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Russell Wilson has been quite a find for the Seahawks

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When he wasn’t praying for his lottery ticket to come in, Seahawks general manager John Schneider tried to relax.

He muted nonstop coverage of the 2012 NFL draft — if he didn’t turn off the TV altogether — and turned up the reggae music in the Seahawks’ draft room. The team’s third-round pick was approaching, and quarterback Russell Wilson was still on the board.

It’s easy for other executives to say now — after the Seahawks’ 43-8 rout Sunday of the Broncos in the Super Bowl — that they saw what the Seahawks did in the 5-11 quarterback. After Wilson’s efficient performance —
18-for-25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns — it will
inspire them to claim they were thisclose to drafting the former North Carolina State and Wisconsin star.

‘‘It’s real common for people to say, ‘Hey, we loved that guy, too,’ ’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said with a smirk last week.

The Bears, though, showed interest. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told Sports Illustrated last week that then-Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice was
enamored with Wilson. (Tice’s son, Nate, backed up Wilson in Wilson’s lone season with the Badgers.) At the least, Tice thought Wilson could excel in the then-popular wildcat formation. At the most, Tice thought he could have been Jay Cutler’s heir apparent.

Drafting and developing Wilson would have allowed the Bears to exploit what has become the NFL’s greatest market inefficiency since the revised 2011 collective-bargaining agreement took effect. The CBA means Wilson will make $662,434 next season and can’t renegotiate until after his third season (2014). His salary-cap hit will be $817,302.

By comparison, Cutler — who signed a new deal last month — will make $22.5 mil-
lion next season, with the same salary-cap hit. He’ll make $15.5 million in 2015 and $16 million in 2016.

Because of Wilson’s deal, the Seahawks were able to spend money last offseason. They traded for receiver Percy Harvin and signed him to a long-term deal, signed defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and gave safety Kam Chancellor a contract extension.

Try building the best
defense in the NFL while paying your franchise quarterback like, well, a franchise quarterback.

Regardless of his paycheck, Wilson quickly has become a star, his popularity surging because of his play and leadership qualities. When Wilson asked his teammates ‘‘Why not us?’’ earlier this season, he was quoting his late father, who always said Wilson’s size was no
reason for him to spurn football for baseball.

‘‘I’ve always believed in myself,’’ Wilson said after the Super Bowl. ‘‘That’s never gonna waver, either. I just needed the opportunity. If I got the opportunity, I was gonna take advantage of it.’’

Wilson’s numbers weren’t eye-popping — with a defense like his, they didn’t need to be — but he played like a veteran. His elusiveness helped the Seahawks convert four third downs in the first quarter, keeping the Broncos off the field and setting up the eventual stomping.

‘‘I felt like I had a good night,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘I was locked in. That was my goal: just have laser focus and be in the game, be engaged in the game.’’

Everyone saw it coming two years ago.

Sure, they did.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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