As the Senior Bowl continues and the start of free agency gets ever closer, speculation about Carson Wentz’s future in Indianapolis intensifies. It seems increasingly likely that Wentz won’t be the Colts starting QB next season, with Garoppolo and Mariota likely amongst the most likely candidates to replace him. Although, as my colleagues Destin Adams (@destin_adams14 on Twitter) and Rashaad Mcginnis (@KingofColts on Twitter) reported, the Colts could draft their next Quarterback this year.
The ideal plausible Quarterback for Indianapolis is clearly Russell Wilson. He’s been consistently one of the best Quarterbacks since entering the league a decade ago. He has repeatedly taken the Seahawks to the playoffs and has great arm strength, mobility, IQ, and character.
While I wouldn’t say it is likely Wilson will leave Seattle this year, it is possible. Wilson made his displeasure with the situation in Seattle clear last year, as he called for the team to improve their offensive line substantially. A year later, the Seahawks had their worst season since drafting Wilson as they watched their divisional rivals win the Super Bowl, make the NFC Championship, and be the last NFL team to lose a game, respectively. To make things worse, the Jets have what would have been Seattle’s high draft pick, thanks to the Jamal Adams trade. While perhaps the Seahawks’ best offensive lineman in Duane Brown is about to be a free agent. The Seahawks are going in the wrong direction and with Bobby Wagner likely nearing the end of his career, there’s not a huge amount of other talent left on the Seahawks roster apart from DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
There are, therefore, good reasons why Seattle could be willing to trade Wilson while his value is still very high to start their rebuild. I think a trade package similar to the one the Rams gave the Lions for Matthew Stafford could be enough for the Colts to secure Wilson’s services.
However, today I’m less interested in looking at the extent to which Seattle might be willing to trade Wilson. Given Wilson has a no-trade clause in his contract, I’m more interested in whether Russell Wilson would be interested in signing for Indianapolis if they could strike a deal with Seattle.
The biggest selling point for Indianapolis is their offensive line. Wilson’s biggest grievance in Seattle and the Colts unit should be competing to be the best in the league. The Colts’ offensive line did underperform last year, with Fisher underwhelming at Left Tackle in pass protection and even Kelly and Smith having some bad games. That being said, this is a team that will resign Quenton Nelson this offseason; Kelly and Smith should be better (and healthier) next year, and there’s some really encouraging depth in the unit. If Chris Ballard can address the Left Tackle position this offseason, Wilson would be playing behind potentially the best offensive line in the league.
If Wilson is available for a trade, potential destinations will offer him significantly better offensive weapons than the Colts can. Michael Pittman had an impressive year last season, but the rest of the Colts receivers weren’t good enough as they each failed to get more than 400 receiving yards. On the other hand, it is comparatively easy to draft talented wide receivers to rapidly address this issue. One only has to look at the success of the likes of Deebo Samuel and AJ Brown in recent years.
This looks to be a strong wide receiver draft class, with the likes of Bell, Pierce, and Watson potentially still on the board when the Colts make their first selection. Even if Indianapolis does have to give up their second-round pick in a trade for Wilson, talented prospects like Calvin Austin III could still be available in the third round. Get Wilson one of those three players and a solid veteran Tight End, and he’ll have plenty to work with.
We also shouldn’t underestimate the attractiveness of having Taylor on the team to prospective Quarterbacks. In the second half of last season, defenses stacked the box to stop Taylor and shut down the run. This created opportunities in the passing game that, unfortunately, Wentz was unable to exploit. But you can bet that Wilson would take full advantage of any opportunities given to him by defenses, especially if the Colts did improve their offensive weapons.
The Colts’ new, Gus Bradley-led defense should also be a selling point for Wilson. Bradley was, of course, the Seahawks Defensive Coordinator for Wilson’s first season in the league, only a year before the ‘Legion of Boom’ would lead Seattle to their Super Bowl victory.
The Colts clearly had a good defense in 2021, although certainly not a perfect one. Their pass rush was poor, and they gave up too many yards, but they were good at preventing teams from scoring and excellent at securing turnovers. Suppose Bradley and his nearly entirely new staff can improve the pass rush and implement a more effective defensive scheme. In that case, Indianapolis could have one of the best defenses in the league. While top Quarterbacks like Wilson back their ability to beat teams in shootouts if they have to, they certainly prefer to win without resembling the mid-2000s Colts offense.
Indianapolis has the benefit of good personnel and stability at their three key positions of Head Coach, General Manager, and Owner. Having Chris Ballard as GM should be an effective selling point for Wilson. Ballard isn’t perfect, but he has a strong record of drafting quality players. His ability to find talent outside of the first round would be particularly important if the Colts gave up their next few first-round picks to get Wilson. It would give Wilson the confidence that the Colts can still surround him with talent. Russell Wilson is also likely to appreciate Irsay’s ambition as owner. Wilson spoke last month of wanting to win three more Super Bowls, which fits well with the hopes Irsay has expressed of winning multiple championships to add to the ring he already possesses.
Indianapolis would be one of the teams best able to afford Wilson’s salary. They have $37m in cap space, which matches what Wilson is due in 2022. Assuming they trade Wentz before the deadline, they’d free up some space but will need to give Nelson a big new contract. However, there is scope to create more cap space by restructuring contracts if needed. The lack of dead cap space the team is carrying would also make the team better able to afford Wilson in the long-term, as he’ll probably want something like $45m a year on average once his current contract expires in 2024.
A final benefit to joining the Colts is playing in the AFC South. After playing in the best division in football in the NFC West, Russell Wilson would relish playing the Texans and Jaguars twice a year each. An Indianapolis team with Wilson under center would be clear favourites to regularly win the AFC South and give Wilson the chance to consistently make the playoffs once again. It would certainly be an advantage over another potential trade destination in the Denver Broncos. Would Wilson really waive his no-trade clause to compete with Mahomes and Herbert for the rest of his career?
By no means am I saying that the Colts will sign Russell Wilson this Spring or that Wilson will leave Seattle at all. But I do think that if Indianapolis and Seattle were able to agree to a deal, there are good reasons to believe Wilson would be willing to waive his no-trade clause and move to the Lucas Oil Stadium.