Once again, the Seahawks and Russell Wilson made deadline. This time, they also made NFL contract history.
Just as they did in 2015, the two sides came to an agreement on a new contract on the night of a deadline set by Wilson, with Seattle agreeing late Monday night to a four-year, $140 million contract extension that keeps him with the Seahawks through the 2023 season and makes him the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL.
The Seahawks officially announced the contract, which also includes a $65 million signing bonus that is also the highest in NFL history, on Tuesday afternoon shortly after Wilson signed it.
“For me, for my family and for (agent) Mark (Rodgers), we love Seattle, and it’s the place I want to be,” Wilson said moments after signing the contract, according to Seahawks.com, the team’s official web site. “I’ve always wanted to be. When I first got drafted in 2012, I wanted to be here forever. This helps solidify that. I’ve got many more years to go and a lot more winning to do—we’ve got more Super Bowls to win. I’m excited about that.”
The average of $35 million per season in new money surpasses the $33.5 million of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had been the highest-paid player in the NFL. The signing bonus also breaks the record of $57.5 million received by Rodgers in a contract he signed last August. The contract includes total guarantees of $107 million, which also would be the most in NFL history, and includes a no-trade clause.
And it all marks a significant raise for Wilson, who was entering the final season of a four-year, $87.6 million deal signed on the day training camp opened in July 2015, agreed to late the night before. That deal made Wilson at the time the second-highest paid player in the NFL at $21.9 million per season, just behind Rodgers at $22 million.
This time, the two sides got the contract done as the clock struck midnight sending Monday into Tuesday, a source saying the two sides worked all day with Wilson having set a deadline of April 15 to get an extension completed with the Seahawks.
Wilson was already under contract for the 2019 season, though the new deal will drop his base salary to $5 million this year, with four years then added on, meaning he could not become a free agent until following the 2023 season, when he would be 35 years old. That means in total, Wilson will earn $157 million over the next five seasons, an average of $31.4 million. That also puts Wilson ahead of Rodgers, who when including current years on his contract averages $29.1 million over six years.
And according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Seahawks “stuck to their structure” in not fully guaranteeing future base salaries, which had been viewed as a potential sticking point. Rapoport reported that there are also roster bonuses of $5 million for each of the final two seasons of the deal.
The contract agreement puts an end to months of uncertainty over Wilson’s future that included rumors that he wanted to be traded or was asking for a contract that would include clauses never before seen in NFL history.
But as the talks wore on over the weekend and into late Monday night, Wilson also made it clear to those around him that what he wanted most was to stay in Seattle.
“Russell loves this town, this team, and these fans,” Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, told the Times early Tuesday morning. “Part of the compromise involved his affection for all things Seattle. The idea of playing anywhere else was not nearly as appealing as playing right here, the place he and his family call home.”
Wilson broke the news of the agreement in unique fashion, with a tweet sent at 12:44 a.m. Tuesday in which he wrote “SEATTLE Let’s get it” that then included video while in bed with his wife, Ciara.
“Hey Seattle, we got a deal,” Wilson said.
“Go Hawks,” said Ciara.
“Go Hawks,” Wilson responded, then add “but I’m going to see you all in the morning — time for y’all to go to bed.”
Shortly after Wilson tweeted the news, teammate Bobby Wagner, tweeted back “Congrats @DangeRussWilson ! Well deserved my g.”
Wilson then responded: “Love you homie. You next! Let’s go do this thing together!”
And with that, Seattle’s long, anxious wait to see if the man who went from risky third-round pick in 2012 to quarterback of the city’s only Super Bowl champion less than two years later would stick around for a while had been answered.
Until Wilson’s tweet, it was unclear where things were headed amid a report Sunday that if the two sides did not reach agreement by Monday night then Wilson would not negotiate with the team again — not just this year, but ever.
But while his agent, Mark Rodgers, and the team negotiated all day Monday, Wilson went about his business as usual, showing up at the VMAC in Renton for the first day of the team’s official offseason training program.
While Wilson had a year remaining on his contract, he wanted an extension before the year began — as is usual custom for star players, and especially quarterbacks — and set a deadline of Monday to get it finalized, with a report from Peter King of NBCSports.com surfacing Sunday night that Wilson would not negotiate with the Seahawks further if a deal did not get done now.
Wilson set April 15 as the deadline because it marked the beginning of the team’s official offseason program and he did not want uncertainty as the team returned to work and then into the summer — basically, he wanted to avoid all the discussion and rumors that circulated last time and had already begun to dog the process this time around.
Regardless of whether he had a new contract, it had been expected all along that Wilson would fulfill all of his regular requirements, including the offseason training program, which is technically voluntary.
He did just that, as the Seahawks made clear in one of a series of photos released on their official website, Seahawks.com. Wilson was pictured in one photo sitting alongside defensive tackle Jarran Reed (who also is entering the final year of his contract).
Not pictured anywhere was defensive lineman Frank Clark, whose status also remained in question as he has yet to sign a franchise tag that would pay him $17.1 million this season while the two sides try to work out a long-term deal. Clark did not attend voluntary sessions last year, either, raising the expectation that he also won’t be around this year until his future is settled, or mandatory camps begin.
That Wilson is now signed to a significant extension will only lead to more conjecture that the Seahawks could consider trading Clark rather than sign him to a long-term extension.
The Seahawks will also have to consider giving an extension to Wagner — as Wilson indicated in his tweet back to him. Wagner is also entering the final season of his contract.
But all they cared about Tuesday was that the deal with Wilson got done.
“Obviously this is a grand negotiation, and they had to figure it out,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in comments to the team’s official website, Seahawks.com. “They had to figure it out, it has all been a part of the plan—they’ve known it was coming for years. The fact that they were able to make it happen and connect with Russ on his plan to really commit his future to the organization and to the fans and all—he has done that—that all had to be orchestrated, and John and Matt (Thomas, the team’s vice president of football administration and salary cap expert) did an extraordinary job.”
And aside from a contract given to Carroll last December keeping him with the Seahawks through 2021, the contract also marked the first significant personnel move for the team since owner Paul Allen died last October and his sister, Jody, took over. Jody Allen is now the Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust and Chair of the Seahawks and Vulcan Inc., and in comments to Seahawks.com, Carroll said her support “was huge. She was involved, and her support really allowed the guys to function at the level where they were able to get this done. That shouldn’t be missed, because she was really instrumental. She’s awesome, she really is.”