Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has given the team an April 15 deadline to complete negotiations on a new contract, a source with knowledge of the discussions told The Seattle Times.
April 15 is the day the Seahawks will begin their official offseason workout program, and Wilson is thought to want the deal done by then. It’s also thought the two sides have had some negotiations in recent days with Wilson hoping to get the contract done quickly.
Wilson has one year remaining on his current four-year, $87.6 million contract, but it is typical for teams to sign key players to extensions before they enter the final year of their contracts.
Wilson signed his current deal July 31, 2015, the day training camp opened, with the two sides agreeing to the contract the night before. That fit the usual Seahawks timeline under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll of getting significant extensions done in the late spring and summer.
This time, it’s thought that Wilson wants to get a deal done earlier so he can avoid the speculation and discussion about the negotiations that lingered throughout the 2015 offseason.
It’s unclear what happens if the two sides do not agree to a deal by April 15 and if that means there would be no further discussions in 2019 and Wilson would play out the season without a new deal, though that would seem like one reason for setting a deadline. It was widely reported in 2015 that Wilson’s camp wanted a contract done by the time training camp started so that Wilson would not have to deal with negotiations — and questions about his future — during the season.
It’s not thought Wilson would hold out and not play in 2019, with the likely scenario being that if the deadline were not met, he would simply tell the team he would not want to talk about a contract again until after the season.
Wilson said in January he would be fine with playing the 2019 season without a new contract.
“Oh, yeah, if that’s what I’ve got to do,’’ Wilson said the day after the 2019 season ended. “It’s business and everything else and I know essentially after this season I could potentially be a free agent, that kind of thing. I don’t think that way — I see myself being in Seattle. I love Seattle, special place for me. I also understand it’s a business world and everything else.”
The Seahawks have said consistently they hope to get something done with Wilson this offseason to secure his Seattle future.
“Russ and I met and we talked about the future,’’ coach Pete Carroll said in January when asked about getting a contract done with Wilson this offseason. “We are talking about where we are going and what we want to get done. And, you know, that’s very much in our plans.”
Asked about Wilson’s contract at the NFL league meetings last week, Carroll said: “We’ve been in communication, sure. It’s very topical, we’re on it.”
Wilson was also at the league meetings in Phoenix and talked to Carroll there.
Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, said he would not comment on Wilson’s contract status and would neither confirm nor deny that there is a deadline.
After Wilson signed his contract in 2015, Rodgers told reporters that a reported deadline of getting a contract done by the time training camp began was real.
“People reported that it was an artificial deadline,’’ Rodgers said in 2015 on the day Wilson signed. “But to Russell Wilson, it was not an artificial deadline. He said to me, ‘When I step on the field, that’s it. If I’ve got a deal, great. But if I don’t, that’s it. I am not going to take that baggage out on the field with me. It’s going to take the team down. It’s what the media is going to concentrate on. … I took it as a mandate, and I laid it out for the Seahawks so they knew that a long time ago, and it certainly spurred where we are at now.’’
Wilson, who turned 30 last November, is due to make a $17 million base salary in 2019 with a $25.286 million salary cap hit.
Wilson’s contract has a $21.9 million average per year, which, when he signed it, was second in the NFL behind only Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ $22 million.
But as the salary cap has risen each season, so have salaries for players overall, and quarterbacks specifically.
Rodgers now leads all NFL players in average salary per year at $33.5 million, while Wilson is now just the 12th-highest-paid QB. It’s unclear exactly what Wilson is asking for, but he’s likely to want to at least match Rodgers’ average per year, if not exceed it.
If Wilson does not get a new contract with the Seahawks this spring, it doesn’t mean he is assured of becoming a free agent following the 2019 season. The team could keep him in place in 2020 by using the franchise tag, which would reportedly pay Wilson roughly $30.6 million. Seattle could also use it again in 2021, which would pay him roughly $36 million. They could even use it again in 2022, though that would pay Wilson $52.43 million for that season, according to Pro Football Talk, which makes that an unrealistic option.
One possible complication is that the league’s collective bargaining agreement runs out following the 2020 season and there has been some talk of eliminating or altering the franchise tag structure.
Wilson is coming off one of his best seasons in the NFL, throwing for a career-high 35 touchdowns while tying a career-low with seven interceptions. The 2018 season was Wilson’s seventh with the Seahawks and along the way he set franchise records for touchdown passes (196) and wins (75).
Wilson is the biggest name of several whose contracts could expire following the 2019 season, others including middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed.
The team recently placed a franchise tag on Clark for the 2019 season but he has yet to sign it and the team is hoping to also sign Clark to a long-term deal this offseason.