Russell Wilson has been a thorn in the 49ers' side ever since the Seattle Seahawks drafted him in 2012. The improvisational playmaker is almost universally seen as the one player fans don't want to have the ball against the 49ers with the game on the line.
Wilson has kept the Seahawks in NFC West contention as the ashes of the Legion of Boom defense lay scattered around his feet. He has thrived despite a patchwork offensive line, an offensive strategy that hasn't been tailored to his strengths and an offensive arsenal that isn't exactly the envy of other elite quarterbacks. No matter what the state of the Seahawks' roster is, as long as they have Wilson, they will be a threat in the NFC West.
That "Break Glass In Case Of Emergency" style player only comes around so often, and the Seahawks reportedly offered him to the Cleveland Browns in 2018. NBC Sports' Chriss Simms noted on PFT Overtime that he heard the Seahawks tried to trade Wilson to the Browns for the No. 1 overall pick which ended up being Baker Mayfield
"I'll say this and I've told you this before," Simms told Mike Florio. "I had heard a rumor from some people that I trust a couple years ago and Seattle called Cleveland when they had the No. 1 pick and there was this rumor going around the NFL that they offered Russell Wilson to the Browns the year they drafted Baker Mayfield ... but I don't know how serious those discussions were."
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The thought of the Seahawks trading Wilson for anything is almost unthinkable and would amount to franchise negligence. Wilson has allowed the Seahawks to stay relevant in the NFC as Pete Carroll and John Schneider rebuild the rest of the roster after a dominant run in the mid-2000s. Wilson's greatness allowed the Seahawks to hand the 49ers their first loss of the season last year and had Seattle within 1 yard of the NFC West title despite the 49ers having a much better roster from top to bottom.
Had the Seahawks truly tried to trade Wilson to the Browns for the No. 1 pick and taken Mayfield, they would have been conceding the NFC West to the 49ers for the foreseeable future. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have constructed a roster that is built to contend for Super Bowl titles year in and year out. One that is focused on winning in the trenches, with strong offensive line play and a dominant defensive front that can force most offenses to stall out.
In 2019, the only thing that could beat the 49ers was a dynamic quarterback. Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson gave the 49ers three of their four losses on the season, with former MVP Matt Ryan delivering the other one.
Swapping out Wilson for Mayfield would have made the Seahawks irrelevant until they were able to construct a roster that allowed the talented, young quarterback to succeed. We have seen early in his career that while Mayfield is extremely talented, he is prone to mistakes, gets flustered in the pocket and still has room to grow as a quarterback. The Browns' offensive line had its issues last season and was mauled by the 49ers at Levi's Stadium, with Mayfield going 8-for-22 for 100 yards and two interceptions.
It's safe to assume Mayfield would have similar struggles behind the Seahawks' line, and Seattle would sink to the bottom of the NFC West, removing one of the 49ers' chief challengers in the NFC along the way.
Wilson's greatness can't be understated. He's one of the top five quarterbacks in the league and gives the Seahawks a chance to win and contend despite their deficient roster. Despite the Seahawks' issues elsewhere, Wilson makes them a Super Bowl contender and a threat to the 49ers atop the NFC West.
Had the Seahawks traded Wilson to Cleveland, it would have allowed the 49ers to reign over the NFC West until Kyler Murray or Mayfield was ready to challenge them in a way only Wilson can.