Quarterback Russell Wilson is young, talented and supremely confident as his negotiations with the Seahawks continue with no real movement seen.
Russell Wilson’s sublime sense of self has served him, and the Seahawks, wonderfully in his career.
Doubt him, and he’ll do everything in his power, and more, to prove you wrong. Wilson’s inherent self-confidence, tinged with an undeniable stubbornness, has allowed him to consistently overachieve in everyone’s estimation but his own.
Those qualities are dynamite on the football field. In the negotiating room, they are one more factor to add to the complicated agendas swirling around Wilson’s contract talks.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, have a deep, abiding belief in their method of doing business — one that also has served them wonderfully. They stress the team above any individual, and they have an unwavering confidence in their ability to conjure the talent necessary to keep up with the inevitable roster churn in the NFL.
Those essential character traits — along with the massive amount of money at stake — have contributed to a negotiation that rages on. By almost all accounts, the two sides have, as of yet, made little progress toward an extension for Wilson’s rookie deal that expires after this season.
That doesn’t mean they are at an impasse, or that an agreement is hopeless, as some have posited. The Seahawks have shown they know how to get extensions done. It merely means the parameters for what figures to be a landmark deal for an NFL quarterback are proving to be extraordinarily complex.
Which really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Much is at stake, not only for the two central parties, but for other players and other teams watching closely to see the precedents that are set. Not surprisingly, speculation and rumors are swirling. When progress is being gauged by parsing the tone of Wilson’s tweets, you know the silly season has arrived.
But the day of reckoning is approaching. It stands to reason that if an agreement hasn’t been reached by the opening of training camp in late July, it probably won’t happen this year. That gives them two months — the blink of an eye, or an eternity — to get something done.
And I still think they will, for the same reason as always — because it benefits both sides to get this taken care of now. But the X factor, one that could change that optimistic viewpoint, is how firmly — or stubbornly — they cling to their inherent belief systems.
In Wilson’s case, he holds the strongest hand, because he is the most coveted commodity in football — a young, talented, successful quarterback. You could argue, in fact, he’s the most successful young QB in league history, based on his win-loss record, his Super Bowl title, and the one that got away.
The Seahawks desperately need a quarterback like that. Every team does. It boggles the mind to think they would let this particular one, who sometimes seems almost too good to be true as a person and an athlete, get away, as some have speculated in a worst-case scenario.
That doesn’t have to happen for four more years. Remember, the Seahawks have the power to maintain Wilson for at least four more seasons. Even if Wilson doesn’t sign this year, and he plays out the final year of his current deal at $1.542 million in 2015, they can slap the exclusive franchise tag on him for the following three seasons.
That would adhere him to Seattle, which would have to pay him a projected $25 million in 2016, over $30 million in 2017, and over $40 million in 2018 (based on expected leaguewide revenue increases).
Looking at three-year increments, the Seahawks could rationalize they would pay him an annual average under $20 million — what seems to be a magic number in this negotiation — when you factor in this year’s relatively paltry salary.
But those exclusive franchise-tag figures are pure salary-cap hits, and the Seahawks would be tremendously handicapped in building a team around Wilson at those numbers.
So here are Wilson’s options, as I see them: He waits for the Seahawks to give him the deal he wants now (or close to it), or he plays the upcoming seasons for them at an increasingly massive salary. Then he potentially hits the open market as a free agent at age 30, having made about $100 million over the ensuing four years.
In other words, he bets on himself, which is the essence of Wilson. He bets that he will stay healthy, for starters. He bets that he will continue to win games at a record pace and lead his team deep into the playoffs on a yearly basis. And in the best-case financial scenario, he bets he would emerge as the most coveted (and lucrative) free agent in the history of the NFL.
The Seahawks, of course, can play hardball themselves. They could draw a salary line in the sand, and if Wilson doesn’t meet it, go the exclusive franchise route, cap hits be damned. They could give him a nonexclusive franchise tag and dare another team to give them the two first-round draft choices it would take to sign him if Seattle doesn’t match their offer sheet.
Or, as some have suggested, they could make the staggering decision to trade Wilson. I can’t see them having the stomach for that, no matter how testy the negotiations get.
For the Seahawks, it comes down to how vital they think Wilson is to their success and their future. And how confident they are in their ability to replace him at a commensurate level.
For Wilson, that’s the ultimate leverage.