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QB Wilson, Seahawks on odd course

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The Sports Xchange

One of the more intriguing stories is developing in Seattle around quarterback Russell Wilson, and the result of it could affect the balance of power in the NFL.

Clearly, the two-time NFL champion Seahawks, whose roster is fairly young, are poised to remain one of the league’s big boys for some time to come.

And just as clearly, if they suddenly find themselves needing to replace their starting quarterback, all bets are off.

Wilson is headed into his contract year and, while much can happen between now and any deadline in 2016, the hints coming from both sides do not seem like the usual dance between NFL teams and a franchise quarterback.

Hard to believe there is any question about his future, given what Wilson has done in his brief NFL career. But there is.

Each side has made comments that, taken at face value, could be cause for discomfort — Wilson’s public comments about wanting to play baseball, which could just be a negotiation play, and general manager John Schneider’s comments about football being the “ultimate team sport” and needing to keep the roster together. Those are usually code phrases for not “overpaying” one player.

Of course, what constitutes overpaying depends on your point of view.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have left money on the table to enable their teams to make other moves that might have been more difficult because of the NFL’s salary cap.

One whispered suggestion in the NFL is that will be more difficult with Wilson because his agent specializes in baseball, not football players, and might not have a good enough feel for the way things work in the NFL.

But without getting into a lot of numbers, the mere thought that a two-time Super Bowl quarterback might be allowed to leave a team in the prime of his career is a whole new concept for the NFL.

Wilson, despite his success in his first three NFL seasons, apparently is still not looked on as a “franchise” quarterback. There is his lack of size, the fact his team’s offense leans more heavily on running back Marshawn Lynch (although, of course, it did not do that in the waning moments of the last Super Bowl) and, even moreso, because the Seahawks are considered a team led by a dynamic defense, not an offense.

Flip side, of course, is that Wilson’s career passer rating, 98.6, would rank second all-time (behind Aaron Rodgers) if he had thrown enough passes to qualify for the rankings, and that his TD-to-interception ratio of more than 3-to-1 is better than both Brady and Manning.

At any rate, while the Seahawks are arguably rolling the dice if they allow Wilson to play out his contract this season, they still retain the ultimate leverage, albeit an expensive one, in the form of the franchise player designation.

It is impossible to find, in recent history, a Super Bowl quarterback in the prime of his career facing an uncertain future. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was allowed to play out his rookie deal in 2012 and parlayed a brilliant post-season into the Super Bowl MVP award and huge new contract. But Flacco had not taken his team to the Super Bowl prior to that contract year, whereas Wilson has done it twice, winning one championship.

Which leads to a natural presumption that the Seahawks and Wilson will find a way to bridge their differences, either before he embarks on his contract season this year, or before the deadline for the free agency period after this year. Nonetheless, as we frequently are reminded, there is a first time for everything.

–Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.


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