That is the reality.
A contentious offseason between player and team has moved the camps further apart, and done nothing to quell the superstar quarterback's reservations about where the franchise is headed and how well he will be incubated from future sacks and beatings. The Cold War between these parties remains icy, I'm told, and -- though there is ample time remaining in this offseason -- with just three picks at their disposal currently in the draft, and the impactful wave of free agency over, it's safe to assume Wilson is still harboring concerns about his weekly wellbeing this fall.
Sources said the quarterback was very hopeful the Seahawks would land powerful guard Kevin Zeitler, a fellow Wisconsin Badger and someone Wilson would love to play with again after spending a year together in college. The Ravens ended up securing his services for effectively $16 million for two years, and to this point Seattle has managed to re-sign center Ethan Pocic and dealt a fifth-round pick to the Raiders for Gabe Jackson, who otherwise was likely to be cut with Las Vegas believing he was no longer worth his $9.4 million salary.
In the meantime, the four teams Wilson would waive his no-trade clause for -- the Saints, Raiders, Cowboys and Bears -- are essentially unable to, or uninterested in, consummating a deal for the quarterback … though that could change significantly in 2022. If I were a betting man, I wouldn't wager on Wilson finishing out this contract or career in Seattle. The marriage has wavered in the past and is rocky now, and the landscape and economics of the NFL will change drastically post-pandemic (as the just-announced broadcast deals and Roger Goodell's fully-throated embrace of legalized sports gambling speaks to) and the attempts to lure this future Hall of Famer away will only intensify in about 10 months.
Don't mistake a lack of a trade this offseason for a lack of interest. It was anything but. However, this is the most unique offseason in NFL history, with more teams dealing with significant salary cap situations than ever before, though the floodgates will begin to open come 2022. By 2023 the cap growth will be stratospheric. And by then, I strongly suspect, Wilson will be gone.
Sean Payton was paying as close attention to the fissures between the QB and his longtime team as anyone in the NFL from what I gather. He was also dealing with the worst cap situation in the NFL, which required shedding several veterans, on top of transitioning away from retiring future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. The Saints' ability to get as creative as necessary was severely hamstrung. But with Wilson, 33, vowing to play until he is 45, and possessing the singular mental approach of Tom Brady in order to do so, and with him being a big fan of Payton's offense and play calling, that mutual admiration will not die anytime soon. And, I'd point out that Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill each only signed through this season. Barring New Orleans falling in love with a QB in the top of the draft and having him fall in their laps, I'd put them atop this list again for 2022.
At this point, consider the Raiders out of the mix. One of the primary reasons they were included in this quartet was because of a proven and experienced offensive line, with Las Vegas having invested in that unit to historic proportions. Well, that has been systematically torn apart this offseason, with Trent Brown, Rodney Hudson and Jackson all gone, and the Raiders spending in curious ways (doubling down on running backs?) and losing their most productive receiver from last year to New England. Um, safe to say that Wilson would not okay a deal to the Raiders and lift his no-trade for them as presently constructed. They should try again next year.
The Bears were always going to have to think outside the box to land Wilson, and well, that's hardly a specialty of theirs. Mismanaging the quarterbacks position, however, is. It showed again. Holding just the 20th overall pick, and with no quarterback the Seahawks would even think about on their roster, they either needed to acquire a pick in the top 10 (I'm old enough to remember 2016, and the Eagles moving up twice to eventually draft Carson Wentz second overall), or get a third team involved in order to land a QB that Seattle would want.
Alas, they accomplished neither, and one can't help but wonder how hard they tried either. They were already a playoff team in 2021 with the postseason field expanded, and adding an All-Pro-caliber QB would only enhance their chances in the future, so it stands to reason that their three first-round picks included in the offer could all be in the bottom third of the first round. To that they added a third-round pick (woohoo!) and the chance to acquire older players like Kyle Fuller and Akiem Hicks -- who other teams already knew were potential cap casualties -- or Khalil Mack, who is entering his age-30 season. They lacked cheap, talented players still on their rookie deals -- one potential avenue to offset the lack of a top 10 draft pick.
Easy offer to turn down, frankly. Not even close.
As for the fourth team, the Cowboys, well, they were never a very realistic option with Jerry Jones already up to his cowboy hat in negotiations with Dak Prescott after it became an inevitable that Dak would be getting $40 million a year from Dallas. Which he did a few weeks ago. He ain't going nowhere and Russ isn't going to be quarterbacking Ciara's hometown team anytime soon, either.
I'm told there is no other team that Wilson would be inclined to waive his no-trade clause to go to right now, and that, too, is unlikely to change in the coming months. Of course, as franchises evolve and coaches move around and rosters develop, things will change by 2022.
As to the odds of a kumbaya between him and the Seahawks, them getting all simpatico for the long term? Nothing is impossible, but it would take some dramatic reversals and things have not been trending in that direction for quite some time. Both sides have seen enough of what concerns them in the other to keep this thing together for the long haul. By next January, they could very well be in a place quite similar to where the Lions and Matt Stafford were a few months ago.
Next year the quarterback trade market will not be nearly as crowded (although I'd keep a close eye on that Aaron Rodgers situation in 2022). Teams won't be dealing with a downward cap. Coronavirus -- we all hope and pray -- will be well behind us. The quarterback draft class won't be this top heavy. Wilson will have just two years left on his deal -- with far fewer QBs now earning $40 million a year or more -- at a point in time where contract extension talks would normally start to make sense (Wilson will be a massive bargain with $51 million total due him in 2022 and 2023, and Seattle will be left with a more manageable dead cap of $26 million).
There will be plenty of teams eager and willing to upgrade at the most important position in all professional sports. And barring a dramatic turn of events and some significant bridge building, this team and this quarterback will be right back where they are now.