Quarterbacks get paid, mid-tier quarterbacks get paid a lot and elite quarterbacks get paid a lot and without any questions. Yet here we are with Russell Wilson quietly having only one year left on his contract and entering what can only be called a lame-duck year in 2019. There is no doubting Wilson’s bonafides; he has been to the playoffs multiple times, he has won a Super Bowl, he has been in the MVP discussion on an annual basis and he’s done it despite limitations around him offensively, from offensive line to receivers to scheme.
But according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on the Pick Six Podcast Friday (it’s a daily NFL show, you can hear the full interview below and you should probably subscribe right here), there has been zero contact between Wilson’s camp and the Seahawks as it relates to an extension.
This doesn’t happen. If a stud quarterback under the age of 35 is heading into the final year of his deal, he should be getting an extension. And it begs the question as to whether the Seahawks and Wilson might be headed towards some kind of divorce or even just an aggressive game of three-way chicken that involves the quarterback, the team and the upcoming CBA (more on that factor in a second).
“All offseason, while the Falcons were falling all over themselves to sign Matt Ryan and the Packers were falling all over themselves to sign Aaron Rodgers […] and Seattle not making any attempt to get ahead of Atlanta or Green Bay, to say nothing of now you’ve got [Ben] Roethlisberger coming back up,” La Canfora said. “It is what it is — these salaries continue to grow exponentially. What is Russell, what is he worth? And if they come to you with $160 [million] for four [years], you’re sitting there thinking, well, they’d have to franchise me the first time for this and the second time for that and the third time for this and that point we’re in a new CBA and who even knows what’s going on.
“If Kirk Cousins wins a Super Bowl, he’s going to make $90 million in three years. That’s Kirk Cousins, who’s never won a playoff game and is what, 4-24 against winning teams. So what is Russell Wilson worth on the open market?”
The answer is like $35 million per year at the absolute bottom. It might be more. If Wilson was released right now (that’s a complete hypothetical, obviously, because it’s not happening), he would be heavily pursued by a horde of teams, willing to give him something upwards of $200 million for five years. That sounds insane, but it’s not: the Packers had control over Aaron Rodgers for multiple seasons and extended him with a deal that pays the quarterback $134 million over four years. Cousins got $84 million fully guaranteed over three years.
Wilson would get paid $40 million per year by some team if he hit the open market, completely unregulated. Could that happen? Yes it could. If the Seahawks don’t work out an extension with Wilson before the end of next season, they’ll be forced to use the franchise tag on the quarterback.
“I’ve been trying to tell people, this is not a slam dunk. This is going to be much more interesting and intriguing dance than anybody really giving it credit for unless you’re really paying attention,” La Canfora continued. “The Seahawks, at the 2019 combine, if they’re not falling all over themselves to re-sign Russell Wilson then they might as well be trying to trade him. Because franchising him for two years and losing him, you put a very finite window on your chance to win and he’s never going to have as much trade value now as he would at any other time.
“There’s not a ton of teams who need quarterbacks, I get it. But I’m sure Ciara would be cool living on South Beach too.”
JLC was referencing a report/some buzz from Colin Cowherd on his Fox Sports radio show this past week where he threw out that he’s hearing entertainment agents in Los Angeles chatter about the long-term future of Wilson and his wife and where they want to live in relation to where he plays football.
The gist of what Cowherd hears is that Ciara would love to live in New York and that these agents see the possibility of the Giants making some deal for Wilson in order to bring the quarterback to New York to replace Eli Manning once his run is up.
It’s not THAT crazy. La Canfora said Friday if the Seahawks aren’t making a move on a contract extension this offseason — like, next week — they might want to consider the possibility of putting Wilson on the trade block.
“If you’re Russell Wilson, you don’t have to do a darned thing. If Joe Flacco and Kirk Cousins gambled on themselves and won, what might this guy bring on the open market?” La Canfora asked. “If you go back to the trade that the Bears made before the season for a pass rusher, not a quarterback, and all they gave up for him plus paying him a record contract. What would teams give up for a quarterback? What was Jay Cutler, two ones back in the day?”
Wilson would command a massive haul in a trade. A MVP-caliber, Super Bowl-winning, 31-year-old quarterback who takes immaculate care of his body and, despite his running skills, makes sure not to take too many shots? We’re talking three first-round picks here.
There would be multiple teams with aging quarterbacks interested in Wilson if he was on the block or the open market. Feel free to include the Patriots, Saints, Steelers and Chargers if we’re talking about a post-2019 situation (no know KNOWS what will happen with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers after any given season, that’s just the nature of time).
Built into this discussion is also the matter of the new CBA. As JLC and I noted in the podcast (again, listen above), Wilson might well be timing his situation with the implementation of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The 2021 season could very well be taking place under a new labor deal. Maybe that deal calls for quarterbacks to get 25 percent of the salary cap. Maybe it removes the ability of the Seahawks to franchise tag Wilson multiple times.
If the latter, it would mean that Wilson, after playing the 2020 season under the tag, would be a completely unrestricted free agent in the first year following new television deals, which would likely mean the first year with the cap spiking. He could get $50 million per year on the open market at that point on a three-year deal and two years removed from right now, there could be several more quarterback openings on the market.
Maybe he and his agents even timed his deal — the one he’s playing under right now — with the new CBA, understanding that Russell could potentially be the beneficiary of a major market shift if they planned everything at the right stages. It’s not like Wilson and/or Ciara are going to be hurting for money in the next three years. Russell could retire right now and be set for life with the money he’s made through football and endorsements.
Perhaps all of this goes away with a quick extension from the Seahawks and Wilson’s camp at the combine. But as noted earlier, these two sides haven’t been talking contract for quite some time now. Rumors of Wilson departing Seattle via trade have been percolating for almost a full calendar year.
If nothing happens in the near future, the drumbeat is only going to get louder, because it will become clear Wilson is willing to bet on himself and play out the string while seeing what the future holds with the open market and labor rules. This has quietly been a huge NFL story for months. That won’t stop without a new deal, except for the quiet part going away.