Betting On Yourself: A Quick Thought On Russell Wilson’s Contract Negotiations

I’m certainly not the first person to come to this conclusion, but then again I don’t see it as a thought that’s readily expressed in most articles on the subject, so I’m going to put it down here.

I’ve had other thoughts on this matter, which you can read here.  And perhaps here.  And today’s thoughts probably won’t be my final thoughts – especially as we’re hearing today that if he doesn’t get a deal done by the start of Training Camp, the matter will be set aside until next offseason.  That’s pretty standard protocol; at this point it’s up to both sides:  Do I want to be comfortable and secure that a deal is in place?  Or, am I okay with letting this hang over everything for the next year.

I’m pretty damn sure that this negotiation is going to bleed into next year.  I just can’t see either side coming so far off of their current stance to meet anywhere in the middle.  I hope I’m wrong (and luckily for everyone, I frequently am), but this just screams to me to be a Joe Flacco situation.

Which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  If Russell Wilson playing out his rookie deal means the Seahawks go all the way and win the Super Bowl, I would GLADLY watch the Seahawks give him the richest quarterback contract in NFL history.  Wouldn’t you?  Yeah, it’ll mean some lean times ahead; we’ll have to let some starters go we otherwise wouldn’t mind keeping around.  And the Seahawks will CERTAINLY have to start drafting more productive players than we’ve seen in the last few drafts (since 2013, the only productive players – aside from Justin Britt – have been backups & reserves:  Luke Willson, Jordan Hill, Tharold Simon, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Christine Michael).  Russell Wilson earning the maximum will create a hardship that might very well mean a dip in our future success, but what are you going to do?  Let a 2x NFL champion and 3x NFC champion quarterback walk in free agency?  Or trade him for 50 cents on the dollar?

I dunno, maybe that’s what a lot of fans want to see.  They like having the top defense, they like the powerful running game, and they believe the hype – that this type of team can win with an average quarterback.  I’m sure there’s a lot out there who believe that.  I think it’s insane, for many reasons.  First of all, these legendary defenses get old pretty quickly.  If you cling to a unit, you’re bound to be one of the oldest and slowest teams in the NFL within a few years.  Plus, injuries are a way of life in the NFL.  Even though most of our defense is right in their peak physically, you can’t account for freak injuries.  See how prepared we were for life without Jeremy Lane in the Super Bowl once he went out.  Tack on the fact that nearly everyone else in the secondary was playing through SOMETHING, and it’s pretty easy to see how the Patriots were able to carve us up so well in the second half.  Then, you’ve got to take into account the sheer number of games this team has played in since 2012.  Players wear down quicker when you’ve got so many post-season miles on your legs.  Factor in how Marshawn Lynch could retire at any moment, and it’s just not practical to throw away a franchise quarterback and try to build around someone inferior.

Quarterback is the most difficult position to fill, and the most difficult position to get right.  You don’t let franchise quarterbacks go; and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Russell Wilson is (a point made ever more clear should he lead this team to another championship in 2015).  This team would not be where it’s been had Tarvaris Jackson been starting for us.  That’s a fact, and all of you doubters have to realize that.  Having the league’s best defense and one of its most formidable running games isn’t enough to steamroll over the entire league.

Think about that game in Chicago in 2012:  no way we win that without Russell.  There are at least four games in 2013 – wins over Carolina, Houston, St. Louis, and Tampa – that very well would have been losses with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm.  And even if he does somehow lead us into the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers that year, does he do what Wilson did?  Does he make that throw to Kearse on 4th down to score the go-ahead touchdown?  I highly doubt it.  Then, if you look at last season, the NFC Championship Game probably looks a lot different without Wilson throwing all those interceptions; but at the same time, I don’t think anyone but Wilson is able to bring this team back from the dead.  And, with Tarvar in the Super Bowl, I don’t see him making ANY of the downfield throws Wilson made; I bet Super Bowl XLIX would’ve been a soul-crushing blowout loss instead of a soul-crushing near-win.

If you believe in a lesser quarterback like Tarvaris so much, I want you to go back to 2011 and take a REAL hard look at some of those games.  Maybe with some more weapons around him, he would’ve been able to do more.  But, just remember, Wilson hasn’t really had the weapons either, and look at how he’s made it work.  Furthermore, look at that offensive line!  Remember Tarvaris holding the ball too long?  Taking sacks he shouldn’t have been taking?  If the Seahawks let Wilson go, they absolutely CANNOT replace him with someone as immobile as Tarvar.  That guy will be killed faster than you can say David Carr’s NFL Career!  Sometimes, you need a guy to elude a rush.  Sometimes, you need a guy to lead you to a come-from-behind victory.  Defense and running game doesn’t do it all.  Sometimes, you need big plays out of your quarterback.  That’s where Russell Wilson comes in.  So, don’t bring your weak-ass argument in here about Russell Wilson not being a franchise quarterback.

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You know what?  I got so off track with that rant that I completely neglected the original point of this post.  This was supposed to be a QUICK thought, dammit!

Anyway, I just had this notion.  One of the perceived sticking points in the whole negotiation that’s been bandied about in the media is this issue of Guaranteed Money.  One of the rumors goes so far as to suggest Russell Wilson’s side is demanding the entire contract – or at least a prohibitive percentage of that contract – be fully guaranteed.  Who knows is this is true or not?  Seems to me, certain media members noticed Wilson’s agent is a baseball agent, they connected the dots to how baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, and put two & two together with the fact that this agent doesn’t have any other football player clients, so it doesn’t matter if he burns bridges with NFL executives.  When you combine that with Russell Wilson’s “Why Not Us” attitude, and how he wants to achieve the impossible, or prove all the doubters wrong, or whatever, it seems like a reasonable argument.

If that IS true, then I would counter with this:  Russell Wilson is a guy who’s totally willing to bet on himself in order to get what he wants.  That’s a given.  And that’s why these negotiations are going to continue into next year.  The threat of playing on a fourth year of sub-standard wages is not an issue.  He’s got enough money to get by with endorsements and he’s got a big, fat insurance policy to make sure he never goes to bed hungry.  Likewise, the threat of being Franchise Tagged isn’t even a threat either.  For starters, he’ll finally be making some motherfucking money, and it’ll just give him another year to prove to everyone that he’s worth all the money he’s asking for.

But, demanding a fully guaranteed contract just doesn’t seem to be keeping with his personality.  It’s a little too greedy and a little too nefarious.  If he’s willing to bet on himself to the point where this thing will go to the absolute last possible moment – whether it’s this year, or next year, or the year after that when we’re looking at a crazy second franchise tag – then he shouldn’t have any problem betting on himself when it comes to a non-guaranteed deal.

You figure, the average franchise quarterback’s deal has a hefty signing bonus, and maybe the first two years’ worth of salary fully guaranteed.  It’s going to put him somewhere around 60-75% of the contract guaranteed anyway; so what’s the big deal if those last two years aren’t fully guaranteed, as long as they represent an average per-year salary commensurate with other franchise quarterbacks of his ilk?  Joe Flacco’s deal was for 6 years and $120 million, with whatever smaller amount guaranteed.  But, if he keeps winning, and he stays healthy, he’s not only going to see every last dime of that deal – making it, for all intents and purposes a fully guaranteed deal anyway – but he’s going to get another contract extension probably before the end of the deal that will see him make even MORE money.

Why wouldn’t Russell Wilson bet on himself staying healthy for the full 4 years of his impending deal?  It just seems too obvious.  If he thought he was ever going to get injured beyond repair, he would’ve agreed to a deal by now!  So, why should a fully guaranteed contract be a sticking point for him?

If it is, then he’s truly not as good of a guy as you’d like to think.  Let’s be real here, I understand the “plight” of the NFL player in this world of non-guaranteed contracts, and I understand how they have to “get theirs” while the getting’s good.  But, at the same time, I think fully guaranteed contracts in ANY sport are a ridiculous concept.  The Mariners are going to have Robinson Cano under contract for 8 more years after this year.  If he really is on the downslope of his career, that means we’re going to be paying $24 million a year for a guy who isn’t even worth a tenth of that salary.  That’s what’s wrong with baseball in a nutshell, and it’s the last thing I want to see happen to the NFL.

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