After months of speculation about a new contract, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks reached an agreement just before Friday’s training camp deadline on a new four-year, $US87.6 million contract extension.
When we compare the contract to those signed by other quarterbacks in recent years, Wilson’s new deal compares quite favourably. The $US61.5 million guaranteed against injury is the most ever, the $US21.9 million average salary during the extension is second only to Aaron Rodgers, and the $US31.0 million signing bonus it tied with Ben Roethlisberger for the tops among all players in the last two years.
It sounds great, right? Those are big numbers. However, when we look a little closer it is clear that Wilson’s new contract is not the game-changer many were expecting.
- 2015 — $US31.7 million ($US31.0 million signing bonus, $US700,000 salary) fully guaranteed at signing.
- 2016 — $US12.3 million, becomes guaranteed if still on the team Feb. 26, 2016.
- 2017 — $US12.6 million, becomes guaranteed if still on the team the 5th day of the 2017 waiver period.
- 2018 — $US15.5 million, $US4.9 million becomes guaranteed if still on the team the 5th day of the 2017 waiver period.
- 2019 — $US17.0 million, not guaranteed
To put it another way. While most in the media reported this as a four-year, $US87.6 million contract, here is how we would report it in just about any other sport:
Russell Wilson’s new deal is really a ONE-YEAR, $US31.7 MILLION CONTRACT WITH 4 YEARS OF TEAM OPTIONS.
This contract is at the good end of NFL deals, but it didn’t really change much. That is, the Seahawks gave Wilson a lot of money (by NFL standards) but they still have all the control.
Now compare Wilson’s deal to that signed by Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2015 season. Like Wilson, Porcello was still under team control for the 2015 season, with his only leverage being that his salary could be determined by an arbitrator.
Porcello avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract for 2015 worth $US12.5 million. Just as the season started, he signed a similar extension to Wilson’s, a four-year, $US82.5 million contract to begin in 2016. The big difference being that Porcello’s deal was fully guaranteed the moment he signed it.
The other big difference is that Porcello is not nearly as valuable as Wilson. We can argue about where Wilson ranks among today’s quarterbacks — is he elite? is he in the top-5? — but what cannot be dismissed is that he is without a doubt one of the 10 or 15 most important players in the NFL. He plays the single most important position, he plays it better than most, and he has played that position for one of the most successful teams of the last five years. Porcello is a fine player but he is not even one of the 10 or 15 most important players in his division.
And yet, despite that value, the Seahawks still wouldn’t fully guarantee Wilson’s salary beyond the first year. That’s a joke.
Sure, one can make a case that the Seahawks aren’t going to cut Wilson and the worst that will happen is he renegotiates the deal in a couple of years. But at the same time, how secure does Colin Kaepernick feel with the huge, non-guaranteed contract he signed?
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