While the Seattle Seahawks have officially moved from the blockbuster trade that sent Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos last season, the franchise is facing major backlash for what many NFL analysts perceive as “disrespect” toward their former superstar quarterback.
Earlier this week, the Seahawks re-signed cornerback Artie Burns as a depth piece after Tariq Woolen underwent unexpected knee surgery, and Seattle’s website revealed he would wear jersey No. 3, Wilson’s former number, which Sports Illustrated‘s Keith Cummings called a form of “indignity.”
“As the only quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl in Seattle, some of the flak directed at Wilson has crossed over the boundaries of good taste. The Wilson shade has morphed into the malignant sort,” Cummings wrote.
“It’s an ignominious end for the iconic No. 3, some might say, but it’s clear the Seahawks are keen to present the appearance that they’ve quickly moved on from their former poster boy. On the flip side, such over-the-top disrespect shown to the organization’s greatest-ever player reveals a distinct lack of class on Seattle’s part.”
Yahoo! Sports NFL writer Frank Schwab balked at Seattle giving their former nine-time Pro Bowler’s jersey number to Burns, a player who appeared in just three games last season and didn’t record any statistics, per Pro Football Reference.
“The Seahawks could revisit it all at some point, and maybe Wilson will have his number retired someday no matter who wears it in the meantime,” Schwab noted. “But it sure seemed like another sign of the Seahawks moving further away from a player who you’d assume would be treated like a franchise icon.”
USA Today‘s Tim Weaver surmised, “While it’s not a huge deal, it is another blow to the legacy of Wilson, who’s undoubtedly the greatest quarterback in franchise history. At some point we expect him to mend the fences with the organization and retire as a Seahawk, but that may be far in the future.”
There’s a Chance Artie Burns Never Wears No. 3 in an Official NFL Game
Last season, no Seahawks players wore a No. 3 jersey, and there’s a strong chance that that happens again this season. When Seattle decided to re-sign Burns, they already assigned his former No. 21 jersey to cornerback Devon Witherspoon, their No. 5 overall pick from the 2023 NFL Draft.
While it’s clearly jarring for many people to see Wilson’s No. 3 jersey given away, it’s important to note the timing of the reassignment. The Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta tweeted, “Worth noting here, with a 90-man roster there are few numbers not used… There were basically no other DB numbers left.”
For Schwab, this still wasn’t a great excuse. “It seems like something could have been worked out,” the Yahoo! Sports analyst wrote. “Teams keep numbers out of circulation for famous players either for a few years or forever. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a handful of numbers that aren’t retired but have never been reissued. It can be done if a team cares to keep a number from being worn again.”
The Russell Wilson/Broncos Trade Became Complete Following the 2023 NFL Draft
When the Seahawks traded Wilson and a fourth-round pick to the Broncos, they received two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, and tight end Noah Fant. This trade is why Seattle had 10 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, including two selections in the first round.
The Seahawks were able to land Witherspoon at No. 5 thanks to Wilson, as well as outside linebacker Derick Hall in the second round.
While there’s a complicated history between the Seattle and Wilson, Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf recently asked fans on Twitter to give his former teammate a break from constant bashing.
Metcalf also give Wilson credit for mentoring his current QB1. During an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd in April, Metcalf exuded his confidence in Geno Smith, who took over the starting role following Wilson’s exit.
“I believe sitting behind Russ really like motivated him and really showed him how good he could really be in this league cause even at practice, he’s yelling at the practice squad guys to run their routes right. He’s like, ‘This is my opportunity too.’ And I’m like, ‘Ok I respect that because you understand what’s at stake,’” Metcalf said.
“The year we traded Russ and he’s the starter, he comes into training camp and he’s locked in, like body wise, mentally, watching the film. I saw the transition from ‘Ok, I’m a backup’ to ‘Ok, this is my team, I’m a starter.’”
While Wilson statistically had the worst season of his career in 2022, Smith had his best, throwing for 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, along with 366 rushing yards and one rushing score.