I’m getting more and more uneasy with each passing day where Russell Wilson hasn’t been locked up to a long-term extension. This isn’t how it was supposed to go down. We were supposed to extend him and Wagner and be living in that afterglow as we cruised right on into the NFL Draft. Now, we’re a week into June. We’ve had some OTAs, we’re starting to look forward to training camp, and nothing. Nothing doing on the Russell Wilson/Seattle Seahawks front.
It makes me queasy just thinking about it.
Ideally, the earlier you get these deals done, the better. That way, YOU set the market for other teams, and not the other way around. We’ve already seen Ryan Tannehill and now Cam Newton get their extensions, which is pretty much it. The only deals left to do would probably be Philip Rivers and then Russell Wilson (with Andrew Luck probably a year away, as the Colts have a 5th year option they can tangle with). As it stands, it kinda sounds like Russell Wilson is trying to re-set the market – with the highest payout for a quarterback in history – which is pretty scary.
Today’s Peter King article poses some interesting thoughts on the matter. As a rule, I try not to write a blog post on every article written by a national pundit, but when a story gets so big that Peter King starts to take notice, it’s no longer something you can just dismiss. Ever since Russell Wilson started winning football games and it became readily apparent that he was to be our Franchise Quarterback, I’ve always just taken it for granted that after Wilson’s third season – the earliest point he’d be eligible to have his contract re-worked – he’d get paid and we’d all move on with our lives. It was just never a concern of mine; why would it be? He’s a good guy, we like to take care of our stars, we’ve got a good thing going here, why would we have any trouble getting something done?
Even if I sat down and brought up all the points against a deal getting done timely – his outlandish 3-year stats and W/L record as a starting quarterback coming up against how the team relies on its defense and running game to get the bulk of those wins accomplished – I could point to this 4th year, where he’s making less than $2 million, as well as the Franchise Tag, as reasons why the Seahawks should have a leg up in negotiations. Those feel like PRETTY big chips! And yet, after reading Peter King’s article, they kinda feel like nothing at all.
Russell Wilson is a different animal. In all the ways where he’s a walking sports cliche – right down to the interviews he gives – he’s also something entirely different. Hence the agent who’s a “baseball guy”. This is someone who’s used to getting max deals. King notes, “he’s never had any fear taking his baseball clients to the market.” That … is absolutely terrifying.
Russell Wilson is EXACTLY the type of person who’d be comfortable rolling the dice on himself. Hell, he’s been doing it his whole life! At any point between high school and the NFL Draft, he could’ve switched to a different position more becoming a man of his height. He stuck with quarterback, bet on himself, and it’s paying off. He’s also got more than enough money from endorsements and whatnot to make this year’s deal good enough to live on. Why wouldn’t he play out the 2015 deal, take the Seahawks back to the playoffs for a fourth straight year, and take away a huge chunk of leverage the Seahawks had in negotiations? The only reason to do the deal now is out of risk of injury, but Wilson isn’t the type of guy to shy away based on theoreticals.
Then what happens? Well, then the Seahawks place the Franchise Tag on him. At that point, he’ll get around $20 million for 2016 – which is pretty much what the Seahawks want to pay him on a yearly basis. If he still doesn’t like the contract extension the Seahawks are offering at that point, then he plays out 2016.
Then what happens? Well, if they Seahawks want to franchise him a second time, then they’d have to pay him 120% of his prior-year’s salary, which puts him in the $24 million range for 2017. At that point, you might as well be dealing with Darrelle Revis, because he’s the only guy I can think of who has bet on himself this much and succeeded.
Then what happens? If the Seahawks were to franchise him a third time, you’re talking 144% of his prior-year’s salary. This puts him in the $34-35 million range, which is absolutely insane and out of the question for a football team, even with the rising salary cap figure (you also have to take into account the salary cap isn’t going to KEEP going up at the rate it’s been going up the last couple years, if it even continues to go up at all).
So, what does it all mean? Well, bank on Russell Wilson being in Seattle in 2015 regardless. I’m about 95% confident we’d have him again in 2016 no matter what, but at that point you have to wonder if the Seahawks trade him away to try to recoup some value. Assume, if the Seahawks give up on Wilson, that means he’s hellbent on reaching the open market no matter what and negotiations are a moot point. I’m 50/50 on the Seahawks keeping him for a second franchise tag in 2017, but it’s certainly something the organization could do if we feel like the championship window has one final season in it, and if Pete Carroll is looking to call it a career around that time (or move on to greener pastures), and if it’s just time to do a full rebuild in 2018.
I’m 100% positive the Seahawks decline the option to tag Wilson a third time, at that $34+ million figure.
Truth be told, I’m nervous. The more I allow myself to think about it, the more I’m able to convince myself that he WANTS to be a free agent on the open market. Because he’s not like the other franchise quarterbacks out there. Because he’s not tied down to one city. Because he secretly wants to play for a bigger market and be the Derek Jeter of football.
It’s sickening to think about. I hope like hell that I’m wrong. I hope we’re able to get a deal done this summer and everything’s right with the world. But, if the deal breaks down, I think we all have to start preparing for a life without Russell Wilson.
This is super-uncharted territory for us. We’ve never been in this position before. Not with a franchise quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck was nice and all, and I’m sure he made a pretty penny once he locked down the starting job for us, but he was never the kind of guy who’d inspire a huge bidding war on the open market. He was never in those top two tiers of quarterbacks; he was more in that third tier where he still needs a quality team around him to get the job done. Russell Wilson IS in those top two tiers. If he decides to stick around, he’s going to be the highest-paid Seahawk we’ve ever had. I hope I see the day.