With free agency approaching (March 14), we're analyzing the quarterback position on the Seattle Seahawks:
2018 cap hits of top returnees:
Russell Wilson -- $23.8 million
Trevone Boykin -- $555,000
Pending free agents: Austin Davis
Key stat: Wilson either threw or ran for all but one of Seattle's 38 offensive touchdowns in 2017. Of his league-high 34 TD passes, a whopping 19 came in the fourth quarter (a new NFL record, per the Elias Sports Bureau) while only four came in the first quarter. Those stats illustrate two of the odder and more pronounced trends of the Seahawks' season: (a) their offense was disproportionately reliant on Wilson and the passing game; and (b) Wilson struggled in the first quarter yet was nearly unstoppable in the fourth. Another stat worth mentioning: zero. Including playoffs, Wilson hasn't missed a game since he entered the league in 2012.
Money matters: Wilson's $87.6 million extension has become a relative bargain in the three years since it was signed. The key word there is "relative," as in, relative to recent quarterback contracts. Initially, Wilson's $21.9 million average was second only to Aaron Rodgers. Now it's eighth among quarterbacks who are under contract for 2018 and 10th if you include free agents Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees, who both made more than Wilson's average last season and should top it again on their next deals. Jimmy Garoppolo, he of seven NFL starts, tops the list at $27.5 million. Since 2015, Wilson is third in passer rating (98.9) and fifth in TD/INT ratio (2.97), so no one could reasonably argue that Seattle shouldn't have paid him. But as is the case with every team that has a quarterback (and several other star players) on an expensive contract, paying Wilson has limited what the Seahawks can spend elsewhere. It's why they went with minimum-salary backups at quarterback the past two seasons, among other spots they've filled on the cheap.
Big picture: The Seahawks' current regime is batting 1.000 when it comes to drafting quarterbacks. OK, that's partly because Wilson is the only quarterback to be drafted since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived in 2010. No one would have predicted that given Schneider's upbringing under longtime Packers executive Ron Wolf, who routinely drafted quarterbacks even with Brett Favre entrenched as Green Bay's starter. The Seahawks swung and missed badly when they traded for Charlie Whitehurst in 2010, then they signed Matt Flynn in 2012, giving him what turned out to be $8 million for one season in which he attempted all of nine passes in mop-up duty. That's because Wilson, drafted 75th overall a month after Seattle signed Flynn, beat him out for the starting job. One Super Bowl title, another Super Bowl appearance and five playoff berths later, Wilson's ascension to one of the NFL's top quarterbacks has taken the sting out of the Whitehurst and Flynn missteps.
The game plan: With two seasons left on his contract, Wilson is likely a year away from an extension that could easily top $30 million per season. Anything can happen, but the assumption is that the Seahawks will bite that bullet and pay up. In the meantime, Wilson will have a new offensive coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer) and a new position coach (Dave Canales), marking the first changes he's had at either position in his career. The hope is that those fresh voices will help coax more even performances from Wilson and push his buttons in a way that will get the most out of him. Backup quarterback is a question mark. Boykin is the only one under contract for 2018, and he was so shaky over his first two seasons that it would take a massive jump in Year 3 to envision the Seahawks' offense being in good hands if Seattle needed him to step in for any extended action. Davis, last year's backup, has played for Schottenheimer, making that a potentially good fit. If the Seahawks don't bring him back, another name to keep in mind is Kellen Clemens, a free agent who has extensive experience with Schottenheimer.