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February 28, 2022

Should the Eagles trade for Russell Wilson?

Eagles NFL
022422RussellWilson Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

The Philadelphia Eagles are going to continue to be rumored suitors for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson until he's either traded somewhere else, or both he and the team jointly make an emphatic statement that he will remain in Seattle in 2022.

And so, let's take an in-depth look at what Wilson is as a player at this stage of his career, and whether or not the Eagles should trade for him. 

Is Russell Wilson still an elite quarterback?

Wilson is 33. He'll turn 34 at the end of November. As such, one sentiment that arose after the Seahawks' disappointing 7-10 season in 2021 is that Wilson is in decline, or more strongly, that he's "cooked." 

His numbers say otherwise, but I was curious to see what his play actually looked like last season, so I watched his first five games, before he suffered an injury to the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand. A quick review of each game:

Week 1: Seahawks 28 at Colts 16: 18 for 23, 254 yards (11.0 YPA), 4 TDs, 0 INT

As you can see from the stats, Wilson was extremely efficient as a passer. He only attempted 23 passes, as the Seahawks led the Colts almost the entirety of the game by multiple scores. With 51 seconds left in the first half facing a 2nd and 20 from his own 31, Wilson uncorked a nice 69-yard bomb to Tyler Lockett for a back-breaking score.

Does Jalen Hurts even attempt that throw?

Wilson also was on target for three other TD passes, and looked a whole lot like the same elite quarterback he has always been.

Week 2: Titans 33 at Seahawks 30: 22 for 31 for 343 yards (11.1 YPA), 2 TDs, 0 INTs

Wilson's numbers looked great in this game, and the Seahawks put up 30 points, but it wasn't a flawless performance by any stretch. On the plus side, Wilson connected on a pretty 51-yard moon ball deep down the field to Lockett that led to a score, and he found Freddie Swain on a busted coverage for a 68-yard TD. On the downside, he missed an open Lockett for what should have been a TD in the first quarter, and he took a bad sack in overtime that was nearly a safety.

Seattle's offensive line was handled by Tennessee's front for most of this game both in pass protection and run blocking. Wilson has a no-trade clause, so he could block a trade to Philly. The Eagles' biggest appeal to Wilson on the "no trade clause" front will be that Philly's offensive line is substantially better than Seattle's O-line, and would probably be the best line he has ever played behind. This game serves as a prime example of Wilson's reported frustration with the Seahawks' roster.

Week 3: Seahawks 17 at Vikings 30: 23 for 32, 298 yards (9.3 YPA), 1 TD, 0 INTs

Wilson started out hot, leading scoring drives on each of the Seahawks' first three drives. It would have been the first four drives if not for a missed field goal. He was accurate to all parts of the field, and made it look easy. The Seahawks' first half drives looked like so: 

  1. Touchdown
  2. Field goal
  3. Touchdown
  4. Missed field goal
  5. End of half (Seattle took possession deep in their own end with only 16 seconds)

In my opinion, Wilson was better in this game than the 17 points on the scoreboard might indicate. The Vikings completely controlled the ball in the second half against a Seahawks defense that absolutely sucked, as they had 16-, 11-, and 12-play drives that all ended in scores. Those three drives took up almost 21 minutes, and the Vikings held the ball for over 23 minutes total in the second half.

Offensively, Wilson's receivers had a chance to make some plays in the second half that didn't get made, and they punted for some idiotic reason on a 4th and 7 from their 43 in the fourth quarter down by 10 points. 

Week 4: Seahawks 28 at 49ers 21: 16 for 23, 149 yards (6.5 YPA), 2 TDs, 0 INTs

The Seahawks' offense started out ice cold against the Niners, as they didn't get their first first down of the game until there were four minutes left in the second quarter. Once again, the Seahawks' offensive line struggled.

They heated up in the second half, with Wilson leading three consecutive TD drives to put the game away.

The first culminated with a Wilson 16-yard TD run. Through the first four games, Wilson only really ran when necessary, but as that TD run showed he still has that in his arsenal.

The second TD was on this ridiculous play in which he spun out of a sack, located a receiver, and put the ball in a spot outside of the linebacker (51) trailing the play. This is outstanding ball placement under duress.

Soooo, yeah, he can still make plays like that.

Week 5: Rams 26 at Seahawks 17: 11 for 16, 152 yards (9.5 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT

This was the game during which Wilson injured his finger. We'll get to that in a moment.

Before he got hurt, Wilson committed his lone turnover of the season, when a second quarter pass to Lockett was batted into the air and picked off by Troy Reeder. This isn't a bad decision or an egregiously bad throw:

As the above tweet noted, that unlucky INT broke a 185-pass attempt streak without being picked. Up until that point in the season, Wilson had no fumbles lost, and no INTs.

Still, Wilson had the Seahawks in position to take a 14-3 lead with this throw over the linebacker and in between two defensive backs while moving to his left in the pocket.


Great pocket presence, great throw. Unfortunately, it was negated by a holding penalty, and then the Seahawks missed a field goal.

In the third quarter, Wilson's finger came into contact with Aaron Donald, causing a misfire on a throw down the field, and a rather gross injury.

He stayed in the game for one more play, before giving way to Geno Smith. 

Wilson's stats, pre-injury: 90 of 125 (72%) for 1,196 yards (9.6 YPA), 10 TDs, 1 INT, 125.3 QB rating. He looked every bit like the elite quarterback he has been over the course of his career, if not better. 

After Wilson injured his finger, he had surgery and missed the next three games, the first missed games of his 10-year career. His timeline for recovery was six-to-eight weeks, but he returned after only four. That was probably ill-advised, as Wilson had not yet fully recovered, and it showed in his play. 

Here are Wilson's numbers in 2021, broken up by his first five games (pre-injury), the two games he played when he should have been letting his finger heal, and the last five games of the season, which represents the timeframe that includes all games that were six-plus weeks after he got hurt:

Russell Wilson Comp-Att (Comp %) Yards (YPA) TD-INT Rating 
First 5 games (pre-injury) 90-125 (72.0%) 1196 (9.6) 10-1 125.3 
Next 2 games (not fully healed) 34-66 (51.5%) 368 (5.6) 0-2 55.6 
Last 7 games (6+ weeks after injury) 135-209 (64.6%) 1549 (7.4) 15-3 104.7 

Unless you're of the belief that Wilson's finger injury is going to hamper him the rest of his career, there isn't a strong argument that Wilson's career is in some sort of decline, much less "cooked."

As for the games I watched, Wilson's attributes were mostly stellar, as they have been over the course of his career.

Accuracy: Before he got hurt, Wilson was completing 72 percent of his passes. Many of the incompletions were throwaways either out of bounds or into the dirt on screen plays. In 2020, he completed 68.8 percent of his passes. These aren't Sam Bradford dink-and-dunk high completion numbers, as Wilson takes his fair share of shots down the field and is willing to "throw covered receivers open."

When his throws require touch, Wilson can feather them in to his receivers. When they require some heat to the intermediate parts of the field, he can whistle them into tight windows. If there's one area where Wilson would be a drastic upgrade from Hurts, it's here. 

Decision making: Wilson ranks seventh all time in INT percentage, as just 1.8 percent of his career passes have been picked off. The six quarterbacks above him are an interesting mix:

 QuarterbackINT % 
 Aaron Rodgers1.3% 
Patrick Mahomes1.6% 
Tyrod Taylor 1.6% 
Dak Prescott 1.7% 
Colin Kaepernick 1.8% 
Tom Brady 1.8% 
Russell Wilson 1.8% 

Of that group, only Mahomes has a higher yards per attempt average, which is further evidence that Wilson has been able to limit interceptions while also pushing the ball down the field.

Pocket presence / Get out of trouble: If you were to try to come up with a list of quarterbacks in the history of the NFL who have been adapt at escaping pressure and making off-schedule plays, Wilson would be near the top of any list. But it's his pocket presence that has evolved over time. In his 2021 games that I watched, Wilson made subtle moves in the pocket and only looked to flee when necessary. In other words, he doesn't just bail at the first sign of pressure, like he did at times early in his career, and will continue to go through his progressions.  

Arm strength: Wilson is widely regarded as having one of the strongest arms in the NFL. I thought this was an interesting look at his mechanics, as his power comes from his upper body:

Mobility: In 2021, Wilson ran less than he ever has in his career. He attempted 3.1 rushing attempts per game, which was down from his previous career average of 5.6 rushing attempts per game. He can still run, but isn't as reliant on that ability as he was earlier in his career.

You're not going to call many designed runs with Wilson like you might with Hurts, but as long as Wilson represents a threat to keep the ball on RPOs, that's all the Eagles would really need from him in order to effectively run a number of concepts in Nick Sirianni's playbook.

It's also worth noting here that if his running ability begins to erode away, Wilson is already a great pocket passer who should age well.

Poise: I don't necessarily love this stat, but Wilson is 17th all-time with 32 "game winning drives." If he is able to play another five seasons and stay on his current pace of around three game winning drives per season, he'll be in the top 5 by the time his career is over.

But beyond that stat, we've all seen Wilson and the Seahawks play, right? Is there a team that has been involved in more crazy games? Wilson has consistently demonstrated his competitiveness and ability to win close games.

Durability: Before injuring his finger in 2021, Wilson had never missed a game. Including the playoffs, he had played in 165 consecutive games, the fifth-longest streak for a quarterback in NFL history.

If you don't want to take it from me, prior to the 2021 season, an ESPN panel rated NFL quarterbacks in various attributes, and Wilson ranked in the top 5 in almost every category.

 AttributeWilson's rank 
 Arm strength
Field vision 
Decision making 
Compete level 
Pocket presence 
Designed run Outside of top 10 
Second-reaction ability 

There's little question that Wilson is an elite quarterback, and would be a major upgrade over Hurts.

No-trade clause

We covered this topic in a mailbag a couple of weeks ago, but I'll save you the click and paste what we wrote here. For those of you who are unaware, Wilson has a no-trade clause, so he has some control over where he'll play in 2022.

A year ago, Wilson's agent leaked a list of four teams that Wilson would waive his no-trade clause for. They were the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders and Bears.

First, let's look at each of those teams:

• Cowboys: Dallas signed Dak Prescott to a four-year contract extension a couple weeks after that report came out. Cross them off the list.

• Saints: This time a year ago, the Saints maybe looked like a team that had one last run left in them. But with Sean Payton gone, I can't imagine they're as appealing to Wilson as they were then. Plus, their roster has continued to age, and they have major cap concerns. They are a descending team.

• Raiders: The Raiders went through a crazy season in which the head coach got fired, the interim head coach did a good job and he too got fired, and now Josh McDaniels is in place. Who knows how that may have changed things. Plus, Derek Carr is a top 12-ish kind of quarterback. Would they even be interested in Wilson?

• Bears: A few months after that report emerged, the Bears used four draft picks (including a pair of first-round picks) to select Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. While Fields did not have a good rookie season, it's hard to imagine they'd pony up a bunch of first-round picks (that they don't even have anyway) to acquire another quarterback. You can cross them off the list.

So if Wilson truly wants out of Seattle, he'll have to expand his list of acceptable landing spots beyond those four teams. This time last year, you can understand why the Eagles weren't on that list. They had just come off a 4-11-1 season after which they fired their head coach, their roster was in disarray, and they had major cap issues.

Fast forward a year and the Eagles maybe don't look so bad anymore:

  1. They have a player-friendly head coach who coaxed a 9-8 season out of an inconsistent second-year quarterback.
  2. They have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, which would easily be the best line Wilson has ever played behind, at least on paper.
  3. They still have work to do at the skill positions, but DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert are a good start, and the Eagles will be able to spend in free agency this offseason for the first time in a while.
  4. Philly is a big market where football is king.

It's reasonable to believe the perception of the Eagles has changed for a player like Wilson over the last calendar year. The other teams who have been mentioned as potentially appealing to Wilson are the Broncos and the Giants. Denver is a smaller market than Philly (without an obviously better roster), and the Giants have a 22-59 (0.272) record over the last five seasons, worst in the NFL. 

Is it the right time for the Eagles to make a big move for a quarterback like Wilson?

It'd be nice if the Eagles had some sort of star-studded defense and a loaded offense, which would make a trade for a player like Wilson a no-brainer. But that's not what the Eagles are currently. They have their share of holes.

Then again, uh, SO DOES EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE NFL, a league so ruled by parity that the Bengals went 6-25-1 in 2019 and 2020, and then nearly won a Super Bowl in 2021.

As noted above in the "Why should Wilson want to come to Philly" section, the Eagles have enough talent in place to justify taking a big swing on a player like Wilson, especially given the current landscape of the NFC. 

The AFC is loaded with great, young quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, and Lamar Jackson. The NFC? Not so much. Who are the quarterbacks in the NFC who are better than Wilson? Aaron Rodgers, whose future in Green Bay is in doubt, and... ???

But also, the Eagles have the ammo to go get a guy like Wilson... right now. If you can check "elite quarterback" off of your team needs list, that's kind of a big deal. By comparison, filling the other glaring needs is easy. How often do opportunities come around to add a top 5 quarterback?

Can the Eagles even afford Wilson under their cap?

Yep. The Eagles would be responsible for Wilson’s $19 million salary in 2022, and a $5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the new league year, assuming a deal would get done before then.

They would need $19 million of cap space to bring him onto the roster, but could then immediately convert almost all of his salary into a signing bonus and then spread that money on the cap over the next five years. The Eagles currently have $16,081,404 in cap space, according to the NFLPA's daily salary cap report, but they could easily make room.

Wilson actually has a very team-friendly contract for any acquiring team.

So what's fair compensation for Wilson?

If the NFC is seemingly wide open for a team like the Eagles to compete for a Super Bowl, then it's wide open for a team like the Seahawks, too. It's also probably worth noting here that because the Rams just won a Super Bowl after trading for Matthew Stafford, the price for a veteran quarterback via trade is probably on the rise. So it's not as if the Seahawks are going to give him away.

Last week, Colin Cowherd suggested a cost of four first-round picks, plus Darius Slay, for Wilson:

No. Obviously, that's dumb. Nobody is doing that.

But let's say the Eagles were to construct a trade that looked like this:

  1. Two of their three first-round picks in 2022.
  2. A conditional second-round pick in 2023 that can become a first-round pick if the Eagles make the playoffs (which would guarantee that the pick would be no better than 19th overall).
  3. Some player sprinkles, like Andre Dillard, Jalen Reagor, Gardner Minshew, etc.
But they could be three great starters in the draft, right? Eh, maybe if you're very lucky, but more likely not.

If the Seahawks like Jalen Hurts and think of him as a potential starter worth continued development, then maybe he's included and the draft pick compensation isn't quite as high.

The Eagles would still have a full slate of picks in 2022, and one missing pick in 2023. With the salary cap set to rise substantially in 2023, you could also theoretically attract free agents to come to Philly with a star quarterback in place.

I think that if you're Howie Roseman, you do that deal and secure your spot in the playoffs each year for the next half decade, with a chance to get back to the Super Bowl if you can score enough hits on surrounding pieces in the draft and in free agency.

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