With the ball on the one-yard line, less than a minute remaining on the clock, and a four-point deficit, Russell Wilson dropped back to throw a Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass. Rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted the pass and the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XLVIX. Russell Wilson was that one pass away from winning his second Super Bowl, in just his third year as a starter. Now, entering the final year of his rookie contract, both the Seahawks and Wilson want Russell to sign an extension. However, the two camps are on different sides on what the money should look like. It was reported recently that Wilson is looking to become the highest paid player in the NFL.
Russell Wilson was a part of a recent wave of young talent into the NFL at the quarterback position, a group that includes Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick. Tannehill, Dalton, Newton, and Kaepernick have recently signed lucrative extensions. Newton and Kaepernick’s contracts are each worth over $100 million (though Kaepernick’s is incentive laden), Dalton’s is worth $96 million, and Tannehill’s is worth $77 million. The four-year deal Wilson received as a rookie is worth under $3 million. Currently, Aaron Rodgers is the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, with an average yearly salary of $22 million. That’s the number Wilson and his agent are using to negotiate.
The Seahawks have gotten off easy with Wilson the past three years. They essentially had a free quarterback, able to funnel a lot more money into their defense and easily stay within the salary cap requirements. Pete Carroll’s NFL head coaching resume before Russell Wilson was: fired, fired, 7-9, 7-9. Then in his third year with Seattle, he names rookie Russell Wilson his starting quarterback. All of a sudden he wins a playoff game, wins the Super Bowl the next year and comes one play away from repeating last year. Is Russell Wilson the best player in the National Football League? No. Is he the best quarterback in the National Football League? No. But right now, that’s irrelevant.
In today’s NFL, finding an elite quarterback that can win a Super Bowl is becoming harder and harder. Wilson, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger have won 13 of the last 14 Super Bowls. It’s possible to win games with average quarterback play, but it is impossible to win a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback in today’s NFL. It’s not that quarterbacks have gotten worse, they’ve actually gotten much better, but the responsibility of playing quarterback has gotten much more difficult. With the introduction of the no-huddle offense, quarterbacks not only have more responsibility at the line of scrimmage, they also have an extra 20-30 plays a game with the ball in their hands. The debate over Russell Wilson’s contract isn’t a debate over how he ranks in comparison to other quarterbacks in the league; it’s a debate over how valuable he is to the Seahawks. There’s a reason average quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill just got big contracts. Even at the level they’re at ability-wise, they’re extremely hard to replace. When all these things are considered, the Seahawks have no choice but to pay him.
This contract doesn’t have to get done immediately. Wilson is still under contract for the upcoming year, and he has no intention of holding out. Next year, if Wilson remains unsigned, the Seahawks will have the ability to franchise him, and Wilson has said he would be willing to play under the franchise tag. This would either mean him playing for one year, or the two sides hashing out a long-term deal. Either way, it doesn’t seem likely that Wilson will hit the open market. The only plausible questions that remain are when he signs, how long he signs for, and how much he signs for.
By: Rory MacCallum