The offseason quarterback carousel keeps spinning, and while the Houston Texans have so far refused to engage in trade talks for Deshaun Watson, a new star quarterback could potentially be on the trade block.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has made his displeasure with the franchise's decision making, especially as it pertains to the offensive line known, and his camp has "broached trade destinations" with the Seahawks, The Athletic's Michael-Shawn Dugar, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks reported Thursday. Those destinations reportedly include the Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets. According to The Athletic, some in the NFL believe a trade could happen soon.
Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, later told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the quarterback has not requested a trade but the only teams he would consider a trade to are the Raiders, Saints, Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys.
Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in the last five seasons, so any team who wishes to acquire him would have to give a hefty price. In the end, this most likely ends with Wilson getting more power as it pertains to roster construction and offensive scheme and he returns as the starter in Seattle in the fall. If anything, next offseason could be the time for Wilson to leave the Pacific Northwest, just as it could see Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins be on the move.
But if Wilson has decided his time in Seattle is over, the entire shape of the division, conference and league will be altered with his trade. Any potential Wilson trade also would dramatically impact how the 49ers choose to approach the retooling of their roster and how they view their window both as a legitimate Super Bowl contender and an NFC West favorite when healthy.
If Wilson remains in Seattle, the NFC West will once again be the toughest division in the NFL. The 49ers will be tasked with facing Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray twice a year, and will have unquestionably the fourth-best quarterback in the division assuming they run things back with Garoppolo.
The 2019 49ers roster was perfectly equipped to combat such a divisional gauntlet. A fierce pass rush and a lockdown secondary allowed the 49ers to keep high-powered offenses at bay and give Garoppolo and the offense room for error.
That might no longer be the case in 2021. DeForest Buckner was traded last offseason and Dee Ford's struggle with injuries has seen him spend the majority of his time on the sidelines. Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, K'Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt and Ahkello Witherspoon all are slated to be unrestricted free agents this offseason, meaning the 49ers will have to retool their secondary. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh left to become the head coach of the New York Jets.
All of that has led to more talk about the 49ers finding a way to upgrade at quarterback. If the defense is going to drop from the ranks of the elite, the difference has to be made up for on offense.
It will admittedly be difficult for the 49ers to contend with three top-tier quarterbacks in the NFC West if they no longer have a top-five defense and the quarterback remains only slightly above average. The NFC West gauntlet the 49ers currently are set to face for the foreseeable future could make them rethink how they view their championship window and whether or not it might be prudent for them to take a step back and try to set things up for a Super Bowl run in 2022.
But if the Seahawks move Wilson, that would remove arguably the 49ers' biggest NFC West obstacle and take one Super Bowl contender off the board. The Cardinals, while talented on offense, still are at least a year away from being a realistic Super Bowl contender. While Murray has given the 49ers some fits early on in his career, the offensive line, pass rush and secondary issues should keep them anything more than a thorn in the 49ers' side.
A Wilson trade would trim the true NFC West race down to two: The 49ers and the Rams.
The Rams went all-in by acquiring Stafford, but the 49ers have had Sean McVay's number over the last two seasons. Even the injury-riddled 2020 49ers went 2-0 against the Rams thanks to a brilliant defensive game plan. That's something that can be duplicated if the 49ers fill the proper holes on defense in the offseason.
As of right now, the 49ers should be viewed as a team that can compete for a Super Bowl in 2021 but are behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Rams and Seahawks in the NFC. Throw in a pesky Cardinals team and the 49ers' road back to the playoffs will be much more difficult than many assume, especially if they don't make the right moves in the offseason.
The 49ers have to decide what they truly view as their Super Bowl window. Is it open? Did it start to close and now is the time to make moves that will impact their window beyond 2021? Or will a simple re-tooling put them right back in the mix next season?
Where Wilson plays will impact that decision. If he's not under center for the Seahawks, the 49ers' window to win in 2021 will open further. But if the 49ers' NFC West path still has them going through Wilson, Stafford and Murray, it could be time to throttle back and build something for the future.