Widely viewed by many as the greatest heist in NFL history, the Cowboys managed to persuade the Vikings into trading away multiple first round picks for star running back Hershel Walker midway through the 1989 season.
While Dallas finished an NFL-worst 1-15 in coach Jimmy Johnson’s first season on the sidelines, the trade precipitated a rapid rebuild that led to three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s. Among the players drafted with the picks acquired from Minnesota, the franchise landed future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith as well as defensive cornerstones in defensive tackle Russell Maryland, safety Darren Woodson, and cornerback Kevin Smith.
As for the Vikings, after making the trade for Walker believing he was the missing piece that would help them get back to the Super Bowl, the team got blown out by the 49ers in the divisional round months after the trade. The veteran running back lasted only two more seasons with the team as they fell back to 6-10 and 8-8 records, failing to miss the playoffs both times.
For more than three decades, the Walker deal has remained the pinnacle for one-sided thievery jobs in NFL history without parallel. That is, until now.
It has only been eight months since the Seahawks turned years of rumors into reality by unloading quarterback Russell Wilson, dealing the nine-time Pro Bowler to the Broncos for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and three veteran players. At the time of the blockbuster trade, much like when Walker joined the Vikings all those years ago, the Broncos were viewed as the big winners bringing in the missing piece to fuel a Super Bowl run.
But with the 2022 season now well past the midway point, so far, the deal couldn’t be more skewed in general manager John Schneider and Seattle’s favor. Playing the worst football of his career in the Mile High City, Wilson has completed less than 60 percent of his passes and thrown just seven touchdown passes in 10 starts as Denver has disappointed with a 3-7 record and currently sits in the last place in the AFC West.
To put Wilson’s ugly numbers in perspective, Washington’s Carson Wentz hasn’t played since October 13 and has three more touchdown passes than Wilson. Matt Ryan was benched by Indianapolis for a couple weeks after a rough start and still has three more touchdown tosses than him. Even Andy Dalton, who replaced an injured Jameis Winston, has twice as many touchdown passes for the Saints.
Meanwhile, before even looking at the players acquired from the Broncos, the Seahawks have received Pro Bowl-caliber play under center from Geno Smith. The veteran signal caller, who served as Wilson’s backup for three seasons, ranks first in the NFL in completion percentage, second in passer rating, and sixth in touchdown passes, transforming into a viable MVP candidate leading an upstart 6-4, NFC West leading squad.
At the center of Seattle’s unexpected ascendance, the team has relied heavily on rookies, including left tackle Charles Cross and linebacker Boye Mafe, who were drafted with the first and second round picks that previously belonged to Denver. Cross has started all 10 games and only allowed four sacks protecting Smith’s blind side, while Mafe became a starter early in the season and has played sound run defense along with producing a pair of sacks.
Already quality starters, Cross and Mafe look to be building blocks for the Seahawks to build around on each side of the football. In addition, general manager John Schneider snagged a potential All-Pro running back in Ken Walker III, another quality tackle in Abraham Lucas, and two stud cornerbacks in Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen on day three of the draft, assembling what could be a historic 2022 class.
Scroll to Continue
Seattle hasn’t just benefited from the Wilson trade in terms of incoming rookies either. As part of the deal, Schneider also landed veteran defensive tackle Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant, who have each made their own noteworthy contributions helping the team race out to an unexpected fast start.
Starting all 10 games in the trenches thus far, Harris has been stout against the run and offered plenty of punch rushing from the interior. Always playing with great energy that positively rubs off on his teammates, he ranks second on the team with four tackles for loss and ranks third on the team with 20 quarterback pressures to go along with a pair of sacks.
Thriving as part of a three-headed monster at tight end alongside Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson, Fant has quietly turned in a stellar first season with the Seahawks. After a somewhat slow start, he ranks third on the team in receptions (30) and receiving yardage (306) behind star wideouts Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and per Pro Football Focus, he ranks first on the team in yards after the catch (174 ).
Examining early returns, the Seahawks already managed to turn Wilson into four starters in Cross, Mafe, Harris, and Fant while still receiving top-flight quarterback play from Smith at a bargain bin price. Much to the chagrin of Broncos fans, they aren’t done reaping the rewards either.
With Denver’s 22-16 loss to Las Vegas on Sunday dropping the team four games under .500, Seattle would pick fifth overall with the first round selection acquired in the Wilson trade. Schneider would also have pick no. 36 in the second round, giving him three total selections in the first 36 picks while still contending for a playoff spot. As the holidays approach, it’s the gift that keeps on giving in the Pacific Northwest and a prized pass rusher, future franchise quarterback, or another star prospect could be a late Christmas present arriving in April.
Considering Wilson’s track record, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the standout quarterback eventually turn things around for the Broncos. But with the season already past the midway point, it seems unlikely that will happen this year with lame duck head coach likely to be one-and-done and major changes brewing under a new ownership group.
Regardless of what happened, the Seahawks haven’t just won this trade so far. After decades standing on a pedestal of its own, the heralded Walker pilferage officially has company for the most lopsided NFL blockbuster of all-time and Schneider hopes to continue turning the haul received for Wilson into a wide open window to compete for championships just as the Cowboys did.
Hey 12s! Get your Seahawks Tickets from SI Tickets … HERE!
Want the latest in breaking news and insider information on the Seahawks? Click Here to subscribe to AllSeahawks.com’s Newsletter.
Follow All Seahawks.com on Twitter and Facebook
Make sure to subscribe to our daily podcast @lockedonseahawks today! Click here To Listen.
Want even more Seattle Seahawks news? Check out the SI.com team page here.