Happy days in Seattle.
Early this morning, after his self-implemented deadline had passed, Russell Wilson announced that he and the Seattle Seahawks had agreed to a new contract. As details trickled out, we soon learned that the deal was for 4 years and $140 million ($35 million per season). The APY of this contract surpasses that of Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million), and continues a trend of franchise QBs in need of a new deal becoming the highest paid player at the position (and in league history).
As fun as it would have been if no deal were agreed to and Wilson buckled down and asked to leave – and I’m telling you, it would have been THE top story in sports for the next two weeks – this is great for both sides.
Wilson is only 30 years old, and if the past few seasons are any indication, he is on top of his game, and one of the best QBs in the NFL. Since 2017, Wilson has thrown 69 touchdowns to only 18 interceptions, and he has a QB Rating of 102.1. He is a Super Bowl champion, and he has never missed a start in his career. Although he has yet to make an All-Pro team, Wilson has made the Pro Bowl 6 of his 7 seasons in the NFL. In his 7 years starting in Seattle, he is 75-35-1, second to only Tom Brady. He is 8-5 in 13 career postseason games with a QB Rating of 94.9. He is a great player, plain and simple.
For Seattle, they do not have to abruptly hit the reset button. Yes, they have been rebuilding in the sense of players like Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Jermaine Kearse, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, and Cliff Avril have left the team the past few seasons, but after going 9-7 in 2017, they were able to make the playoffs at 10-6 in a so called “rebuild year” this past season.
Sure, Seattle could’ve traded Wilson to a team like the Giants for their two first round picks, and another future first (and additional picks), picked someone like Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock, get some other players, cleared up salary, and undergone a similar strategy that they did in 2012-2014 with a younger Wilson, but you just don’t give up franchise QBs like Wilson when you have them in the building. Yes it will cost them an arm and a leg to pay him, but he is one of the best in the league, and as was being said when Khalil Mack was traded to the Bears for picks: why trade a great player for picks when all you hope for is that pick to turn into the great player you already had?
Seattle would have been worse off by trading Wilson, the QB who has been one of the main reasons for the most successful period of the team’s history, and with him under the helm, they’re in a good place for even more success the next 5 seasons.
Now that Wilson is the latest person with the honor of being the highest paid player in the NFL, the question now becomes: who’s next?
In the past 3 years, 8 different QBs (25% of starting QBs in the NFL at this moment) have had the highest APY in the league. There is no middle class of QBs in the NFL. You might find situations where elder statesmen like Ryan Fitzpatrick gets paid $11 million over two years as a bridge QB, or Jay Cutler gets paid $10 million to come out of retirement for a season, but other than that, when a starting QB who’s good enough reaches the point where their contract is nearing it’s end, they will get paid top dollar. Either that, or they do not re-sign with their team and they become a backup somewhere else (see: Blake Bortles). If you look at the list of starting QBs in the NFL, you will see the vast majority of teams either employ a starter on a rookie deal, or one who at some time had to become one of, if not the, highest paid QB in the league. The only teams at the moment not in that situation are the Bengals, Broncos, Dolphins, Jaguars, and Redskins. Notice how all these teams missed the playoffs last season.
There are a handful of QBs who are about to enter the final year of their deals, ready to surpass the APY of Russell Wilson:
*teams hold a fifth-year team option for 2020
That’s just after this season, after 2020, QBs such as Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Mitch Trubisky will enter the end of their rookie deals (but each team holds a fifth year player option they can exercise for them).
Russell Wilson may hold the honor of highest paid player in NFL history today, but by training camp, who knows, he could be pushed down a few spots.
Contracts for NFL QBs are quickly reaching the likes of the supermax in the NBA, and top contracts in the MLB (sorry NHL).
How much longer before someone has an APY of $40 million? At this rate, probably by the end of 2020.
My only question is do you just set up a direct deposit for that much money, or do you actually carry around a check worth that much and go to the bank with it? Who knows (no, we do, no way he carries around a check, but let me have my fun), but it sounds like a great problem to have if you’re Russell Wilson.
Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)