Russell Wilson arguably fired a shot across his own team's bow this week when the Seattle Seahawks' seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback claimed to be "frustrated at getting hit too much." On The Dan Patrick Show, he also expressed a desire to be more involved in personnel decisions.
It's safe to assume that if Wilson were to gain more say within the organization, the team might opt to invest more heavily in pass protection. After all, the 32-year-old has been sacked 394 times since coming into the league in 2012—a span during which no other quarterback has taken more than 325 sacks.
Among 27 quarterbacks who have made at least 60 starts in that nine-year stretch, Wilson owns the highest sack rate at 8.3 percent. And that number is actually 8.9 percent the last three seasons.
The Seahawks have put all of their eggs in Wilson's basket to the tune of $35 million per year. If they win another Super Bowl before the current window closes, it'll almost certainly happen because of him. He owns the third-best touchdown-to-interception ratio (267-to-81) and the fourth-highest qualified passer rating (101.7) in NFL history.
And among quarterbacks with at least 50 career starts, only Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady have higher winning percentages.
Wilson was an MVP frontrunner as the Seahawks started 6-1 in 2020. He was sacked 2.7 times per game and posted a 120.8 passer rating during that run. After that, he was sacked 3.1 times per game as his rating dropped to 91.8 during the Seahawks' final nine regular-season outings. He then took five sacks and was hit 10 times in Seattle's first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Ultimately, only four regular starting quarterbacks were pressured more frequently.
Which is why it's time for the Seahawks to become substantially more proactive when it comes to addressing an offensive line that has been a liability for the lion's share of Wilson's career. That could mean giving Wilson a louder voice when it comes to identifying and pursuing potential additions to the line, or it could simply mean dishing out a significant amount of money and/or draft capital in order to improve that unit.
Ideally, it's at least a little bit of both.
To the Seahawks' credit, they traded for stalwart offensive tackle Duane Brown in 2017 and he continues to man Wilson's blind side in reliable fashion. But Seattle hasn't selected an offensive lineman in the first two rounds of any of the last three drafts, and the front office has used just one first-round pick on that position since Wilson came into the league nearly a decade ago.
To boot, they've developed a habit of bargain hunting for veteran O-linemen. But you usually get what you pay for, and they've spent much of the last half-decade cycling through disappointing and/or uninspiring veterans like Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, D.J. Fluker, Cedric Ogbuehi, Mike Iupati and Brandon Shell.
The line's interior is in particularly desperate need of a makeover. Rookie third-round pick Damien Lewis struggled mightily with pressure and penalties at right guard in 2020, a move to center didn't save the career of 2017 second-round bust Ethan Pocic, and the left guard spot was treated as a turnstile by the 33-year-old Iupati, little-known backup Jordan Simmons and unimpressive 2018 third-round pick Jamarco Jones.
"We need to make sure that the inside three guys," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said recently, "that we grow and get better there."
Jeremy Fowler @JFowlerESPN
Russell Wilson isn’t going full Deshaun Watson with a trade request. But he will watch the Seahawks’ moves closely. Trade calls were non-starter for Seattle, which has made clear he won’t be dealt. Seahawks believe Rams system with new OC Shane Waldron will be good for him.
Now, Iupati, Pocic, Ogbuehi, Simmons and Kyle Fuller are slated to hit free agency. The Seahawks aren't cap-rich, but they rank in the middle of the pack in terms of projected salary-cap space at Spotrac and they have just a few key players with expiring contracts at other positions.
This is the time to finally make a statement with multiple strong investments in the line. That could mean willfully overpaying for perennial Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff or steady longtime New England Patriot Joe Thuney at guard and/or a high-end veteran like Corey Linsley, Austin Reiter or Alex Mack in the middle.
Throw in tackles Trent Williams, Daryl Williams, Taylor Moton and Alejandro Villanueva and the market for free-agent offensive linemen could be quite deep and exploitable. Plus, it could expand as fellow teams in worse financial shape shed established O-linemen in a year with a significantly reduced cap.
There will be opportunities for the Seahawks, especially if they decide to move on from impending free-agent linebacker K.J. Wright ahead of his age-32 season or free up cash by extending key defenders Jarran Reed and/or Jamal Adams ahead of walk years for each.
Plus, they've got a second-round pick that should already have a pro-ready offensive lineman's name on it.
It's true that upgrading the line would be easier if not for Wilson's $39 million 2021 dead-cap hit, and the team could even talk to him about making a short-term financial sacrifice in order to bolster his pass protection and increase his chances of winning a second Super Bowl.
Regardless, Wilson likely knows the Seahawks can afford to shift more attention and resources to protecting him. And the last thing Seattle wants to do now is create bitterness by ignoring the franchise player's pleas for more support.
So no more half-measures, Seahawks. You've got your quarterback, he's got his weapons and there's reason to be confident in a defense that flourished thanks mainly to Adams and superstar linebacker Bobby Wagner down the stretch in 2020.
Now, for the love of Russ, aggressively bolster that line.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.