Seahawks position overview: The only question at quarterback is who backs up Russell Wilson

  • Tue Feb 4th, 2020 5:02pm
  • Sports

By Bob Condotta

The Seattle Times

Russell Wilson didn’t get any votes for league MVP, continuing a somewhat astonishing streak of never having received a vote in his eight years in the NFL.

But Wilson was regarded as the most valuable player this season by one statistical metric — the Wins Above Average calculation by Pro Football Focus.

According to PFF, Wilson was worth four more wins this season than the average NFL quarterback (technically, 4.08).

Next on the list was Patrick Mahomes of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, at 2.96.

So take that literally and it means because of Wilson, the Seahawks were 11-5 this season instead of the 7-9 they would have been with an average NFL quarterback (let alone what they might have been like with a bad one).

Not that Seahawks fans needed much convincing this season of Wilson’s brilliance, which was impressive enough even using more traditional numbers such as touchdown passes (31), interceptions thrown (five, a career-low) and passing yards (4,110).

And as we begin our annual postseason review of Seattle’s position groups — both looking back and ahead — the above is a reminder the Seahawks remain with one of the best situations in the NFL at the most pivotal position in the game.

Here’s a closer look at the QB position:

Starter

Russell Wilson

Age: 31.

Snaps played: 1,107 (of 1,107 total).

Contract situation: Signed through 2023. Wilson’s deal signed last April technically begins this year, averaging $35 million a season, most in the NFL.

2019 number to know: Wilson’s passing yards were the second most of his career, second most in franchise history and sixth most in the NFL this season.

Backup

Geno Smith

Age: 29.

Snaps played: 0.

Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.

2019 number to know: Smith became the second straight Seattle backup QB not to play a snap — Brett Hundley also did not play in 2018.

2019 review

Wilson spent most of the year regarded as an MVP favorite before the late stumbles by the team and Lamar Jackson’s continued ascent made the Baltimore Raven a unanimous choice (and it’s worth remembering MVP voting consists of 50 voters simply picking one player, with no second or third selections).

That Wilson threw for the second-most yards in franchise history and the big controversy at the end of the season was that he wasn’t throwing enough (his 516 attempts were the third most of his career) speaks to how the perception of Wilson’s abilities and the team’s strengths has changed over the past eight years.

If there’s anything to watch with Wilson going forward, it’s his running, which he logically will do a little bit less of with each, well, passing year.

Wilson’s 75 rushing attempts this season were the third-fewest of his career (his fewest was 67 the year before) and his longest run was 21 yards (the only year he’s had a shorter “long” run was his injury-riddled 2016 season when his longest run was 18 yards).

Wilson has always been a careful runner, among the keys to his amazing durability, and figures to grow even more so as the years go on.

2020 preview

The only question going forward is who backs up Wilson.

Smith made $805,000 last season, the veteran minimum for a six-year veteran. His salary would likely jump to $945,000 in 2020 (the projected minimum for a player with his veteran status).

But Smith, who will turn 30 in October, has thrown just four passes in the last two seasons and might want to pursue a team where he’d have a better chance to play. Conversely, the options don’t tend to get more plentiful for backup QBs as they get older.

Wilson’s cap number only goes up the next four years (from $26.2 million in 2019 to $31 million in 2020) so the Seahawks will continue to try to be as stingy as possible in what they spend at the backup-QB spot.

Depending on what Seattle wants, there’s no shortage of available free-agent veterans, including fairly big names such as Blake Bortles, Colt McCoy and Blaine Gabbert — and if the Seahawks really want to make it fun, Mike Glennon, Wilson’s teammate at North Carolina State — as well as some slightly younger options such as former Rams and Vikings backup Sean Mannion.

And could the Seahawks pursue a quarterback in the draft? Seattle has drafted a quarterback once since landing Wilson, taking Alex McGough in the seventh round in 2018. More likely would be again going the undrafted rookie free agent route.

Regardless, the Seahawks will for sure bring in at least two backup candidates for Wilson, players they’ll hope again never play a snap in 2020.