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After an offseason of discussing Russell Wilson and his future with the Seattle Seahawks, most fans are tired of the discussion because there’s been little new information to add to the conversation in recent months. Luckily, however, the conversation isn’t going to go anywhere anytime soon.
It was just 27 months ago that the Seahawks made Wilson the highest paid player in the NFL, signing him to a four year, $140M contract extension that reset the quarterback market. Wilson is now a year into the four year contract, meaning there are three seasons left on the deal, or through his age 35 season.
That may not seem like a big deal, but what it means is that fans are about eighteen months away from Wilson being 34 and still in his prime while having just a single season left on his contract extension. Astute fans recognize that this means he will likely be looking for his next contract extension while still in his prime and at a time when the market for quarterback contracts has already been reset significantly higher.
Specifically, since Wilson signed his current extension several other quarterbacks have surpassed him in average annual value in their contract. Patrick Mahomes, of course, leads all quarterbacks with a $45M average cap hit. Dak Prescott checks in right behind that at $40M per year, and Deshaun Watson, at least for the time being with the uncertainty of status going forward, is at $39M per year. In addition, in the coming years several other quarterbacks could push Wilson further down the list of highest paid quarterbacks, including Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Derek Carr. Even those who were rookies in 2020, such as Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, will be extension eligible after the 2022 season, and could therefore factor into the situation if they play well.
From Wilson’s standpoint, both of the contract extensions have been at or near the top of the market at the time of signing. His 2015 extension averaged $100k less per year than the top quarterback contract in the league, and, as noted, his 2019 agreement reset the quarterback market. So, the logical question is whether his salary demands in 2023 will remain at or near the top of the market, or whether they will come down some. There’s been no indication that he’ll do anything other than ask for top of the market money.
That then leads to a question of what actually is top of the market. Mahomes contract comes in at $45M because it locked him in to the Kansas City Chiefs for ten season, and a four year contract extension will carry a different time premium than a ten year contract. That said, a four year extension, which happens to be the length the Hawks seem to tend to prefer, covering 2024 through 2027 leads to an even more expensive comparable from Mahomes. Specifically, during that four year timeframe the cap hits for Mahomes’ contract are:
Adding all of those up, they total $192,486,762, or $48,121,691 per season.
So, the question for Seahawks fans who are insistent that Wilson will not be traded and that he is in Seattle for the long term is whether they are comfortable giving Wilson a four year contract extension somewhere in the $200M range. If not higher. That’s likely what it would take to sign Wilson to a top of market contract before ever taking into account a single market reset which could from the not insignificant group of young quarterbacks who are in line for a new contract and who could reset the market ever higher in the coming years.
In short, for those tired of the talk surrounding Wilson and his future, it may be time to get settled in because until Wilson and the team ink any contract extension, the speculation and rumors aren’t going anywhere. And team precedent is to not negotiate until there is only a single season left on a player’s contract, meaning it might be time to get comfortable with the debate regarding Wilson’s future.