And there apparently are two problems with negotiations: (1) The Hawks are lowballing Wilson on the signing bonus and (2) Wilson’s agent does not know how to view NFL contract extensions.
Based on three recent reports, this is the picture we have: The Seahawks have offered Wilson a four-year deal worth $20 million a year and guaranteeing no more than about $13 million upon signing, but potentially guaranteeing closer to $40 million overall.
Jason La Canfora reported: “The Seahawks’ initial offer looked very much like the sort of Band-Aid bridge contracts that went to Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick, according to sources, with signing bonuses more in line with the $11 million Seattle handed out recently to Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, and a pay-as-you-go structure like the lesser Dalton/Kaepernick deals. The average per year is nowhere close to the range of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.”
That contradicts a report by Danny O’Neil of 710 ESPN that the Seahawks have offered around $80 million over four years — a $20 million average that would exceed the deals of Dalton and Kaepernick and equal the annual averages of most of the top QBs.
But O’Neil and La Canfora might be talking about the same deal. If La Canfora’s source was considering the 2015 season as part of the extension, then $80 million over five years would indeed be much less than the going rate of $20 million a year for top quarterbacks. If Wilson’s agent, NFL novice Mark Rodgers, is viewing it that way, he will need to change how he looks at it.
NFL agents count only the extension years when assessing the value, and the Seahawks have never been cheap with their top players, so $80 million over four years is a very reasonable offer.
The Seahawks typically do not change the last original year of a deal — other than paying a signing bonus that can be prorated over the current year and the new contract years. It’s what they did with their deals for Sherman, Thomas, K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril last year.
As for the guaranteed money, the Hawks’ SOP is to either throw in per-game roster bonuses or make salaries guaranteed on an annual basis. For example, Sherman was paid an $11 million signing bonus last year, and his previously scheduled $1.43 million salary was guaranteed as well — giving him $12.43 million guaranteed at signing. Five days after Super Bowl XLIX, his $10 million salary for next season became guaranteed. If he is on the roster five days after the 2016 Super Bowl, his $12.57 million 2016 salary and $5 million of his 2017 salary will become fully guaranteed as well.
John Schneider recently referenced those rolling guarantees when he said vaguely, “We have to be able to protect ourselves as we go and make smart decisions in trying to keep this whole thing together as long as we possibly can.”
That’s where La Canfora’s mention of a pay-as-you-go deal comes in. Both Dalton and Kaepernick have deals that average $16 million or $17 million a year (Kaepernick’s is $19 million on the face but has de-escalators that are likely to lower it by $2 million a year) and guarantee money as the contract progresses (Kaepernick’s annual salaries become guaranteed every April 1).
Those rolling guarantees are not unusual though. Even Drew Brees’ deal has them.
The big hangup with Wilson’s deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is the guaranteed money, which is obvious if the Hawks really are offering only about $11 million as a signing bonus (and guaranteeing his $1.54 million salary in 2015). That is nothing compared to Brees’ $37 million, Aaron Rodgers’ $35 million, Joe Flacco’s $29 million or Matt Ryan’s $28 million. Even Kaepernick got over $12 million.
The Seahawks definitely will have to boost that number if they want to re-sign Wilson. A bonus of $20 million, with another $20 million in guaranteed salary over the next couple of years, seems appropriate for a four-year, $80 million deal.
The question then would be: Would Wilson accept that? Would he want a longer contract with more guaranteed money?
If the sides can’t come to agreement by next February, the Hawks likely will franchise Wilson — a move that would cost about $20 million against the 2016 salary cap and prohibit the Hawks from re-signing some guys.
In order to avoid that, the Hawks are going to have to improve their offer and Rodgers is going to have to learn how to view the total value of an NFL contract extension.