears made a “very aggressive pursuit” of Wilson but were told Seattle is not trading him at this time. Even if the Seahawks revisited that possibility this offseason, several roadblocks remain in addition to the disincentive of the dead money.
The landscape has changed since Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, told Schefter last month the quarterback would only waive his no-trade clause for four teams if Seattle were to deal him.
One of those four teams, the Dallas Cowboys, have since extended Dak Prescott. The Raiders were on that list in part because of a loaded offensive line that they’ve since dismantled. The Bears already swung and missed on a Wilson trade. The New Orleans Saints might be the only team of the four that still appeals to Wilson, but they have significant financial restraints and wouldn’t give the Seahawks a clear path to a long-term replacement at quarterback.
As Fowler reported, Wilson has no immediate plans to expand his list of acceptable trade destinations. He wants to remain with the Seahawks — but in the right situation.
That situation seems to be better than it was before the start of free agency.