Is it Crazy to Think Russell Wilson Will Be Even Better in 2015?
The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the best teams in football since Russell Wilson came to town in 2012. With his cool-under-pressure style and one of the best run games in football, the Seahawks have reached the Super Bowl in each of the past two seasons, winning one. With so much success, it’s difficult to believe that much will change in 2015. After all, the team still has Marshawn Lynch, the workhorse and perhaps the face of their tough and gritty mentality. Nonetheless, I think there is reason to believe that the entire Seattle offense will change, and perhaps as early as this year.
The Power of the Dollar
As everyone knows, Wilson is in line for a new contract, and it is expected to be quite large, more than twenty million dollars per year. The two sides are still negotiating, but I think it could have a major impact on the Seahawk’s offense. To test this theory, I recorded the cap number and pass attempts per game for all quarterbacks from 2010-2014 given the following conditions:
1) The player must have attempted 200 total passes in the given season.
2) The player must not be on a rookie contract.
I did this so this to avoid QBs who didn’t start that many games and to avoid rookie contracts since they are either way too large from before the rookie wage scale (like Sam Bradford), or way too small from after it (like Andrew Luck). In total, there were 108 QBs charted over the past five seasons. Most of the contract data came from Spotrac, but I had to estimate some based on contract reports.1 Here were the results:
To nobody’s surprise, there does appear to be a positive correlation between what a QB was making in a particular year and how many pass attempts he had per game. This would seem to be intuitive. On the low end, the biggest outliers were Brett Favre in his final season, Alex Smith in the first year of his second contract with the Niners, and Matt Flynn the year the Raiders paid him, cut him, and then he ended up starting a few games for the Packers. Other than that, most of the data points are close to the given trend line. This will be very important for us going forward.
What Does This Mean for Wilson?
So where does Wilson’s new contract fit into the mix? We can’t be sure what the exact cap number will look like, but I think its fair to assume that it will probably be north of $12 million annually considering the reports.2 Of the 37 QBs who had a cap number of $12 million or more, only THREE have attempted fewer than 32 passes a game. Those three were the aforementioned Favre and Matt Cassel in both 2010 and 2011. Considering that Wilson is neither due for retirement (Favre) nor bad at football (Cassel), he is not really comparable to either of those players or situations. I find it rather interesting that these numbers exist, and yet there is not much chatter about Wilson exceeding even 500 passing attempts in 2015.
Furthermore, I think that there is other evidence that supports an increase in Wilson’s pass attempts. The team traded it’s first round pick and All-Pro center Max Unger for Jimmy Graham. They then traded FOUR draft picks to move up and obtain Tyler Lockett in the draft. Seattle has obviously been very successful without terrific receiving weapons, so I think it is reasonable to assume that these moves were made with an eye on the future of the offense. Remember also that 2015 will be the second year in a row where we speculate it is the last for Lynch, and his new contract is not guaranteed past this upcoming season. It is fair to wonder not only how much the power back has left in the tank, but also just how committed the Seahawks are to him past 2015. Is it possible that Wilson could finish even higher than his QB3 point total last season? I think so.
What Does it Mean for the Seattle Offense?
More pass attempts would represent a dramatic scheme change in Seattle. It would probably mean less Lynch, putting him more towards the back end of the RB1 mix than the front. Plus, Graham may also not see nearly the production hit that we are expecting after his move from Drew Brees and the Saints. He is clearly the best receiving weapon that offense has, and Wilson is somewhat comparable to Brees as a passer. Both quarterbacks are successful, non-first round players who are short in stature (Brees is six foot, Wilson five feet eleven inches), and possess massive hands (both ten and a quarter inch). The NFL Career Graphs also indicate similar statistical production:
As you can see, both players are high efficiency passers that limit turnovers, dominating in both yards per attempt, and adjusted yards per attempt (which factors in touchdowns and interceptions). All of this also means that we are probably sleeping on Lockett in rookie drafts, as pass volume is one of the bigger concerns facing the young rookie, as well as for the rest of the Seattle receivers.
Wilson himself could take the next step as a fantasy QB. This is surely a contrarian viewpoint, but I like to think we do that better than anyone else here at RotoViz, and being ahead of the curve could pay huge dividends in both re-draft and dynasty leagues this summer.There could be a lot of potential value in Seattle this season.