The Seattle Seahawks‘ trade of Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos last year shook up the NFL landscape heading into the 2022 season. However, that deal reportedly only came after Wilson nixed a different trade that would likely have made an even bigger impact on how last season played out.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop and Seattle Sports radio host Mike Salk, Wilson was very nearly traded last season to Philadelphia, where he would have replaced Jalen Hurts as the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
“My understanding is that deal was basically done, and Russ killed it,” Salk said on his show this week, with Bishop making an appearance in the studio.
Wilson had a full no-trade clause in his contract with the Seahawks at the time, which he later waived to join the Broncos. However, it appears Wilson was still hoping to make things work with coach Pete Carroll in Seattle at the time the trade with the Eagles was supposedly agreed to.
“The Eagles really wanted him,” Bishop said. “I think they liked his style of play, and I think that makes sense because it’s similar to Jalen Hurts, especially when [Wilson] was in his prime and a little bit faster than now. My understanding is, at that point in time, Russ wanted to stay [in Seattle].”
This is not the first time where reports have surfaced implying that Wilson might very well have wound up in Philadelphia instead of Denver last spring.
Rumors around the 2022 NFL combine connected the Eagles to Wilson, and NFL Media’s Ian Rappaport said earlier this year that there were points during that combine where he was convinced Wilson would end up with the Eagles or Washington Commanders via trade.
Instead, the Eagles stuck with Hurts and decided to build their offense around him heading into the 2022 campaign, which according to Bishop was somewhat of a make-or-break year for Hurts’ future in Philadelphia — and only then because the Eagles were unable to acquire a star quarterback to take Hurts’ place.
“The Eagles were going gangbusters over quarterbacks for a couple of years,” Bishop said. “They went into last season essentially saying ‘We’re gonna give [Hurts] everything he needs so we can truly evaluate him.'”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Behind a fierce veteran offensive line and alongside a deep running back corps, with pass-catchers DeVonta Smith and the newly acquired A.J. Brown in the fold, Hurts became an MVP candidate and led the Eagles to an NFC-best 14-3 record and blowout wins over the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs before narrowly losing to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.
Hurts then signed a massive five-year, $255 million contract extension in April that at the time made him the highest-paid player in NFL history by average annual value. Needless to day, the Eagles’ perhaps reluctant gamble on Hurts last season worked about as well as it possibly could have for both sides.
That gamble looks even better in hindsight considering what happened to Wilson in his first season in Denver. The nine-time Pro Bowler had the worst year of his career as the Broncos’ offense floundered with him under center as Denver stumbled to a 5-12 record and fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett before the end of the season.
The Broncos are hoping to salvage what is left of the 34-year-old Wilson’s skill level by bringing in Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton to lead the team.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, made a surprising run to the playoffs last season thanks in part to several players and draft picks they received in exchange for Wilson via what one former Seahawks teammate of his recently called “the biggest trade heist in NFL history.”
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The non-trade ended up working out splendidly for both the Eagles and Seahawks, who are both now poised to enter the 2023 season as NFC playoff contenders. But it’s still fascinating (well, maybe not to Eagles fans) to think of the possible outcomes if the deal had gone through.
Would Wilson still have seen such a sharp decline on such a talented Eagles offense? Would Philly’s crucial trade for Brown still have happened? What would have become of Hurts’ career?
We’ll always be left to wonder “What If.”