SEATTLE -- Whenever the Seattle Seahawks hire a new defensive coordinator, the next item on their offseason to-do list should be the big one: determine whether Russell Wilson will remain their quarterback in 2022.
Wilson's future hardly seems certain even with a few factors working against a trade. Among them: It's a bad draft for quarterbacks, which would make the already monumental task of replacing Wilson even harder.
And while Wilson has indicated his preference to stay, his comments have come with an unspoken qualifier that it must happen under the right circumstances. That's why Wilson has stopped short of declaring he'll remain in Seattle even though it could be guaranteed via his no-trade clause.
And there was this comment from coach Pete Carroll, who was asked after the Seahawks finished their forgettable 7-10 campaign whether they can get through the offseason without a repeat of the rumors and speculation about Wilson's future.
"I don't know that," Carroll told Seattle's FOX 13 TV. "I don't know that. I don't want to give you false hopes because there's just so much stuff that can happen in the offseason. There's unpredictable stuff. But we'll do everything that we can to keep it in order and all that."
Carroll, as part of that same answer, seemed to hint that he and general manager John Schneider will listen to trade offers for Wilson.
"But let me say this: We're going to compete at every turn," he said. "That's all we know we know how to do. That's all John and I have been doing since we got here, and we're not backing off that. Whatever is there, we've got to exhaust the opportunities for our club. And right from the owner, Jody [Allen] wants us take a look at every single opportunity to better the franchise and to help us. So that's what we do."
Carroll said they have "a nucleus of a championship" team and that they want to "keep that together," a goal that counters the thought of trading their star quarterback.
To summarize: The Wilson talk is far from a media creation, it isn't going away anytime soon, and it isn't clear what will happen.
Here's what else you need to know about the Seahawks' offseason:
You can bet Wilson wants to know what the Seahawks' offensive line plan is, as three starters -- left tackle Duane Brown, right tackle Brandon Shell and center Ethan Pocic -- are scheduled to be free agents.
Brown and Shell rank ninth and 14th, respectively, among offensive tackles in ESPN's pass block win rate over the past two seasons. But Shell missed 12 games in that span, and Brown will be 37 in August. His age, and the knee issues that have limited his practice availability, are two reasons Seattle didn't extend him last offseason, preferring to go year to year.
Running back Rashaad Penny is perhaps the most intriguing free agent given a late-season explosion in which he led the NFL in rushing over the final five games. That was a nice capper to what had been a hugely disappointing first 3½ seasons for the 2018 first-rounder.
The Seahawks' other UFAs on offense: tight ends Gerald Everett and Will Dissly, running back Alex Collins, offensive lineman Jamarco Jones and quarterback Geno Smith (who was arrested on suspicion of DUI after the season finale).
Free safety Quandre Diggs headlines the list of UFAs on defense. It also includes D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones IV, the Seahawks' starting corners for much of the season. The others are defensive end Rasheem Green and defensive tackles Al Woods and Robert Nkemdiche.
Early offseason dates to know
March 8: Deadline for teams to designate franchise players
Diggs is the only realistic franchise-tag candidate. OverTheCap.com projects the price tag to be around $13.5 million. That would be more than double the annual average of Diggs' last deal -- which he signed with the Detroit Lions -- but would be a justifiable raise given that he was arguably the Seahawks' MVP in 2021 while making his second straight Pro Bowl.
If nothing else, it would buy time to work out an extension, something the 29-year-old Diggs wanted last offseason but didn't get. The Seahawks could also gamble and let Diggs hit free agency, where his market could be tempered by the broken leg he suffered in Week 18.
March 20: Wilson is due a $5 million roster bonus
The final two seasons of Wilson's 2019 extension include non-guaranteed $5 million roster bonuses due on the fifth day of the new league year, which begins with the start of free agency (March 16). Agents push for March roster bonuses because they serve as soft deadlines for teams to make a decision about a player who might be in limbo.
Players generally want to know as early as possible whether they're sticking around, and teams usually don't move on from players after paying them huge chunks of cash for the upcoming season. March 20 wouldn't be a hard deadline for a trade, but it's a $5 million incentive to figure out Wilson's immediate future by then.
May 2: Deadline to exercise fifth-year options
There's virtually no way the Seahawks are picking up defensive end L.J. Collier's option. The 29th pick of the 2019 draft has three sacks in three seasons and was regularly a healthy scratch in the first half of 2021. Exercising his option would lock in a guaranteed salary of around $10.2 million for 2023, per OTC. Declining it means he'll enter the final year of his rookie deal with a salary of around $2 million.
How much cap space will the Seahawks have?
OTC and Spotrac both have the Seahawks in the top 10 of available 2022 cap space with around $40 million. But as always, that figure is a moving target.
Trading Wilson would free up as much as $24 million for the upcoming season while leaving them with a massive hole at football's most important position.
Moving on from All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner -- who has acknowledged his uncertain future -- would free up $16.6 million. With a scheduled cap charge of $20.35 million in the final year of his contract, it seems like a strong possibility that if Wagner is back in 2022, it'll be on something other than his current deal.
Receiver DK Metcalf is eligible for a massive extension that would cut into Seattle's cap space.
Carroll tried to temper expectations of a spending spree, saying much of the Seahawks' cap space will go toward trying to re-sign their own free agents. Splurging on any single player in free agency would run counter to their M.O., anyways.
But barring a departure from that norm, they'll have to find another way to catch up in a tough division that sent three teams to the playoffs and two -- the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams -- to the NFC Championship Game. And not having a first-round pick will make it harder to find a difference-maker in the draft.
If the Seahawks' worst season in more than a decade wasn't painful enough, they won't enjoy the biggest silver lining to a down year -- picking early in the first round. The second of two first-round picks they gave the New York Jets in the Jamal Adams trade will be No. 10 overall in April's draft.
The Seahawks' draft capital would obviously change dramatically if they trade Wilson. But for now, they have six picks: a second-rounder, a third, two fourths, a fifth and a seventh.