It just wouldn’t have been Super Bowl Sunday without a juicy rumor about Russell Wilson’s future.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning that the Seahawks and Wilson have still not talked about an extension of his contract.
The “still” was the key part of that phrase, appearing to indicate that there’s something amiss that the two sides haven’t talked yet.
But assuming the Seahawks are going to handle Wilson’s negotiations the way they have virtually every other extension during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, there was no reason to expect that the team would have made an offer yet.
Wilson’s contract runs through the 2019 season. The Seahawks’ general offseason modus operandi has been to take care of players who are free agents now (such as Frank Clark) as well as navigating the March free agency period before moving on to extensions for later seasons.
That’s the timeline the Seahawks used last time with Wilson, who signed his current deal on the week training camp opened in 2015 as he was entering the final year of his rookie contract. It has been the timeline for virtually every significant extension the Seahawks have awarded for a player entering the final season of his deal (such as Tyler Lockett and Duane Brown last year, each done early in training camp).
Of course, Wilson is not just any player. Maybe one would assume a franchise quarterback wouldn’t be dealt with the same way as a receiver -- or as Wilson himself was four years ago at a time when the team couldn’t begin negotiating with him until after his third season had ended, per the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But indications all along have been that the timeline didn’t figure to be different this time around. One source told the Times earlier this year to not expect the two sides to engage in any substantive talks until mid-spring, or after free agency, and probably after the NFL draft, which is April 27-29.
True, maybe Seattle could just end this by blowing Wilson out of the water with an offer he couldn’t turn down -- five years at $35 million per or something?
But each side has motivation and/or ability to play the waiting game.
For Wilson, there’s zero reason to rush into anything that isn’t an “offer he can’t refuse,” given the way the market for NFL quarterbacks continues to rise. As former NFL agent and salary-cap expert Joel Corry recently noted “the top of the quarterback market increased by almost 25 percent during 2018, with multiple quarterbacks taking turns as the NFL’s highest-paid player.”
(And by the way, forget about Wilson taking “a hometown discount.” A, it’s not going to happen. And B, there shouldn’t be any expectation that he should agree to less than market value. Wilson and agent Mark Rodgers have every right to ask for Wilson’s market value and every expectation is that is what they are going to fight to get it).
The Seahawks know that they can use the Franchise Tag to keep Wilson through the 2022 season, but it would get really expensive. As Corry wrote last month, the tag number for 2020 “projects to $30.86 million. A second franchise tag in 2021 at a 20 percent increase over Wilson’s 2020 franchise number would be $37.032 million. A third franchise tag in 2022 with a 44 percent increase over the 2021 figure would be exorbitant. It would be slightly over $53.25 million.”
That’s a ton, and it’s hard to see how the 2022 tag would ever come into play.
While the tag was something each side wanted to avoid last time when Wilson signed a four-year, $87.5 million deal, it’s regarded as much more of a possibility now.
Last time, Wilson wanted to sign a longer-term deal, so he could assure getting life-changing money, which he now has. The Seahawks at the time wanted to keep Wilson through his prime years at a time when the team’s Super Bowl window was wide open (he signed just a few months after the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots).
But the Seahawks may be more amenable to a tag this time with Wilson getting a little older (he turned 30 in November, and age might become relevant when the team looks at Wilson’s long-term future if you buy into the idea that his style of play might have to change as he ages), and the franchise is in a different mode. Coach Pete Carroll signed a new contract in December that runs through the 2021 season when he will turn 70 -- and conveniently the year that a second franchise tag would keep Wilson in Seattle for.