Tank for Trevor. Bungle for Burrow.
Wilt for Wilson? If the Chicago Bears and their fans could suffer through year number 70 of not having an elite quarterback, maybe year number 71 could be fruitful.
By now most fans who follow the NFL, even casually, have heard the big headline: Russell Wilson would waive his no-trade clause to accept a deal to one of four teams. The Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders, or the Chicago Bears (per Adam Schefter) are all potential landing spots; 27 other teams can move forward with other plans for quarterback.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune made an interesting note last week.
The thinking among multiple sources is the Bears have prioritized making a run at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. His agent included the team on a list of four clubs Wilson would approve a trade to, although it hasn’t yet reached the point where he’s asked out.
It’s important for those reporting on this story, putting together mock trades, and generally entertaining the idea of Wilson being traded to consider the dead cap hit for Seattle. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, a division of NBC Sports, summed it all up well when he detailed the enormous strain which a Wilson trade would put on the Seahawks in dead money.
Before June 1, the Seahawks would take a $39 million cap acceleration by trading Wilson. After June 1, the Seahawks would carry $13 million this year and $26 million in 2022.
Yikes. $39 million in money Seattle would have to eat in order to move him. Even with an historic haul in draft capital and Pro Bowl-caliber players on cost-controlled (rookie) deals, that’s setting yourself up for tough salary cap casualties. It would be foolish to state outright that Wilson won’t be moved this offseason, but based on the fact that he hasn’t even asked for a trade, a smart better would probably wait and see before putting money on anywhere other than Seattle for the 8x Pro Bowl quarterback.
If he does play for the Seahawks in 2021, then there could be potential contract restructuring next offseason to ease that $26 million burden off the Seahawks, as our friends over at FieldGulls.com have written about.
If it’s a trade in 2022, though, which of those 4 teams can put together the best trade offer?
Short and sweet, here. Per Adam Schefter, the Cowboys reached a deal with quarterback Dak Precott for four years, $160 million, including $126 million guaranteed, a league record. You can call it the “Russ Race,” the “Wilson Rally,” the “Russweepstakes,” or whatever you want (go ahead and think of a creative one in the comments), but whatever it is, the Cowboys are OUT, even in 2022.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is likely (maybe) retiring, so the Saints will take a step back, right? Not so fast. New Orleans still boasts a rushing game which was top-10 in the league for both yards-per-carry and overall rushing yards in the 2020 season. They led all teams with 30 rushing touchdowns, spear-headed by All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara. They countered this other-worldly running back with a defense which allowed the 4th-fewest points-per-game, so it’s safe to say the Saints weren’t just a team of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas.
They’ll have tough decisions to make in the next few weeks; even with recent contract restructures, they’re still in the red for salary cap and are going to have to let players walk to free agency. As of this writing, they have north of $40 million in cap space to play with next offseason, according to Spotrac. If they try to give a player like Jameis Winston the reigns in 2021 and find themselves back at the drawing board in 2022, they could make an offer for Wilson.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are a dark horse candidate for a Wilson trade, for multiple reasons. For one, they have a quarterback who’s very talented and the team often loses in spite of him instead of the other way around. Derek Carr has made 3 Pro Bowls, he’s been with the team for a bit short of a decade, and he’s never shown any sign he wants to play for another team. For the other part, The Raiders have also affirmed their stance as a team that wants Carr as their quarterback. Their GM supports Carr, coach Jon Gruden has reportedly been unwilling to entertain trade offers for Carr, and the team and city are firmly behind him.
With nothing left guaranteed on his contract after 2021, it’s fair to ask whether the Raiders will look to give Carr another contract to keep him around for longer. Coach Gruden, as a coaching “free agent”, had a popular segment for ESPN titled Gruden’s QB Camp, where he would sit down with quarterbacks preceding the NFL Draft to scout plays, defenses, and situations. If Gruden moved on from Carr, he could be looking for a 23 year old rookie rather than a 33 year old Russell Wilson. However, if Derek Carr had his best season yet, went All-Pro and led the Raiders to the playoffs, then they would have no choice but to extend him for 3-4 more years (at least), right? In this scenario, the Raiders would be OUT in 2022.
Woo hoo, Go Raiders?
Now we get to our loveable Bears, the best team to never have an elite quarterback in the Super Bowl era. Yes the Bears need a quarterback. Yes General Manager Ryan Pace and Coach Matt Nagy will be on the hot-seat in 2021. Yes we’re all sick of talking about this.
But here we are, and a Hall of Fame quarterback is available, but likely not until next offseason. With the Cowboys almost surely out of the race, and the Raiders only potentially in, if the Seahawks put Wilson on the block in 2022 then the Bears can focus on beating the Saints’ offer. That shouldn’t be hard, because the Saints are a loaded team which should draft in the 20s next year. If the Bears suit up a quarterback in 2021 who plays like a typical Bears quarterback, this team could really struggle.
Is this a good idea? It’s certainly not something the Bears should plan on. Tanking is risky, and more often than not it compounds into a team getting worse before it gets better. But at a certain point next year, if Wilson is still with the Seahawks and the Bears are still with nobody, we can start to toy with the idea that the Bears are a top destination for a top-tier quarterback.