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The Seattle Seahawks seem to be in full rebuild mode now. On Tuesday, they erased all remaining vestiges of their Super Bowl history from their roster when they agreed to trade future Hall of Fame quarterback Russell Wilson and informed eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner he’d been released.
Those two moves suggest the Seahawks are waving the white flag on 2022.
They’re not only jettisoning talent but, with the possible loss of left tackle Duane Brown in free agency, this is now a team bleeding leadership on offense and defense.
That’s the view from 30,000 feet, without explanation from coach Pete Carroll or general manager John Schneider.
The Seahawks are shedding talent, and their fans are shedding tears.
But there’s another possibility at work that was making the NFL rumor mill rounds throughout the day. And if it manifests, it would be the difference between the Seahawks playing checkers (and not very well) or engaging in an inspired game of chess for a chance at emerging better than before.
There’s a chance the Seahawks, seemingly en route to a terrible 2022 season, are already planning for 2023 when they might again be a championship contender.
And that chance, admittedly small but not insignificant, is that the Seahawks intend to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
That’s the only way Tuesday’s moves make sense if the Seahawks have intentions of being relevant again by 2023.
That’s right — 2023.
Because even a Watson trade in the next week that makes the former Pro Bowl quarterback Seattle property immediately — assuming he waives his no-trade clause — doesn’t necessarily mean the Seahawks would actually have the quarterback in their lineup at any point next season.
That trade would be done with the full understanding that Watson, tied up with ongoing legal problems that don’t seem to have an end in sight, might not play in 2022. And that’s a serious possibility unless a grand jury investigation, judges in both criminal and civil cases and the looming NFL investigation and possible suspension all go exactly right for Watson.
That’s got to be part of the thinking in making a play for Watson by the time the NFL league year opens at 4 p.m. next Wednesday. The Seahawks would have to agree to take Watson, pay a considerable price to get him, and assume the risk he might not be on the field for a while.
And why would exchanging Wilson now for Watson someday be a net plus for the Seahawks?
Because one quarterback would have a future in Seattle, and the other represents a past whose best days with the team might have come years ago.
Wilson is 33 years old and expecting a big contract extension the Broncos will almost surely give him before the season begins. Watson is 26 years old and under contract through 2025 at a rate that is modest by any elite quarterback standard.
So the scenario the Seahawks could have envisioned in deciding to trade Wilson could have been a choice between keeping an older quarterback who wasn’t happy anymore, hadn’t lifted the franchise to any playoff success beyond the divisional round since 2015, and was going to be out of contract after 2023.
Contrast that to moving on from Wilson, getting enough draft picks to trade for Watson who is younger, is also dynamic, is under contract through 2025, and would obviously welcome a move to a team Wilson desperately wanted to leave.
This would be chess by the Seahawks.
Everything else is checkers.
The idea they could add a draft pick or unproven veteran such as Mitchell Trubisky or perhaps Carson Wentz and succeed with that offensive line is folly. The idea they could find a quarterback in the draft who would seamlessly replace Wilson is wishful thinking.
So we’ll soon see what the Seahawks are doing — playing chess or checkers.