There never seems to be as much fretting about other franchise quarterbacks re-signing with their teams as there is about Russell Wilson staying in Seattle. For some reason, national media and plenty of fans always seem to think the Seahawks are going to have a tough time keeping Wilson.
Whether it’s some radio joker speculating that Wilson will try to force his way to New York or people thinking the QB will pull a Kirk Cousins and play on the franchise tag until he can leave, everyone has a paranoid theory about why Wilson is a short-timer in Seattle.
The latest speculation is that Wilson might prefer to wait on the new CBA and see how much the NFL’s new gambling and TV deals add to the coffers, so he doesn’t sign a deal that quickly becomes undervalued.
Instead of playing the franchise game, though, he should move straight to Kirk Cousins Strategy Part II and push the Seahawks to give him $100 million fully guaranteed over three years.
That kind of deal would set him up for another big score in 2023, when all of the TV deals will be rebid and the salary cap will get a big boost. On top of that, the price for franchise quarterbacks surely will have continued to climb, and Wilson should be in line for perhaps his biggest deal yet (at age 34).
Wilson has said he wants to play in Seattle for his entire career, aiming for 20 years (he’s been here seven already). At the Combine on Wednesday, John Schneider said he thinks Wilson wants to remain with the Seahawks for as long as possible. “I have no reason to believe otherwise — other than (online) rumors,” cracked Schneider, who added that he has talked with Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers.
So why do some people think Wilson is going to play the waiting game?
The CBA needs to be renewed for 2021 and beyond, and some think Wilson might like to see how it changes before inking another extension. Will the players get a bigger cut? How much will the salary cap go up? Will any other quarterbacks get paid top dollar in the interim?
The NFL is already starting to embrace legalized gambling; the league has a deal with Caesars worth $30 million a year and is expected to add more than $2 billion per year to its revenue through coming associations with gambling.
Meanwhile, the league’s TV deals — currently worth about $5 billion a year — are going to expire in 2022 (ESPN) and 2023 (CBS, FOX, NBC). The new deals, whether with traditional broadcasters or online providers such as Amazon, should bring in even more money.
But Wilson can’t expect any of that TV money to be available to players until new deals come along in 2023. That’s why he might be better off signing a three-year deal this year.
The market for franchise quarterbacks is not going to suddenly leap by $10 million a year, either — no matter how big the cap grows. Wilson’s price will be predicated purely on what the NFL’s highest-paid player is getting; right now, that means around $35 million per year and $100 million guaranteed. Of course, that assumes the Seahawks will agree with Rodgers that Wilson deserves to be the league’s best-paid player.
The Seahawks should be OK with a guaranteed three-year deal averaging $35 million — it’s a safe bet on a durable player, at market value.
But, if the sides cannot agree on something this year, the Seahawks can afford to franchise Wilson in both 2020 ($30 million) and 2021 ($36 million). The 2021 franchise window comes before the CBA ends in March, so the Hawks could franchise him before any possible work stoppage that year.
Then, if they still could not reach agreement, he would be free in 2022 (Seattle surely would not franchise him a third time, even if that option remained under a new CBA).
But does he want to go elsewhere in 2022? Or does he want to play in Seattle until 2032?
If it’s the latter, there’s no reason to wait for a new CBA. Take another short contract, if the team will oblige, and get ready for an even bigger one in four years.