Once Wilson dismissed Cook, a veteran NFL agent, last December, it was easy to see the handwriting on the wall: Rodgers, an inexperienced NFL contract negotiator, would use baseball economics in his negotiations with the Hawks and drag out a process that should have been relatively simple.
Ta da! Here we are.
Rodgers reportedly is seeking a huge percentage of guaranteed money while relying on the franchise tag as his fallback for guaranteed cash in 2016 (and possibly the next two years). The latest report says Rodgers is trying to get Wilson paid as though he is a free agent — in other words, market-setting money — and is willing to let Wilson become a free agent (although that wouldn’t happen until 2018).
Rodgers basically has been treating Wilson as though he is a baseball pitcher, listing wins as the most important stat for contract purposes and reportedly trying to get an unprecedented percentage of guaranteed money.
In an interview with 710 ESPN in late May, Rodgers denied his lack of NFL experience would be a hindrance.
“To label me a baseball agent as though that might be a defect or a negative is inappropriate probably in this case,” he said. “I understand the collective-bargaining agreement and the marketplace and the salary cap and the issues that will be relevant to us moving forward in our conversations with the Seahawks.
“I think the positive thing, at least for the Seahawks, is maybe it brings a little bit different perspective to the negotiations. Maybe there are some ideas and thoughts that we use in baseball that aren’t necessarily used in football.”
There’s a reason they aren’t used in football, though: There is a salary cap and less money to spread over a bigger roster. Baseball contracts are fully guaranteed — a major problem with baseball’s economics, which strongly favor players. John Schneider has made it clear he is not going to play the baseball game with Rodgers — i.e., no big chunks of guaranteed money (“we have to protect ourselves as we go”).
Assuming the sides remain at an impasse and do not come up with a new deal before the season, Rodgers very likely will force the Seahawks to use the franchise tag on Wilson in February.
Most people assume it will be the exlusive tag, at around $25 million. Not likely. If the Hawks were willing to guarantee $55 million in 2016-17, a deal probably could get done now. That would exceed the 12-month guarantees of Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton (each $54 million), match Drew Brees and come close to Matt Ryan ($59 million). The Hawks reportedly offered a deal similar to what Newton received, and Rodgers declined it because he probably is seeking at least $60 million.
The regular franchise tag is expected to cost Seattle about $20 million next year, which would would mean $24 million in 2017. That’s $11 million less in guarantees and $11 million more in cap space to re-sign other players over the next two offseasons. With the protection offered by the required two first-round picks from any team signing Wilson to an offer sheet — and the ability to match the offer — the Hawks seem much more likely to stick with the non-exclusive tag if it gets that far.
It’s entirely possible that the sides will find common ground before the season begins or even next offseason, but the fact that the talks have dragged into July indicates this negotiation has been made harder than necessary. Even Positive Pete Carroll does not seem overly optimistic, saying this week, “There’s a lot of work being done. It’s under way right now and maybe it happens. I don’t know. We’re hoping for it.”
Both sides probably share blame for the lack of progress; but, if Rodgers thinks Wilson should be the highest-paid player in the league and get an unprecedented amount of guaranteed money, Wilson should rethink whether Rodgers is the right guy to represent him in the NFL.
It might be the only way Wilson stays in Seattle after 2017.
For more on Wilson’s contract, check out our Contracts page …