John Schneider now knows what he needs to pay Russell Wilson — with Aaron Rodgers setting the bar at $33.5 million a year and $98 million fully guaranteed — and a deal for Seattle’s quarterback should be easy.
After Matt Ryan set the market for Rodgers in May, we wrote about all of the factors that could be in play for Wilson’s next deal. But it could be a lot simpler if Schneider is willing to let Wilson eclipse Rodgers and Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, doesn’t make it harder than it needs to be.
Now that we know the numbers to beat — and you can bet Wilson and Mark Rodgers will want to beat them this time — it’s just a matter of the details.
When the dust settles after the dance between Schneider and Mark Rodgers, Wilson figures to end up with a new four-year deal worth around $140 million, including $100 million fully guaranteed and a signing bonus of about $60 million. Those numbers should be satisfactory for Wilson and Schneider, who has plenty of cap space to account for such a record-setting contract and really shouldn’t quibble over a few million (also knowing another quarterback will soon eclipse it anyway).
When he signed his first extension in 2015, Wilson came in just under Rodgers’ APY and signing bonus but received more guaranteed money. This time, Wilson is much more accomplished, coming off a season in which he led the NFL with 34 TD passes. So it makes sense that he would aim to top Rodgers, just as Rodgers eclipsed Ryan, who leapfrogged Kirk Cousins, who hopped over Jimmy Garoppolo.
The cap numbers on Wilson’s projected $140 million deal would be quite manageable. After a whopping $37 million in 2019 (19.5 percent of the projected cap), they could drop to $32 million in each of the next four years (16 percent or less of the cap, which is standard for top QBs). And just the first two years of salary would be fully guaranteed, so there would not be much risk for the team on a very durable QB who will be only 32 in the second year of the extension.
Sure, this is all big money and plenty of fans who don’t understand NFL economics are fretting about it. But there is no reason to.
If you’re one of those folks, just keep this in mind: The Seahawks are no longer paying top dollar to seven defenders like they were when they gave market-topping contracts to Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner while paying big bucks to Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright. The Hawks have only half a dozen guys making over $6 million now, so they can afford to keep paying their franchise quarterback.
Even if the Hawks gave Wilson this $140 million extension, they still would have around $40 million in cap space next offseason. Some of that would have to be used on a new deal for Wagner — and hopefully Wright and Justin Coleman, too — but Seattle would have a lot of cap flexibility for those moves.
Assuming Schneider won’t quibble over making Wilson the league’s highest-paid player, this deal could be completed next week. But negotiations probably won’t start until late in the season or even afterward. Whenever they get to it, it shouldn’t take long.