The Seahawks won't be paying Russell Wilson's $250 million asking price
Seaside Joe 1186: What's in a number?
There is a reason that I don’t talk or write about Russell Wilson very often since the March 8th trade, which is that I only tend to care about players who are either on the team or potentially a part of the team’s future. I don’t even think that I knew that about myself until the Wilson trade, but it’s the way that I’ve always approached covering the team.
You wouldn’t want me to give regular updates on Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Darrell Bevell, or Jadeveon Clowney, would you?
(Wow, Jadeveon Clowney was on the Seahawks? What’s the opposite of that song by Nat King Cole?)
Wilson has moved on from the Seahawks and I send my best wishes to any Seahawks fans who have yet to move on from Wilson. I’m appreciative of the 10 years of outstanding entertainment value and football wizardry that Wilson supplied to me as a fan, and especially as a writer who was never short on content, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about Steve Largent. Ever.
And I’ve met Steve Largent!
To say that I hope for the best for Wilson would also be a little disingenuous. I hope for the best for Seattle, and I am rather ambivalent about the Denver Broncos. When I look over to the AFC, I root for a 2022 season that is interesting above all else and Wilson taking the Broncos to the Super Bowl would be interesting—so he’s got that going for him—but there are also fascinating scenarios in which Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, Mac Jones, Joe Burrow, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, or Mike McDaniel end up winning the AFC.
The only “bonus points” for the Seahawks, if Wilson gets his second Super Bowl championship in the upcoming season, is the worst possible return on Denver’s 2023 first round pick.
So no, I wouldn’t say that I’m “rooting” for Wilson to be successful right away. Even a Week 1 win over his old team wouldn’t move the needle—if Seattle loses, they might get a slightly better first round pick of their own, but then they could get a slightly worse pick back from Denver in the case.
As you can see, the only times I really care to write about Wilson anymore are when those times impact the Seattle Seahawks. At this point, what is there left to say about him?
And for the love of love, please stop comparing a team and a player to being in a romantic relationship. This was not a “divorce.” This was not a “break up.” You were not dating Russell Wilson, he was not buying Pete Carroll flowers, and we don’t need to use euphemisms in order to deal with reality. The Seahawks traded Russell Wilson from one football team to another football team and there are consequences to that move, both in terms of benefits and potential detriments.
Perhaps the only drawback to the Wilson trade is the lack of having Russell Wilson at quarterback ever again. More and more, I believe this game of football to be an individual sport (QB) surrounded by a team sport (everybody else). To not have a good quarterback is like going into The Masters without any clubs. If you’re lucky and your quarterback at least gives you one club, then you need everything else to go right to carry that person past the cut.
So in that sense, the Wilson trade will reverberate throughout Seattle’s future until he is replaced, a ripple effect that has torn up the Dolphins through nearly 30 years of seeking the next Dan Marino. (Miami has not had a legitimately decent offensive campaign since 1995 and that is not an exaggeration.)
For that blind lady who holds the thingy that weighs stuff on either side of the whatchamacallit, I can’t say for sure how long not having Russell Wilson will be heavier than all that the Seahawks got in return for not having Russell Wilson.
But while the “drawbacks” list is as short as one item, the benefits list is much longer:
2022 (Charles Cross) first round pick, 2023 first round pick, 2022 second round pick (Boye Mafe), 2023 second round pick
TE Noah Fant, a first round pick in 2019
DE Shelby Harris, a Week 1 starter for the defensive line
QB Drew Lock (not that I mean to confuse the word benefit for a “prayer to get lucky”)
Cap space. Cap space. Cap space.
It’s that last item that brings me to a rare discussion of Wilson on Seaside Joe today. If you are a first-time reader brought to Seaside Joe today via an external source, welcome and please consider signing up for a FREE subscription to a daily Seahawks newsletter!
On Wednesday, 9News reporter Mike Klis updated Broncos fans about the upcoming auction to sell the team to the highest bidder among the final four candidates. The sale is expected to land between $4 and $5 billion. If you’ll recall Thursday’s newsletter about the rising cost of quarterbacks, that is about four to eight times more than the going rate of an NFL franchise only 20 years ago.
But the price of a franchise quarterback may be going up at an even faster rate, and Klis noted in that piece that Russell Wilson’s asking price is expected to be a five-year, $250 million contract.
Klis did not make it clear whether that asking price is coming from Wilson’s camp or somewhere else, but the number makes sense from a negotiation standpoint. Watson signed a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract and Aaron Rodgers is leading the NFL right now with a $50.2 million average annual salary. A year ago, Matthew Stafford was traded to the LA Rams in a similar contract situation—he had two seasons left at reasonably low cap hits between $20-$24 million—and then this past offseason he signed a four-year, $160 million extension with $120 million in total guarantees.
Wilson, who has only ever signed four year contracts during his career, is the same age as Stafford and now that each of them has a ring, might be living in the same tax bracket on his next contract. But given his personality and history, I would expect Wilson to reach for a contract that could make him the highest-paid quarterback in history, at least by some measure.
And since there’s going to be a new owner in Denver, that person may feel compelled to shell out the cash as a sign to the public that the Broncos are committed to keeping their golf bag fully loaded. I’ll give you an example in podcasting.
Do you know why Spotify paid Joe Rogan so much money? First reported as $100 million in 2020, then re-reported as $200 million in 2022? It’s not because they think his podcast is worth that much. It’s not because they wanted Rogan’s fans to join Spotify. It actually has very little to do with the content of his show or because they support Rogan or his guests.
They pay Rogan that much because headlines featuring his contract figures reach millions of people around the globe.
I would bet that most of you did not know that Spotify had thousands of podcasts to listen to until sometime after Spotify signed Rogan. The reality is that Spotify could have added Rogan to their platform without paying him a cent, they just would not have had any exclusivity to his show. Spotify does not care about exclusivity however, they care about headlines. Instead of spending $300 million on marketing and advertising, they spent some fraction of that on headlines from every publication you can think of—The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times—without even having to ask those powerful news organizations to do so.
And when people forgot about Rogan’s $100 million headlines from 2020, Spotify leaked out a new contract figure twice as large as that in 2022 because if it worked once, then surely it will work twice. It’s the same reason that companies like Spotify and Netflix do not shy away from these controversies that are constantly attached to Rogan and Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais, because as long as there are days when they’re trending on social media and being talked about by every news program, podcast, and watercooler conversation… THEY’RE GOOD.
“No, that is wrong. I cancelled Spotify when they signed Rogan!”
That may be the case for one individual. But it is not the case for PEOPLE. Most people don’t even know the details of any of these controversial entertainers and they never will. They just heard, “Oh, Spotify has content besides music?” “Oh, Netflix has original comedy specials?”
That’s it. The thing that you think is being talked about because it is political or controversial is actually just marketing. I can’t call it “free” marketing because Spotify and Netflix (Which you may remember also leaks eye-popping numbers about what Chappelle is paid for his specials) shell out plenty of cash for these opportunities to trend for a few days, or a few weeks. But it is cheaper marketing and it is much more effective.
Sorry to tell you that if you’ve ever gone on Twitter to complain about the person that Spotify or Netflix is pretending to support, you’re doing exactly what they were hoping for when they pretended to support that person.
(It doesn’t necessarily have to be a controversial person either. Just a few weeks ago, SiriusXM reportedly paid Conan O’Brian $150 million for his podcast company, to which many of my friends responded… “Sirius is still a thing?” That’s the only reason that SirusXM paid $150 million for a podcast. And of course, Spotify also acquired Bill Simmons and The Ringer for $200 million prior to signing Rogan, but that acquisition didn’t carry much, if any controversy, and doesn’t have any staying power in the headlines.)
Of course, if the Broncos sign Russell Wilson to a five-year, $250 million contract within the next year, the main motivation would be that he’s a valuable football player. Denver went through a mini-Marino era following the retirement of John Elway in 1999 until the signing of Peyton Manning in 2012. But Manning, who was 36 when he signed with the Broncos, could only give Denver three years of great play with no Super Bowl championships. Followed by one year of bad play with one Super Bowl championship.
For the six seasons since, the Broncos have ranked 29th in passer rating (81.1), ahead of only the Browns, Panthers, and Jets. In that same period of time, the Seattle Seahawks have ranked third in passer rating (101.6) thanks to Wilson and the job that Pete Carroll did to surround Wilson with talent and opportunities.
From 2016-2021, the Broncos ranked 31st in passing touchdowns (115), whereas the Seahawks ranked fourth (193).
When Wilson signs his next contract, presumably locking him in Denver for at least his age 36-39 seasons, it will represent a commitment to having a quality passing offense and that often turns into winning football games. It will also be a show by the Broncos new ownership group that they’ve been mad as hell with Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock, Case Keenum, and Trevor Siemian, and they’re not going to take this anymore.
A $40 million APY on par with Stafford, Dak Prescott, and Derek Carr isn’t going to send that message.
If the Broncos want to send that message, they’re going to need to make the same headlines as Patrick Mahomes ($450 MILLION?!), Watson ($230 MILLION GUARANTEED?!), and Rodgers ($50 MILLION PER YEAR FULLY GUARANTEED?!) and THAT is another reason why Seattle had to say, “You know what, we’re not interested in making one of those headlines. We think we can be okay without it. Why don’t we find you a franchise that is ready for that type of commitment.”
What better opportunity that a team that is just about to be sold (much sooner than the Seahawks, at least) and has a need at quarterback?
So I completely believe Klis’s report that Wilson’s asking price is starting at five years and $250 million. It would keep Wilson in town through his age-40 season and probably contain at least $150 million in guarantees.
The Seahawks enter an era without Russell Wilson and that is a disadvantage. But perhaps on top of everything else I’ve mentioned in his trade return package, the biggest benefit to moving Wilson when they did is the $50 million in annual salary that they don’t have to pay him.
That doesn’t make headlines. Well, except for the one on the top of this newsletter.
Who do you think will replace the leadership roles previously occupied by Wilson and Wagner? Whatever you thought about Wilson, he worked his ass off, and that commitment filtered through the team. Wilson's out front, in-your-face, commitment to success might have been as valuable as his right arm. Same with Bobby who is such an honest, steady, and principled guy who was commited to doing it the right way. On defense, the two safeties seem like logical leaders but on offense, none of the QBs seem like they have the level of intensity Wilson showed. Pete's a winner but we need a QB with that same mentality. Where do you all think we stand?
So...Denver, while in the middle of selling the team, gives away huge future assets, for an aging QB expected to demand 50 mil a year while looking at age 40, and their fans are ecstatic? Makes no sense to me.