Which QB’s deal will Wilson’s most resemble?

Russell Wilson runs against the New York Giants on Sunday (Getty)At UW’s Pro Day on Thursday, Pete Carroll was asked how contract talks with Russell Wilson were going.

“Ongoing. Just ongoing,” he said, per Bob Condotta. “Really that’s all you can really say about it. But it’s under way.”

Wilson’s contract has been a big topic ever since the Super Bowl ended, with plenty of speculation about how and when it will be done. Carroll and John Schneider both have made it clear it will get done (probably this month), although they obviously have not shared any specifics.

At the owners meetings, Carroll said the contract would have “extraordinary ramifications” and “there is so much magnitude in this deal and it affects so much.”

All you have to do is look around the league to see how QB deals affect teams.

Top QB contractsPartly because Drew Brees will count $26.4 million against the $143.3 million league salary cap, the Saints had a fire sale last month (the Seahawks were the main beneficiary, netting tight end Jimmy Graham in a trade). It won’t end for the Saints next year either: Brees will count $27.4 million in 2016.

Dallas faces a similar situation with Tony Romo, as his cap hit will exceed $20 million in 2016 and beyond. Baltimore, Atlanta and Pittsburgh all are on the hook for cap hits in excess of $23 million for their quarterbacks starting next year, too.

When it comes to supersized franchise QB contracts, there really is no way around the fact that it is going to take a chunk out of a team’s salary cap every year. But there are good ways and bad ways to do it.

At the Combine in February, Schneider said the Seahawks would think “outside the box” regarding Wilson’s contract, adding that they are not going to “do exactly what everybody else has done around the league.”

The most successful teams in the long term in the salary-cap era have been the ones that have kept players’ cash payouts and cap hits as close as possible, not stacking up too much prorated bonus money into future years.

“You want to try to be careful in getting yourself in those types of situations because it becomes too much like a credit card,” Schneider told 710 ESPN last month.

Schneider said Matt Thomas, Seattle’s cap expert and lead contract manager, has “his hand on the pulse of paying as you go and not being out two or three years where you’re committed to guys in (prorated money). There’s an art to it. He does an excellent job with it.”

The Seahawks favor a simple contract format — typically a signing bonus and base salaries, with the occasional roster bonus thrown in. They try to stay away from large signing bonuses, which mean a lot of money spread over the length of the deal and the potential for big chunks of so-called dead money if a player is sent packing early.

The Percy Harvin debacle, for example, will cost the team $7.2 million against the cap this year — even though he is no longer on the team. It is the price the Hawks will pay for the huge mistake they made in trading for him in 2013 and giving him a $12 million signing bonus.

Cash vs. cap SeahawksOn average, the Seahawks’ top annual cap hits equal about 80 percent cash and 20 percent proration — the “paying as you go” approach Schneider and Thomas favor.

The Seahawks are not going to be able to stick to that formula with Wilson, though. Almost all of the big QB contracts over the last two or three years have included at least 30 percent in prorated bonuses.

Schneider and Thomas surely expect that, but Schneider hinted they will not follow the route of some of the aforementioned teams.

Aaron Rodgers’ deal could be instructive, especially considering Schneider comes from the same school of management as Green Bay GM Ted Thompson.

In 2013, Rodgers signed a five-year extension worth $110 million. While his annual average ($22 million) made him the highest-paid player in NFL history and he got the most money over three years, at $62.5 million, he did not break the Packers’ cap. His hits are manageable — between $17 million and $21 million from 2014 to 2019.

The Packers prorated about 32 percent of his new money, which is probably the number the Hawks are aiming for on Wilson’s deal.

Seattle likely will avoid the toxic combination of big signing bonuses and high salaries, which leads to restructures such as the one Romo just did with Dallas.

The Hawks also are not going to shortchange their two-time Super Bowl quarterback. They have been very generous with their homegrown stars, paying top-of-the-market dollars to Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright.

So the Seahawks are not going to treat Wilson as Chicago treated Jay Cutler (no signing bonus and no guarantees past 2016) and San Francisco treated Colin Kaepernick (an incentive-heavy deal with per-game roster bonuses and escalators).

And they are not going to ask Wilson to give them the same kind of discount Tom Brady has given the Patriots in recent years. Brady’s last big extension was for $78.5 million over five years in 2010. He extended again for three years and $27 million in 2014 — yeah, just $9 million a year. The 37-year-old is clearly living off interest from previous deals (and Gisele’s earnings) while helping the Patriots stay competitive in his last few years.

Schneider hinted that — like Brady — Wilson understands the nuances of team contract dynamics, saying, “He knows. He gets it. He wants to win. He wants to win for a long time.”

Some interpreted that as meaning Wilson would give the Hawks a hometown discount, but what it more likely means is Wilson will help sculpt a team-friendly contract structure.

Carrying a big contract requires intricate roster planning over several years. Schneider always refers to the various salary-cap models the Seahawks plan for — depending on which players the team can get at its prices. The Hawks have been planning to accommodate Wilson’s deal — along with those of Thomas, Sherman, Wright, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, et al. — for the last couple of years.

One consolation: If the salary cap keeps going up by $10 million per year, the Hawks will be able to absorb bigger cap hits off Wilson’s contract in later years of the deal. Also, only four players — Sherman, Thomas, Wright and Avril — are signed through 2018, and no one is signed beyond that, so the Hawks are basically setting the stage for those salary cap situations now.

So what is it going to look like? Here are some ideas, based on a deal worth around $20 million per year:

Wilson straight up

Wilson tiered bonus

Wilson upfront cash

Wilson 2020 vision

Wilson faux seven-year deal

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s