How much do you pay for a franchise quarterback?

Two Super Bowl appearances. One ring. Two-time Pro Bowler. Yeah Russell Wilson has a pretty impressive resume for a player entering only his fourth season. Yet he ranks 44th among quarterbacks in terms of how much he is paid. Wilson is paid less than Kellen Clemens, Bruce Gradkowski and Blaine Gabbert who combined attempted 13 passes all year for a grand total of 60 yards. In fact, Wilson only stands to make $200,000 more than Tavaris Jackson, Seattle’s backup quarterback.Russell_Wilson_with_Lombardi_Trophy

Obviously, Wilson is being grossly underpaid. His earnings for the 2015 season will come out to about six percent of what Drew Brees stands to make on the year. The Seattle signal caller obviously benefits from a strong running game and a smothering defense but the reality is that Wilson has put up nearly 10,000 career passing yards and 72 touchdowns in three years. And that’s while throwing to a group of largely unspectacular receivers. In his three seasons, Wilson has played with 12 different wideouts, who combined for three Pro Bowls among all of them. None of those Pro Bowl appearances were in a Seahawk uniform either.

It is only a matter of time before Wilson lands a big pay day. Between his spectacular play and his entering the final year of his rookie contract, there is no doubt it will be coming soon. The question that has started to form in many minds though is will it be from Seattle?

The Seahawks have negotiated with Wilson for several months now and it appears that the two sides are at a bit of a stalemate. Seattle wants to lock their franchise quarterback up for the next five or six years but they are trying to be creative with how they do so. The team has a number of other high profile players, mainly on defense, who could be in line for a new contract soon as well. If Wilson’s deal becomes too cap consuming then Seattle would likely have to watch a lot of talent walk out the door.

That isn’t sitting too well with Wilson though. He has always come off as a team player and an excellent teammate but he is maintaining that he wants to be paid like the high-profile quarterback he is. Wilson has gone as far as to say that he wants to be paid like a free agent now, despite still being under contract. It is a really interesting scenario that the Seattle front office finds itself in as they try to keep their Super Bowl window open.

Russell_WilsonWhat eventually comes from this situation could greatly alter the NFL landscape for the foreseeable future. It is starting to look possible that the Seahawks will let Wilson play out the last year of his contract. That could pay off as it allows Seattle to keep their financial flexibility and make another Super Bowl run with their plethora of talent.

Seattle could also choose to resign Wilson but to an unconventional contract. The general thinking is that the Seahawks could offer Wilson a deal that would only pay him 14 million dollars per year but that would be mostly or fully guaranteed. For example, if Seattle gave him a fully guaranteed 5-year, $70 million contract, this would offer an interesting balance. The $70 million total would rank as the 14th richest contract among quarterbacks. However, Wilson would have more guaranteed money than any quarterback in history. This appeals to Seattle as well because Wilson’s cap hit wouldn’t skyrocket. He would be tied with Tom Brady for the 14th largest hit in the league.

Should the latter occur, then we could see the model for which teams attempt to sign star players transform. By giving deals that focus less on lucrative incentives and more on less, but fully guaranteed, money teams would be able find more cap flexibility. It is certainly a risky move on the part of the team who would be locked in to paying the player all of the money regardless of performance, but it would be a high-risk, high-reward move. By avoiding having an exorbitant cap hit at the quarterback position would allow the team to pursue talent at other positions. For Seattle this could mean finding a way to pay Bruce Irvin as well as Wilson, prolonging the team’s Super Bowl window even further.

The outcome of Wilson’s contract could take some time to pan out. We really might not find an answer until next summer if the two sides cannot reach an agreement. The whole situation could really alter the playing field though in the NFL. If Wilson decided to walk away from Seattle, then we could start to see the NFL trend toward resembling the NBA with star players frequently switching teams. It is a bit of a stretch but it a conceivable trend.

The bottom line remains that Wilson will get paid, one way or another. It is simply a matter of when not if. He has threatened to join the MLB but realistically he won’t make the jump. Seattle struggled for year’s to find Matt Hasselback’s replacement. If they fail to play their cards right, they could be scrambling to find Wilson’s successor next year.

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