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Talk about a blockbuster trade. Hours after Aaron Rodgers signed the richest contract in NFL history, at least on an annual salary basis, to stay in Green Bay, the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos. The man who once beat Denver in a Super Bowl will now be tasked with winning the franchise’s fourth title. It is a league-altering deal that turns the AFC West into the toughest division in football; maybe even one of the greatest divisions in NFL history. Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr and Wilson will all now face off twice a year. In the era of a 14-team playoff, don’t be shocked if all four teams reach the postseason in 2022.
This move can be described as nothing other than shocking. Trading a franchise quarterback is a massive decision with endless implications and there is no guarantee that you will find another one. Yes, the Seahawks had a down year in 2021. That coincided with a serious injury to Wilson and a general drop off in defensive productivity. Prior to that, Seattle had been to the playoffs all but one season under Wilson and won a Super Bowl back in 2014. They should have won a second in 2015, but we all know what happened there.
Beyond that, finding a franchise quarterback can prove incredibly difficult. Ask the Dolphins. Or Jets. Or Lions. Or Jaguars. Or Giants. Or Browns. You get the point. Moving on from Wilson at 33 years old is a bold move. Perhaps this front office has confidence in itself to find “the next Russell Wilson” so to speak. Wilson was a third-round pick who developed into a star and could very well end his career with a gold jacket. Just a quick reminder though that in 2011, Tavaris Jackson was the Seahawks starting quarterback and the team signed Matt Flynn to start in 2012 before hitting on Wilson.
So how does Seattle move forward without Russell Wilson? The Seahawks acquired Drew Lock as part of the trade with the Broncos. He will join Geno Smith in a very underwhelming quarterback room. As of now, you would expect those two to compete for the starting job in 2022. That being said, the team now has $46 million in cap space and a plethora of draft picks to work with to address the quarterback position.
The problem is, this is one of the worst quarterback classes in recent memory. On the heels of a quarterback class that produced five picks in the first 15 selections, 2022 pales in comparison. Malik Willis turned some heads at the combine, but is still largely a project. Kenny Pickett has the smallest hands of any draft prospect in decades. Matt Corral has some uneven tape and is coming off an ankle injury. Desmond Ridder, Carson Strong, Bailey Zappe and Sam Howell all have some question marks. That doesn’t mean that one of them won’t turn out to be a quality starter, but it’s hard to feel overly confident in the group as a whole.
Free agency also feels unlikely with Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Mitchell Trubisky among the top players on the market. It would probably be better to ride out 2022 with Smith and Lock. Maybe you roll the dice on Winston, but all of them feel like marginal upgrades.
Bottom line, Seattle is unlikely to find its quarterback of the future this year. Here’s the important part: that’s okay! The Seahawks are heading into a rebuild. It has the potential to be a short one, but it will be a rebuild. In a division that boasts the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals, it is hard to pencil Seattle anywhere other than fourth right now. They need to find a pass rusher, depth at receiver, stability on the offensive line and a true No. 1 corner. That’s a lot to do in one year.
However, this added draft capital allows them to restock their roster with young players on affordable contracts. They already landed two talented young players in Noah Fant and Shelby Harris as part of this deal as well. With the No. 9 pick in this draft, Seattle can target an offensive tackle or cornerback. Then, with two first round picks in 2023 (theirs and Denver’s), they can be aggressive in moving up to acquire one of the top prospects in the 2023 draft. Presumably, they will be picking between Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. As of now, they are one of three teams with multiple first-round selections in 2023, joining the Lions and Dolphins.
I know it is way too early to start projecting 2023 draft picks. The point is, there is a path back to relevancy in Seattle that may only take two to three years. It is still a major risk. Heading into this past college football season, Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler and Kedon Slovis all seemed like locks to go in the top 10. Now, one might go at the end of the first round and the other two are still in college after losing their starting jobs. Trying to predict the future can get you in trouble pretty quickly in the NFL. Let’s make it clear: Seattle has two years to find its new franchise quarterback, otherwise this trade is going to go down as a bust.
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