It's silly season in the NFL and Colin Cowherd sent the Seahawks stratosphere into a tizzy with a five-minute radio segment on Wednesday.
Cowherd, a radio host on FOX Sports Radio, relayed a rumor he'd been told through the entertainment agent world that involved Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
The whole segment is embedded below:
Let's breakdown exactly what Cowherd said and what it could ultimately suggest.
-- "The rumor I'm going to tell you about... I was told this yesterday. This is happening in the entertainment agent world. Everybody will deny it. It's not good to be out now, but Russell Wilson's wife is Ciara. She is a singer and an entertainer. She would prefer to live in New York. And the Giants need a quarterback and there's nobody in the draft they love. So just remember this. A lot of things add up."
Cowherd acknowledges right from the outset that it's a rumor he is passing along. So take it with a grain of salt. Additionally, he will go on to say "I'm not saying it's going to happen" at least four separate times during the discussion.
Now he tries to put the rumor into a construct.
-- "Last year of Russell's contract. His wife would prefer New York. Seattle is not an entertainment mecca. The Giants need a star quarterback to replace Eli (Manning). ... Also, Russell Wilson, good looking guy, classy guy, incredibly marketable and entirely buried in the Pacific Northwest. And the Giants also have an offensive head coach. Not a 66-year old defensive head coach (Pete Carroll). Now Seattle could franchise (tag) Russell. But that would mean you're paying him $31 million a year. Would Pete Carroll, in that division, which I'm arguing now is the best division in football, certainly in the argument. You want to pay your quarterback $31 million a year and not be able to sign other important players?"
Cowherd never once says "Wilson wants to get to New York." The entire premise is based off his wife wanting to live in New York. That may or may not be the case, but it's important to note this rumor is not stating a desire from Wilson to leave Seattle.
Next, we'll look at the contract front. Wilson is scheduled to make $17 million in the final year of his contract with the Seahawks in 2019. Seattle can then franchise Wilson for a reasonable number in each of the next two years. He would count $30.34 million on the franchise tag in 2020 and $36.41 million in 2021. Those are certainly lofty numbers, but they are in line with the top of the quarterback market. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins each signed new deals in 2018. Rodgers' deal averages $33.5 million a year, Ryan's averages $30 million a year and Cousins' deal averages $28 million but is fully guaranteed.
Bottom line is that as long as Seattle wants Wilson, they can keep him regardless of what Wilson or his wife desire. The one caveat would be if Wilson elected to go the Le'Veon Bell route and sit out a whole season to reach free agency instead of playing under the franchise tag. It would be quite surprising to see Wilson elect to follow that path instead of playing.
One additional thing that could complicate the picture is that the current CBA between the NFL and Players' Association is set to expire at the end of the 2020 season. The next CBA could carry an entirely different financial structure that could change the scope of what a contract will look like moving into the future. Trying to project what that system will look like two years out is an impossible task to project.
-- "I'm not saying it's going to happen. I'm saying stuff I hear... this stuff starts behind the scenes with agents. And I'm not saying it's going to happen but I'm saying one of the things that's fairly remarkable to me is that in America the two biggest stars in sports are NBA stars and quarterbacks.... Seahawks want to pay $31-32 (million) and franchise him? Wives have power in relationships. Russell's got his Super Bowl. You know we always talk about professional athletes and Russell is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Don't kid yourself. He's Steve Young. He's a right-handed, shorter, Steve Young. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. ... There's a lot of things that add up here. Final year of his deal. Wife. Giants need a starter to replace Eli. Marketability somewhat wasted in Seattle. Giants have an offensive head coach. And that appears to be kind of the future of the NFL. I'm not saying it's going to happen. I'm saying when I hear these things I come out on my show and tell you I hear these things. I think it's an interesting proposition."
What the Giants need is a moot point. Why should the Seahawks care what the Giants need? It's like the old "Felix Hernandez needs to be traded to the Yankees" stories during Hernandez's prime. It's not another team's destiny to fulfill the roster need of a New York based team because they're in New York. The Giants have needed a quarterback to replace Manning for at least three years now and haven't come close to doing so. Cowherd also makes the point of the Giants having an "offensive head coach" in Pat Shurmur. Is Shurmur even a good coach though? Hue Jackson is an offensive coach. Ask the Browns how that went for them an their rising star Baker Mayfield. Shurmur was a head coach once in Cleveland too and that didn't work out then either.
Also, Wilson is absolutely not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Not yet. He's never been a first- or second-team All-Pro selection in any of his seven seasons in the NFL. Maybe he gets there eventually but he's not yet. But that's aside from the point.
-- "I would love to see Aaron (Rodgers), Russell Wilson... there's nothing worse than seeing a superstar quarterback that's got a bad O-line, that's running for his life, that doesn't have the coach... you don't get many Russell Wilsons. You don't get many Aaron Rodgers. You don't get many Tom Bradys. You don't get many Joe Montanas and Big Bens."
He's right. You don't get many Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Ben Roethlisberger-type quarterbacks. So why the heck would the Seahawks willfully trade one of those away? Wilson is the only successful quarterback draft pick the team has had in its 43-year history. Dave Krieg (undrafted), Jim Zorn (free agent) and Matt Hasselbeck (trade) all came to Seattle through other avenues. It's not like they can just snap their fingers and conjure a replacement like it's nothing.
Beyond Seattle, franchise quarterbacks don't change teams without extenuating circumstances either. It just doesn't happen. Drew Brees (San Diego to New Orleans) and Peyton Manning (Indianapolis to Denver) were coming off serious injuries and their teams had replacements in place (Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck). Brett Favre moved to Minnesota but the Packers had Rodgers in waiting and had dealt with Favre wavering on retirement for multiple season. Joe Montana moved to Kansas City but Steve Young was waiting in the wings. Teams don't let top-tier quarterback go elsewhere.
The closest example is probably Carson Palmer when he moved from Cincinnati to Oakland in 2011 after demanding a trade. However, the Bengals were coming off a 4-12 season that year and it took Palmer "retiring" and holding out until October before a deal was made.
Cousins moved from Washington to Minnesota after reaching free agency after two years on the franchise tag, but he's not the same tier of player as Wilson and the other names discussed here. Wilson could certainly use the Cousins playbook to eventually reach free agency, however, as his franchise tag amount in 2022 would be a whopping $52.43 million. If he really wanted the option to move, he could do it that way but that's three years from now.
-- "I'm not saying it's going to happen. I'm saying a discussion was had in the agent world."
The most interesting aspect of the Cowherd rumor is to just use the idea as a way to discuss the most reasonable way Wilson could eventually go elsewhere if it's what he truly desires. The specific rumor Cowherd describes is incredibly flimsy. It's why he couched it so many times. The Seahawks have a say in the matter. They don't have a quarterback to replace Wilson. They have the ability to pay him a market contract too.
But it's mid-February and the NFL is in one of its quietest stretches of the year, so rumors like the one Cowherd put out keep in the NFL at the forefront of discussion.
Photo Credit: ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 05: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes the ball against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half during the Wild Card Round at AT&T Stadium on January 05, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)