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Seahawks won't be paying Russell Wilson's $245 million contract
Seaside Joe 1275, 9/1/22: Seattle's savings are real, and they're spectacular
While I rarely write about Russell Wilson anymore, this will be the fourth time that I’ve written about his contract since the trade because that factor is just as important in the two sides deciding to move on as any other talking point. Back in March, 11 days after the trade, I attempted to calculate how much money the Seattle Seahawks would save if they decided to go with a 2023 first round quarterback instead.
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Then in May, John Gilbert and I discussed the salary cap situation and I wrote that the Seahawks could save enough to make at least one legitimate splash signing of one of these 2023 free agents just by not having to pay Wilson. Then three months ago, in June, I wrote an article that had almost the exact same title as the one you’re reading right now:
The Seahawks won't be paying Russell Wilson's $250 million asking price
I believe my dad will remember that as “the George Carlin article.”
The $250 million asking price was a figure reported by 9News reporter Mike Klis and now we can see that clearly he had his finger on the pulse of negotiations: On Thursday morning, it was reported that the Denver Broncos have extended Wilson to a five-year, $245 million contract with $165 million guaranteed.
This is the third contract this year to reach at least $230 million in total value, following Deshaun Watson’s fully-guaranteed $230 million and Kyler Murray’s studiously-guaranteed $160 million on a $230.5 million contract. Wilson also becomes the ninth quarterback to eclipse $40 million in annual salary and only the second, after Aaron Rodgers, to top $47 million per year.
His $165 million guarantee is also the second-most all-time, after Watson.
There are many acceptable ways to react to this news depending on your perspective, but from the Seahawks point of view, phew-oh-my-god-yes-good-thank-you-not-us-not-us-not-us.
Russell’s perspective this morning is to be expected:
And surely Broncos fans are elated too, even if this moment has been inevitable since the trade was announced. You don’t trade that much to acquire a quarterback without expecting him to finish his career there and Wilson remains one of the best in the league. Although, when comparing him to the other quarterback traded in a similar situation a year earlier, how did these two players/four teams reach such different outcomes:
Matthew Stafford, 33 at time of trade, Lions acquire two first round picks, a third, and Jared Goff; wins Super Bowl, signs a four-year, $160 million extension
Russell Wilson, 33 at time of trade, Seahawks acquire two firsts, two seconds, three players; before playing his first game with Broncos, signs a five-year, $245 million extension
The Seahawks did so much better than the Lions, especially when factoring in that Seattle didn’t agree to take on the bloated contract of a bad quarterback, and at this point Wilson and Stafford feel like they’re on the same tier to me.
Andrew Brandt shared the contract details on Twitter and the contract does save Denver $10 million in cap space right away:
Wilson gets a $50 million signing bonus upfront, then another $20 million bonus in March. That’s $70 million in cash for Russell Wilson between now and the start of the 2023 league year, which coincidentally (?) is what I calculated to be Seattle’s total savings AFTER they draft and pay both first round picks, both second round picks, Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, and Drew Lock.
Yes, that means that the Seahawks should be able to draft Wilson’s replacement, plus three other first and/or second round picks, and still be able to spend $70 million more just from what they aren’t paying to the veteran quarterback. It also so happens that Jamal Adams is owed $70 million over that period of time, so it feels as though that one contract can fit into the hole and let Seattle sort of start from a new baseline.
And I do think the Seahawks should (maybe they won’t, but they should) buck Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s free agency trend and finally sign a first-wave free agent. It could be Bradley Chubb, Roquan Smith, Quenton Nelson, or Dalton Schultz maybe, but you don’t unload a contract situation like Wilson’s in favor of a rookie deal without at least attempting to capitalize on those savings.
Of course, none of this matters if the rookie contract quarterback isn’t good. As I wrote in June and will emphasize again:
50-percent of Super Bowl-appearing quarterbacks in the last 10 years were playing on their rookie contract. Many of the veteran contracts were extremely team-friendly, and not a single winner has been the higher than fourth in salary.
Joe Burrow, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Cam Newton, Carson Wentz (as a valuable quarterback who helped the Eagles get the number one seed in 2017, prior to injury) all had to be good in order for there to be any surplus value in their rookie contracts. If you’re not good then what are you?
You aren’t savings. You’re an anchor.
Just ask the Carolina Panthers, as they now employ two anchors from the top-three picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. We can dream about savings until next April, but the Giants are paying Daniel Jones $8.3 million this year against the cap, the Dolphins are paying $8.2 million to Tua Tagovailoa, and we have no guarantees on performance by Trevor Lawrence ($8.3), Zach Wilson ($8), and Trey Lance ($7.7).
These are not exorbitant prices, but still top-20 to top-25 contracts for quarterbacks who haven’t proven anything and if you get in the Baker Mayfield/Sam Darnold situation, teams may commit that expensive fifth-year option to you on an optimistic whim.
Maybe $18 million isn’t the end of the world. But it is if you’re Daniel Jones.
But yes, I would rather see the Seahawks take the risk of drafting a quarterback who could be bad and saving tens of millions per year than I’d advise them to keep Wilson, reject the trade bounty of picks, and to do so for a quarterback who…could also be bad before the end of that contract.
How good Wilson is today as compared to his peak (if he’s reached it already) is something that I won’t try to calculate until we see him play for the Broncos for a while. Whether he can be as dangerous without as much mobility through his mid-30s is something that everyone—Denver and Seattle fans alike—will be monitoring.
Russell Wilson is the best quarterback in Seahawks franchise history. But he will never be as valuable as he was on his rookie contract.
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