How guaranteed money & franchise tags are affecting Wilson talks

Wilson and the RodgersWe have known for a while that the holdup in negotiations between the Seahawks and Russell Wilson is guaranteed money, and another report this week reiterated that the sides are far apart in that category.

This contract should not be difficult, so clearly at least one side is being unreasonable.

The issue is probably a blend of the Hawks not offering enough and Mark Rodgers, Wilson’s agent, wanting too much.

Among the likely sticking points:

1 — The Seahawks might still be stuck on rolling annual guarantees and are well below the $40 million in fully promised cash they should be offering Wilson in a four-year extension.

2 — Mark Rodgers, Wilson’s agent, might want $60 million guaranteed by 2016 — beating the 12-month guarantees for Matt Ryan ($59 million), Drew Brees ($55 million), Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton (each $54 million).

3 — Rodgers reportedly is leaning on the franchise tag — and its guarantees — in negotiations.

The best way to compare contracts is by guaranteed money per year. The top QBs get $8 million upon signing, and the average often jumps to $10 million when other guarantees kick in before the second year.

If the Hawks and Wilson/Rodgers are talking about a four-year deal, the guarantees should be around $32 million at signing and perhaps $48 million by 2016 (which would cover the 2017 season).

The Hawks’ current offer might be as low as $21.5 million at signing (Ryan Tannehill’s guarantees), and they reportedly have offered around $40 million in total guarantees on a rolling annual basis. If that’s where they are, they will have to improve their offer to get a long-term deal.

Of course, if Mark Rodgers thinks Wilson should get $60 million in full guarantees for a four-year extension, he is in his own field of dreams. That would be $15 million per year — $5 million more than the best deals.

Yeah, several quarterbacks have potential guarantees equaling $60 million or so, but almost all of those amounts are activated on a rolling basis. Matt Ryan’s $59 million was the biggest full guarantee (after 12 months). And that was on a five-year extension. Thus about $12 million per year. That would equate to $48 million for Wilson’s four-year extension.

The Seahawks and Wilson/Rodgers clearly have a huge chasm to bridge. First, they have to narrow the guarantees gap from what might currently be about $10 million per year, reaching that $10 million to $12 million range.

In the end, a four-year deal should include around $32 million guaranteed in the first year and as much as $48 million fully guaranteed by 2016.

If the sides can’t figure out that simple math, they are probably doomed to the franchise tag in 2016.

By this point, both surely have looked at the tag to gauge whether the other side’s offers make any sense. According to John Clayton on 710 ESPN, Rodgers is leaning toward taking the tag.

The 2016 tag for QBs will be around $20 million, and Wilson then would get a 20 percent raise over that for 2017, which would equal $24 million. (The Hawks almost surely wouldn’t use the exclusive tag, which would cost an extra $5 million or $6 million just to keep other teams from negotiating with him.)

Add his $1.54 million salary for 2015, and he would cost $45.5 million over three years. That is probably about what the Hawks are offering in rolling guarantees right now, knowing they don’t really have to go higher than that for 2015-17.

Of course, there then would be no guarantee beyond 2017. To franchise Wilson a third straight year would cost around $34 million, making the four-year payout around $80 million but also taking up as much as 20 percent of the 2018 salary cap. It’s unlikely they would do that.

For less than $10 million more on an extension, the Hawks could cut the cap numbers and add a year to the deal. But if they have to guarantee more than $45.5 million over three years, it might not be worth it to them.

Rodgers, meanwhile, would look at 2016-18 as a three-year extension worth $78 million (or more, if he thinks the Hawks would use the exclusive tag on Wilson). Or, if the Hawks eschew the third franchise year, it would be a two-year, $44 million deal and free agency for Wilson at age 29.

In the end, it’s hard to imagine the sides not coming to their senses and striking a deal. But, if they cannot agree on the guaranteed money, there’s no guarantee they will go beyond 2017. They each could view this as a short-term marriage, get out of it what they can over the next three years and move on in 2018.

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