Seahawks better sign Russell Wilson to that extension soon
Russell Wilson wants a contract extension, and the Seahawks want to keep him. They better pay up soon, or it may be too late.
It’s certainly no secret that Russell Wilson wants his contract extended. The Seahawks magical quarterback is currently signed through 2019. That gives Seattle some time to figure out exactly what they want to do. That’s a very good thing, because they’ve got a lot of figuring to do.
Wilson isn’t the only player looking for an extension, of course. You may have heard that the great Earl Thomas wants an extension as well. The All Pro safety is only signed through 2018, so you could say he’s a higher priority than Wilson. Wilson has been to all of the Seahawks OTA. He isn’t sending a message by staying out; Thomas is.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider both say they expect Thomas to be in camp. Unless Seattle gets what they see as true value for Thomas, he’s staying through 2018. If they keep him, it’s going to cost at least $3 million more per year. Thomas makes $10 million, while Eric Berry is the highest paid safety at $13 million. You can see the contracts of the top safeties on spotrac.com. Yes, Kam Chancellor is second at $12 million. His future certainly will affect the Seahawks decision on Thomas.
Thomas expects to get paid, and someone is going to pay him. If that someone is Seattle, that takes at least $13 million per year off the team’s salary cap. That’s $13 million that can’t go to Russell Wilson. The salary cap for 2018 is just over $177 million. By 2020, the year Wilson’s contract expires, the cap is projected to be around $190 million. Good thing, too, because it’s going to cost a lot to keep Wilson.
Seahawks may get burned if they wait too long
The danger of waiting too long to extend Wilson is that quarterback contracts keep going up. Right now, ten quarterbacks put bigger paychecks in the bank than Wilson. I guarantee all eyes at 12 Seahawks Way are on Green Bay right now. As soon as Aaron Rodgers gets his new contract, Seattle will have the framework for Wilson’s contract. It will certainly be over $30 million, perhaps as high as $35 million.
One possibility is that Seattle may eventually use the franchise tag for Wilson. For an in-depth explanation of the rule, here’s a great article from Sports Illustrated. The short version: instead of hammer out a contract, an NFL team can apply the tag to their player and keep them for an additional year. Most teams use the non-exclusive tag. It allows players to negotiate with any other team, but the original team can match the best offer. If they decline to match it, they get two first round draft picks as compensation.
There are two important factors to consider using the tag. The salary is set as the average of the five highest salaries at the position. If the Seahawks tagged Wilson in 2017, for example, they’d have paid him $21.3 million for the season. It’s important to note that’s just an example, as Seattle can’t apply the tag until Wilson’s free agency year, 2020. Two years from now, that number will be much, much higher, more than what they could sign Wilson for now.
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Quarterback contracts will see a huge spike again in 2020
The bad news is even more top quarterbacks will hit free agency in 2020. Besides Rodgers, we’ll see Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Dak Prescott sign huge contracts. Case Keenum and Nick Foles hit the market in 2020 as well. Some other significant quarterbacks hitting free agency in 2020 might not get contracts at all. Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady will all hit the market that year. Rivers and Roethlisberger are the youngest, and they’ll both 38 years old. But in today’s NFL, 38 is the new 28. Oh, and Sam Bradford’s contract expires in 2020, just five short years after his knees.
I mentioned two factors to consider in franchise tags. The second is simply that players don’t like it because it takes their bargaining power away. Von Miller threatened to sit out 2016 if he was tagged, and Le’Veon Bell followed suit if the Steelers tagged him for a second straight year. Drew Brees was tagged twice and eventually had it written into his contract that he could not be hit with the franchise tag again.
Kirk Cousins was tagged for two straight years, and you see how eager he was to remain with Washington. Could be that’s a major reason he’s in Minnesota these days. That makes it a bit dangerous for the Seahawks to tag Wilson. Most players see the franchise tag as an act of poor faith by their team. I have a feeling Russell Wilson would feel the same. Sign him the second Rodgers signs his.