Seattle fans who are hoping that quarterback Russell Wilson would be a lifelong Seahawk may have to stop holding their breath.
The Seahawks haven’t reached an agreement with Wilson as of the team’s June minicamp. Wilson is in the fourth and final year of his $2.99 million rookie deal — and is projected to make $1.54 million this year. The former Wisconsin Badger will be making less money than 40 other quarterbacks, including big names like Ben Roethlisberger ($35.25 million) and Drew Brees ($19 million), as well as second-stringers such as Mark Sanchez ($4.75 million) and Matt Hasslbeck ($3 million).
Speculation is that Wilson is looking for a five-year contract in excess of $110 million, which would make him one of the highest paid players in the league.
It’s not as if Seattle has always underpaid Wilson. Under the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player taken in the NFL Draft cannot renegotiate their contract until after their third year.
In Wilson’s case, he had to wait until after last season to begin contract negotiations with the Seahawks.
In 2014, Wilson completed 285 of 452 passes for 3,475 yards — the most in his NFL career so far — and 20 touchdowns. His rushing numbers also took a significant leap as he ran for 849 yards and six touchdowns. The difference between 2014 and the season before was the Seahawks did not win a second Super Bowl championship. Regardless of whom fans want to blame for the 28-24 loss to the Patriots, another Super Bowl title may have given Wilson the leverage he needed for contract negotiations.
While contract negotiations are ongoing, Wilson is taking measures to protect his future. According to reports, Wilson took out an insurance policy worth millions of dollars in case he suffers a career-threatening injury.
Some look at the insurance policy as skepticism on Wilson’s part that the contract extension will not go through. In earlier interviews, Wilson said he is fine playing out the final year of his contract though he hopes to be in Seattle for “a long time.”
Taking out the insurance policy is smart on Wilson’s part. While he hasn’t been hurt in his three seasons with Seattle, quarterbacks tend to get injured. Last season, six quarterbacks suffered injuries, including Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer.
If Seattle doesn’t extend his contract, they can place a franchise tag on him if he becomes a free agent.
According to the NFL’s website, a “non-exclusive” franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five cap hits at the player’s position for the previous five years applied to the current salary cap, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary — whichever is greater. Wilson may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if he signs an offer sheet from another franchise, Seattle has a right to match the terms of that offer. If the Seahawks do not match the offer and Wilson leaves, they are entitled to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
Seattle’s franchise tag for Wilson would be somewhere between $21 million to $26 million in 2016 but some teams that are in need of a strong quarterback — St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans to name a few — may be willing to pay the money to sign him.
Personally, I think the Seahawks need Wilson more than he needs them. Wilson has helped lead them to two consecutive Super Bowls, is a great face for the team and fans love him, but there isn’t much else for him to do while he’s in Seattle, aside from breaking franchise records and becoming a member of the team’s Ring of Honor.
Seahawk fans can take comfort knowing that Wilson will have at least one more season but it’s naïve to think he’ll stay with Seattle out of loyalty, especially if he can make more money elsewhere
If Wilson does leave Seattle, the team will have two first-round draft picks and some money to bring in more players.
But will lighting strike twice for the Seahawks? Will they pick up another quarterback like Wilson or a better one?