Russell Wilson issued a deadline to the Seattle Seahawks a couple of weeks ago, and it was pretty simple — with one year left on his $87 million contract he signed a few years ago, give him an extension that makes him the highest paid player in football, by April 15, or he would not sign an extension with the team any time after April 15. Shots fired!
Whether Wilson would have lived up to his end of the bargain had the Seahawks decided that the franchise quarterback market had evolved to where it was too rich for their blood we will now never know, but undeniably, Wilson's ultimatum worked. Around midnight last night, he signed a four-year extension worth $140 million, with an astounding $65 million signing bonus:
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks reached agreement on a 4-year, $140 million in new money extension that includes a $65 million signing bonus, per source. https://t.co/SgsxgNIqli— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 16, 2019
So now Wilson will be a Seahawk, barring something unforeseen, through 2023 (and probably longer than that, if he continues to play at a high level in his mid-30s like seemingly every other elite quarterback does these days). No trade to the Giants (which was rumored), no seasons on a franchise tag, Russell Wilson will likely be a Seahawk for life.
So let's take a deeper dive on this and process what it all means, especially for the Houston Texans, who will be dealing with lucrative quarterback contract extensions sooner than they'd probably like to:
The NFL's QB salary boom is real and it's spectacular
Just 21 months ago, Oakland's Derek Carr became the highest paid quarterback in football, on the measurement of average annual salary. (Guaranteed money sometimes provides a different story, but let's keep this simple.)
Highest paid by APY ...— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 16, 2019
June '16: Andrew Luck, $24.6M
June '17: Derek Carr, $25.0M
Sept. '17: Matthew Stafford, $27.0M
Feb. '18: Jimmy Garoppolo, $27.5M
March '18: Kirk Cousins, $28.0M
May '18: Matt Ryan, $30.0M
Aug. '18: Aaron Rodgers, $33.5M
April '19: Russell Wilson, $35.0M
Now, the cautionary tale of Derek Carr at $25 million per year aside, the spike in annual salary for quarterbacks has been ungodly, with the only thing keeping it from getting into the $40 million range being the existence of the franchise tag to depress the explosion in annual salaries. The big takeaway here is that (a) quarterbacks, good ones, are irreplaceable, and (b) teams know the new media deals coming down the pipe are going to grow revenue, and in turn the salary cap, massively.
The NFL's free agency period is vastly overrated in its excitement
It was fun thinking about the possibility of Russell Wilson changing teams (those Giants rumors!) for a few weeks, but ultimately the Seahawks did what most NFL teams do — pay their quarterback a year or two early so there's NO CHANCE he can explore anything out there. Again, the franchise tag is a huge weapon for team. Of the names on the salary list above, only Kirk Cousins changed teams to get his new deal (I'm not counting Garoppolo, who was traded and then signed in San Francisco), and it took two franchise tags for him to reach true free agency. This is where the NBA has a big advantage over the NFL — in the NBA, we actually see big stars change teams. To wit, about half the guys who played in the 2016 NBA All Star Game are on different teams than they were that season. In the NFL, the best players that change teams in free agency are mostly B-level stars or guys who are headed toward a third (often cost prohibitive) franchise tag. This will never change as long as the franchise tag exists.
How rich will Deshaun Watson be come 2021?
OK, now we are localizing a little bit here, and it's a tad scary for Texan fans. The Texans are in the midst of Watson's rookie deal, with two years left at cap figures of around $4 million for 2019 and 2020, and then a possibility of a fifth year option somewhere in the $15 million range. I would expect an extension for Watson before 2021, and while I don't think he will see Wilson'Rodgers level money — keep in mind, these are their third and fourth contracts, respectively — I fully expect Watson to creep toward $30 million per year, assuming he is still ascending and injecting his name into the MVP conversation. All the more reason that Brian Gaine needs to continue to draft well in the middle round, as the cheap labor of the third day of the draft is what sustains good teams who have to pay market rate for a franchise QB.
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Russ may be loaded, but he's still a cheeseball
I guess when you've just signed the biggest deal in the history of America's most popular sport, you can get away with this....
Man, what a great WWE heel Russ would make, and yet I think he thinks people like this stuff. Gross.