The Seattle Seahawks became a strong NFL pick on the backs of some very friendly rookie contracts. But Russell Wilson could still be worth $21.9 million a year.
Over the past three years, the Seattle Seahawks have paid QB Russell Wilson $2.04 million in base salary and signing bonuses. That's $2.04 million combined, not per annum. There's no question Seattle got its money's worth: Wilson has led the Seahawks to two Super Bowls, including their first-ever league title at Super Bowl XLVIII. That's like going into a thrift store and coming out with Action Comics #1.
Naturally, Wilson felt he deserved a raise. And this past Friday, he got it, signing a four-year, $87.6-million contract extension that included a healthy $6.3-million bonus cherry on top. Now Wilson can finally afford that deluxe patio furniture set he's had his eye on. But can the Seahawks afford Wilson? Won't this deal end Seattle's run as a premier NFL pick?
Not yet it won't. Despite having so many players clamoring to restructure their contracts, the Seahawks have managed to sign nearly all their key players to new deals. That includes Legion of Boom members Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, although Kam Chancellor is holding out at the start of training camp.
There have been some casualties along the way. Seattle had to cut ties with veteran DT Tony McDaniel on Sunday to free up room to sign LB Bobby Wagner to a four-year extension. Some other players might have to be jettisoned, too, including LT Russell Okung. But the Seahawks can always find replacement parts to surround their core talent; for example, they traded for CB Mohammed Seisay on Sunday, giving the Detroit Lions an undisclosed 2106 draft (likely in the middle rounds) in return. It's business as usual in the Emerald City.
But is Wilson himself worth over $20 million a year? The terms of his extension would make Wilson the second-highest paid player in the NFL, behind only Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers ($22 million per annum). In 2014, Wilson ranked No. 14 among qualifying starters in passing DVOA, and fourth in rushing DVOA. Rodgers was No. 1 in both categories. One spot above Wilson in passing DVOA? Ryan Fitzpatrick, who might not even start for the New York Jets this year.
Let's not get too carried away with these dollar amounts. As you're no doubt already aware, NFL contracts are more hat than cattle. “Only” $60 million of that $87.6 million due Wilson is guaranteed money, and Wilson should still be in his prime at age 31 when his four years are up. Besides, the salary cap ensures that no elite or near-elite player will get paid what he could on the open market. The Seahawks did very well to secure Wilson's services at this price. As for their viability as a football pick, that should continue apace – for now. The pain will come further down the road, when Father Time has his way.