Russell Wilson’s Deadline

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Russell Wilson hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLVIII (Credit: Brad Penner/USA Today)

April 15.

Yes, that is the deadline to file your taxes (DON’T MAKE THE IRS MAD FOLKS!), but it is also the deadline that Russell Wilson has given the Seattle Seahawks for a new contract.

Wilson will enter the final year of his current deal in 2019, meaning he could hit the market in 2020.

Should Seattle be worried? Yes and no.

Yes, because if your franchise QB is not happy, you have a problem. Although the Seahawks want to be a run-first team, they will only go as far as Wilson takes them. Maybe in 2013-2014 you could’ve plugged in your prototypical “field general,” but the Seahawks are not as stout on defense today. Regardless, Wilson is far too talented, and the offense should be built to highlight his skills.

But Seattle should also have some ease of mind. Even if Wilson were serious about his threats of a deadline, Seattle still has the ability to keep him past 2019. Seattle can use their franchise tag on Wilson after next season if they do not agree on a new contract. The 2020 franchise tag for QBs is expected to be worth $30.34 millionIf the Seahawks tagged Wilson, he would have the right to negotiate a contract with another team, but the Seahawks would have the right to match any hypothetical deal, or they would receive 2 first round picks from the team attempting to sign Wilson.

The Seahawks could go down this road for three seasons, but keep this in mind: the second year they would use the franchise tag on Wilson, it would be worth 120% of his 2020 salary. This means in 2021, Wilson would be paid approximately $37.015 million.

If the Seahwaks wanted to use the franchise tag on Wilson for a third season (the last season they could do so), the tag would be worth 144% of his 2021 salary. This means in 2022, Wilson would be paid approximately $53.3 million.

For those keeping track at home, three years of the franchise tag would have a total value of approximately $120.66 million. This could serve as a deterrent for the Seahawks to tag Wilson a third season. Washington was in a similar situation with Kirk Cousins, and only used their franchise tag on him for two seasons before allowing him to become a free agent in 2018.

This would be a short term fix for a few reasons.

First off, $53.3 million in 2022 would be an astronomical number. Assuming the salary cap increases at the same rate it did going into 2019 (6.2%) for the next few years, that would mean in 2022, it would be $225.42 million. This means Wilson’s hypothetical $46.3 million salary would count for roughly 23.6% of Seattle’s salary cap. For a team that would be in a win-now situation with their franchise QB, only having 76.4% of your cap (about $172 million) to spend on the remainder of your roster, well other teams will have tens of millions of more dollars at their disposal, would put you at a competitive disadvantage.

Second, it could anger Wilson. He is the one setting a deadline for a new deal, and if he is serious about his demands, not meeting them could end up in him sitting out. This would lead to financial consequences for Wilson over time (see: Le’Veon Bell), but it would also leave the Seahawks without their starting QB. With a team that has Paxton Lynch as their backup QB, and not a lot of alternatives on the free agent market, Seattle would be at a massive disadvantage for 2019. Maybe he decides to play in 2019 and both sides reach an impasse again in 2020, but that would just delay this scenario. Plus, if Seattle did chose to tag Wilson all these years, and he final hit the open market, there is zero chance he comes back. Maybe that gives Seattle time to draft a new QB, maybe they trade Wilson (assuming he signs the tag), but it could signal an eventual departure.

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If Russell Wilson were to hit free agency, he would be the best FA QB since Peyton Manning in 2012 (Credit: Ian Halperin/UPI)

Now there’s a few things Wilson needs to keep in mind too.

We know he is a talented QB, but is he willing to follow through on a holdout? Seeing how Le’Veon Bell got a long term deal after doing so (even if it was less than what Pittsburgh was offering him), there is a path for it being worthwhile. Plus, I believe that if he sat out and did hit the open market, he would not be penalized. He’d be the best free agent QB since Peyton Manning, and would have teams lining up left and right to sign him. Nevertheless, if he balks even once, and does play in 2019 without a new deal, he suddenly puts himself in danger by way of injury. Any injury would hinder his chances of a future deal, jeopardizing his entire future.

I’m all for players putting themselves in the best situation to get paid, and if you have leverage, by all means, go out and use it.

Is Wilson serious about this? It’s too soon to tell.

Will Seattle pay him enough to satisfy him? Well, at this very moment, there has been “little progress” towards a new deal. Not to say one will not be reached, but we are not there yet.

Would Seattle allow Wilson to sit out at any point? I doubt it. If the Seahawks believe he would sit out in 2019, I think they would explore trading him right away, and the same would occur in the future (although I believe they would tag him first and then try to trade him).

It’s too soon to know what will happen yet, but it is certainly something to keep your eye on, especially if April 15 passes and no deal is agreed to. At that point, it will become the top storyline in the NFL.

Before I go, keep something in mind: Colin Cowherd shared a rather specific scenario about Wilson in late February, well before he gave the Seahwaks a deadline to give him a new contract. Does he know something we don’t, or did he hear part of a story before the rest of us, and decided to fill in the blanks with the rest?

Either way, this is the type of coverage you’ll see if deadline day passes.

Seattle, pay your QB! And readers, pay your taxes!


Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)

Franchise Tag figures derived from Over The Cap

UPDATE (4/16): salary figures reflect value of 2020 franchise tag for Russell Wilson, according to Mike Florio

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