Russell Wilson contract: What happens if the two sides can’t agree?

Associated Press

In an eventful offseason for the Seattle Seahawks, John Schneider and company have yet to accomplish one important task.

Many expected the Seahawks to lock up franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to a massive long-term deal, as this is the first year he has been eligible for extension. Wilson has led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl two of his first three years in the NFL, is perfect for the system Seattle runs, and would be worth every penny of a large deal.

Most young players of Wilson’s caliber don’t see the end of their rookie deals. However, the two sides are apparently 10s of millions apart on an extension, leading to some concern in Seattle.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see Wilson be one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL when he does sign his next deal, and he is reportedly looking for something around the five-year, $110 million dollar deal with $54 million guaranteed that Aaron Rodgers singed two offseasons ago. The Seahawks have apparently offered four years, $80 million, putting Wilson more in the range of Andy Dalton.

Wilson is worth a lot more than that, so it could be awhile before a deal gets done. It seems unlikely that an extension is going to get done this offseason, leaving Wilson to play out his rookie deal.

Most of this is posturing on the Seahawks part for when an actual deal is signed. There’s no chance Seattle lets its franchise quarterback hit free agency, so Schneider may be just attempting to get Wilson to take a cheaper deal with the promise of being able to retain more talent around him.

While everyone wants to see a deal get done sooner rather than later, the failed negotiations shouldn’t have too much impact on the 2015 season.

There are only two scenarios in which a healthy Wilson doesn’t start at quarterback for the Seahawks in 2015, both of which are very unlikely. One is that Wilson refuses to play on his $1.5 million rookie deal, which doesn’t seem like something he would do. The other is if he leaves to pursue a career in Major League Baseball, something he’s expressed interest in but is also a long shot.

So, the likely scenario now appears to be Wilson playing out his rookie deal, with serious negotiations starting up again during the offseason prior to the 2016 season. If the two sides are again far apart, things could get interesting.

The Seahawks can’t let Wilson go no matter the price-teams spend years or even decades looking for a franchise quarterback. That means the team would have to use the franchise tag on Wilson on a year-to-year basis, not exactly an ideal scenario.

Using the exclusive tag on Wilson could put his salary up as high as $25 million, meaning he would carry a higher cap hit next season than he would with a long-term deal. Seattle could even use the tag the season after that if they needed too, but Wilson would get another 20 percent raise. The year after that would come with an astronomical 44 percent raise.

That should give the Seahawks enough flexibility and leverage to get a long-term deal done at some point. Neither Wilson nor the team likely wants to do the year-by-year franchise tag option.

While it’s a bit surprising to see the two sides so far apart at this stage, Wilson is still going to be the starting quarterback in Seattle for a long time to come.

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.


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