On April 15th, Russell Wilson signed a four year extension with the Seattle Seahawks for an NFL record $140 million. The contract includes $105 million in guaranteed money and $65 million due at signing.
The extension came at the April 15th deadline that was placed by Russell Wilson. Peter King had reported that if no deal had been reached by this date, Russell Wilson would no longer negotiate with the Seahawks on an extension. This info from King added to the speculation that Wilson wished to move on from the Seahawks and play in a bigger market such as New York to enhance the off the field ventures of himself and his wife Ciara. In actuality, the Seahawks were never in jeopardy of losing Wilson to free agency. If no extension had been reached, the Seahawks would be able to place two consecutive franchise tags on Wilson after this season similar to how the Redskins handled Kirk Cousins.
The question arises, did the Seahawks overpay for their franchise quarterback when giving him this extension?
One of the main arguments to support this take is what happened in 2018 with the league’s highest paid quarterbacks.
The top six highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL in 2018:
- Aaron Rodgers
- Matt Ryan
- Kirk Cousins
- Jimmy Garoppolo
- Matt Stafford
- Derek Carr
What do all of these quarterbacks have in common? All of them missed the playoffs. These massive contracts consume up a very large portion of a team’s salary cap, leaving less money to distribute to the supporting cast. Teams like the Chiefs and Rams are still paying the QB position rookie contracts, leaving a much larger amount to spend on the rest of the roster.
This disproportionate amount of cap space dedicated to the QB leaves teams with having to release or trade other young stars that they can no longer afford. This exact scenario happened with the Seahawks after the Wilson signing when they traded DE Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs for draft picks.
On the surface this would lead one to believe that Wilson’s contract will be a burden to the success of the Seahawks over the next five seasons. Even with projected increases of the salary cap, Wilson’s contract will still consume anywhere from 13%-18% of the Seahawks salary cap. No team has ever won a Super Bowl with a player making >13% of their salary cap. The closest team to do it was the Atlanta Falcons with Matt Ryan in their collapse against New England.
Now, a lot has happened to the Seahawks roster since signing Russell to this contract which has had serious implications to their 2019 roster.
First came the trade of Frank Clark. Frank was projected to make around $17 million under the franchise tag the Seahawks had placed on him this offseason. The Seahawks were unable to negotiate a long term contract with Frank and sent him to the Kansas City Chiefs who then made him the 3rd highest paid defensive player in the NFL behind Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald. Knowing whether this trade was a good one or not for Seattle remains to be seen. However, this trade immediately freed up $17 million in 2019 cap space for the Seahawks which they used to sign veteran DL Al Woods and Ziggy Ansah to one year deals.
Second came the retirement of WR Doug Baldwin and S Kam Chancellor. Speculation about Baldwin’s retirement has been brewing since the end of the Seahawks 2018 season. Even though Doug’s relationship with Russell Wilson has never been very good, Russell Wilson’s contract seemed to not have anything to do with Doug’s decision. Baldwin has had several offseason surgeries and his body simply would no longer allow him to play at the level he demands of himself. Chancellor was unable to play in 2018 due to a severe spinal/neck injury suffered in 2017 and has now medically retired. These retirements gave the Seahawks roughly $9 million in additional cap room in 2019 and $27 million in 2020. These subtractions for 2019 and 2020 made the impact of Russell Wilson’s contract much easier to absorb for the Seahawks and will allow them to negotiate extensions for key players such as all-pro MLB Bobby Wagner and rising star DT Jarran Reed.
The Seahawks are now set with a roster in 2019 that still possess the sixth most cap space which can be used now or be rolled over in 2020. Following the 2019 draft the team is STACKED with young and inexpensive talent to surround Russell Wilson. They key to the success of the Seahawks will be Pete Carroll’s ability to coach up the young talent quickly and maximize the teams output while Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner are in the prime of their careers.
Simply put, the Seahawks have put all of their eggs in the Russell Wilson basket. However, I don’t think they had much of a choice. Pete Carroll figures to have only a few years left of coaching in him, and probably wants more than anything to redeem himself for what happened on the one-yard line in Arizona. Parting ways with Russell Wilson now would completely take that opportunity off the table. The Seahawks best chance of winning a super bowl in the next five seasons is with Russell Wilson at QB regardless of how much cap room he takes up. It’s difficult to overpay for something you simply can’t live without, and make no mistake about it, the Seahawks would be dead in the water without Russell Wilson.
Pete Carroll has an enormous task ahead of him with this young roster. Only one thing is for certain; it’s going to be damn fun to watch.