Now that Russell Wilson is traded, what will the Seattle Seahawks do at quarterback?

SEATTLE -- Trade Russell Wilson ... and then what?

For the past 13 months, that has been the obvious retort to persistent speculation that the Seattle Seahawks could move on from their star quarterback, a reason to think it was a long shot even with whatever tension lingered from last offseason.

Because if they were to trade Wilson and part with the most important player in franchise history, then what would the Seahawks -- a team that has planned on contending in 2022 -- do at the most important position in football?

"Then what?" became "Now what?" on Tuesday, with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting that Seattle will send Wilson to the Denver Broncos in one of the biggest trades the NFL has ever seen.

And the answer to that question is even less clear now than it would have been this time last year, when the Seahawks -- according to one source -- were closer than many realize to a deal that would have sent Wilson to the Chicago Bears. Trading Wilson then could have positioned Seattle to find his potential replacement in a strong 2021 quarterback draft that saw five signal-callers taken within the first 15 picks.

Trading Wilson now leaves them with a massive void and just as big of a question as to who will fill it.

Because unlike last year, this draft is widely considered to be lacking in top-tier quarterback talent. "Yes and yes" is what one talent evaluator from another team told ESPN late this past season when asked if this year's QB class is as unimpressive as analysts have described it.

Indications both before and after last week's scouting combine have been that the Seahawks aren't sold enough on any of this year's prospects to take them in the first round and have them immediately replace Wilson.

Besides, it's hard to imagine that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll -- who turns 71 in September and has final say on personnel moves -- would be willing to start over with a raw rookie who would need years to develop before being capable of leading the Seahawks to another Super Bowl. That would also run counter to general manager John Schneider's oft-cited credo of wanting to be a "consistent championship-caliber team."

"It's almost like trading Joe Montana," one NFL talent evaluator said last offseason while wondering if the Seahawks would actually move on from Wilson. "You better have Steve Young in your back pocket."

Once the trade with Denver is finalized, the only quarterbacks on Seattle's roster will be Jacob Eason (a third-year developmental prospect who's appeared in one NFL game) and Drew Lock, the 2019 second-round pick the Broncos are sending to Seattle. Lock has a Total QBR below 40 in three NFL seasons while playing with a good supporting cast in Denver, so he hasn't shown nearly enough to convince anyone he's a long-term answer.

Geno Smith, scheduled to be a free agent, showed during three fill-in starts for Wilson last season that he isn't, either.

It all seems to point to the likelihood of another QB shoe dropping in Seattle.

Perhaps the Seahawks explore a trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, pending the results of the 22 civil cases filed against him by women who have accused him of actions ranging from harassment to sexual assault, and the ongoing criminal investigation by Houston Police. Needless to say, there's no guarantee Watson will be available in 2022.

Perhaps Seattle has its eyes on another quarterback in the trade market, such as the Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins, the Las Vegas Raiders' Derek Carr or the Miami Dolphins' Tua Tagovailoa.

But those QBs would represent a massive drop-off from Wilson, who is 33 and should have several prime years remaining, especially given how dedicated he is to maintaining his body. Wilson looked like himself at the end of last season, suggesting that his midseason struggles were the result of his finger injury and not a sign of greater decline.

It's not as though the Seahawks haven't had time to prepare for Wilson's departure. It was clear well before Wilson's frustrations with the organization bubbled to the surface last February that the marriage had hit a rough patch.

But even if Wilson wanted out -- indications are that he did -- would he have really sacrificed his public image and forced Seattle's hand? If the Seahawks were determined to make it work, they probably could have, just like the Green Bay Packers have done with their once-unhappy QB, Aaron Rodgers.

The Seahawks had to have their own motivations for trading Wilson, and a skyrocketing quarterback market is likely near the top of their list. Wilson has two years left on his current deal, meaning he'd be in line next offseason for a massive raise from the $35 million average of his 2019 extension. His next deal would likely cost north of $50 million per year.

Perhaps the Seahawks viewed it as unsustainable to continue to shell out that kind of money while still having enough left over to field a championship-caliber team around him. Before they gave Wilson his first megadeal in 2015, they enjoyed the benefits of his next-to-nothing rookie contract for three seasons. That might been part of the reason they showed pre-draft interest in Patrick Mahomes in 2017 and Josh Allen a year later, and one team source believes the Seahawks would have taken Mahomes had he fallen to them.

Between the money and the strained relationship, trading Wilson never really seemed out of the question for the Seahawks. The surprise is that it's happening now, in an offseason in which there is no clear path to a viable replacement.

So now what?