Popular author Richard Connell wrote the famous story, “The Most Dangerous Game”, nearly 100 years ago. In that work, Sanger Rainsford tells his friend, Whitney, “The world is made up two classes — the hunters and the huntees.”
The same concept applies to the National Football League, where there are two types of teams: Those in search of a franchise quarterback and those already employing one.
For the first time since they drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, the Seattle Seahawks may need to prepare themselves for the hunt.
Shortly after the Super Bowl, Wilson stirred feelings in the Pacific Northwest by commenting on his role with the franchise. During an interview on the Dan Patrick Show, Wilson said, “I want to be involved. At the end of the day, it’s your legacy, your team’s legacy … It helps to be involved more. That dialogue should happen more often.”
Two days later, Patrick reported on a conversation he had with a team source who said, “Seahawks’ management is not happy with Russell Wilson and his camp for taking this to the media.”
“This”, apparently, was the burgeoning divide between the Seahawks and their franchise quarterback. Wilson’s comments were the opening shots in a battle that has pushed a potential Wilson trade further away from a pipe dream and closer to a reality.
Rumors of the team’s willingness to part with Wilson began in earnest when Seattle discussed trading Wilson to Cleveland for a package highlighted by the no. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. It continued in 2019, when ProFootballTalk published a report questioning Wilson’s interest in playing for Seattle long-term.
Wilson’s potential interest in moving on is simple to understand: Seattle has not done enough to support him. Despite proving himself as one of the league’s best quarterbacks, Wilson is treated like a complementary piece of Seattle’s offense and has been for some time. The Seahawks have focused on the run game as long as Pete Carroll has coached the team, and since Wilson entered the league in 2012, Carroll has expected Wilson to bail his team out when it is in a bind.
Furthermore, no player in NFL history has been sacked more in their first nine pro seasons than Wilson, who has been brought down 394 times in his Seahawks career. Wilson is responsible for some of those sacks, without question, but the bigger issue is Seattle’s indifference to investing in its offensive line.
Per a report from The Athletic, Wilson wants to be a focal point of the Seahawks’ offense, much like the other elite quarterbacks in the league. Wilson has likely seen Kansas City, Green Bay, Baltimore and Buffalo build around their elite or ascendant quarterbacks and would like the same treatment.
Wilson said as much to the people capable of making that very change. During a November 2020 meeting with Seahawks officials, Wilson reportedly provided suggestions to improve Seattle’s sputtering offense and, when they were rejected out of hand by Carroll and the coaching staff, Wilson stormed out of the meeting.
The Feb. 9 interview with Patrick was a chess move by Wilson, a player both acutely aware of, and intensely sensitive to, his public image. Recent speculation among NFL insiders suggests Wilson has a desire to part ways with the Seahawks but does not want the negative attention that would come with forcing a trade.
That ship has sailed. Wilson is passive-aggressively forcing Seattle’s hand and his attempts to look like the good guy are woefully transparent.
Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Wilson has not requested a trade but would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal to the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders or Bears.
This is a bald-faced attempt by Rodgers — and, by extension, Wilson himself — to call Dallas, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Chicago into action. A player’s agent does not float news like this to the most prominent NFL reporter in the country if his client is not angling for a change of scenery.
It is a bad look all around. Seattle is on the hook for misusing Wilson in its offense but Wilson’s hands are just as dirty for bringing this fight to the court of public opinion. Wilson has always come across as someone deeply concerned with his image, and by all outward appearances, he’s trying to make himself look good while forcing Seattle to send him to a team he deems appropriate for his legacy.
A trade shipping Wilson away would not come without precedent, as Carroll’s Seahawks have a history of clashing with their superstar players and, eventually, cutting ties altogether. Richard Sherman was cut four months after rupturing his Achilles tendon. Earl Thomas left in free agency shortly after breaking his left leg in a game against the Cardinals. Now it is Wilson, one of the biggest stars in franchise history, who may be nearing the end of his career in the Emerald City.
Where could Wilson realistically end up? The Jets and Dolphins immediately come to mind thanks to their treasure trove of draft picks, but Wilson’s agent (and, therefore, Wilson himself) never publicly listed either team as a future destination.
The team that most interests me is the Raiders. General manager Mike Mayock is on record saying the team is always looking for upgrades at every position, quarterback included. Jon Gruden’s offense is all about pushing the ball downfield and the coach himself would do back flips if given the opportunity to coach a quarterback like Wilson.
A possible trade package could look like the one Pro Football Focus proposed last week:
QB Russell Wilson
QB Derek Carr
2021 first-round pick (no. 17 overall)
2022 first-round pick
Mayock and Gruden would trip over themselves agreeing to this deal. Las Vegas’ new brain trust has made the Raiders surprisingly competent and the addition of Wilson would allow Gruden’s team to immediately compete with the division-rival Chiefs. The Raiders would also be well-positioned in the developing AFC arms race that already features Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson (for now), Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, as well as future potential stars Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence.
Unlike Connell’s well-known story, the game Wilson and the Seahawks play will end with both participants sleeping comfortably in their own beds. Whether Wilson’s is in Seattle, Las Vegas, or somewhere else remains to be seen.