Finally, we can officially engage in the the biggest Seattle sports story of 2019 — the football future of Russell Wilson.
Perhaps you thought the biggest story was the Huskies making the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for what seems like the first time since Marv Harshman had dark hair. Or what the KeyArena roof will do floating above Seattle Center in a windstorm. Or the Mariners becoming the most accidental good team in MLB history.
But just in case you wanted the biggest story to be the Seahawks’ drafting of former Huskies QB star Jake Browning, now it seems at least plausible. Because if it’s true, per the Seattle Times Tuesday, that Wilson wants a contract extension by a self-imposed deadline April 15 or the negotiations are over, it at least allows the Seahawks to trade him for a passel of picks ahead of the April 25 draft, not to mention a few top-tier veterans in their primes.
The Seahawks could then take Browning (I can actually hear you cringing from here). Or they could take Heisman Trophy-winning QB Kyler Murray, the most Wilson-like QB since the man his ownself.
The talent haul could be sufficient in a draft in in which the Seahawks at the moment have only four choices. Freed of the Wilson contract, the Seahawks could extend the deals of LB Bobby Wagner, DE Frank Clark, DT Jarran Reed and add other premium players.
Do I expect that to happen? No.
But do I expect the Seahawks to consider it? Damn straight.
By leaking news of the deadline, what Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, did was stir the pot. That’s what agents do when they have so little leverage. Who knows what might bubble up?
Seven years into a career as healthy as it has been remarkable, Wilson is coming off his most efficient season, with a career high in touchdowns (35) and a tying career low in interceptions (seven). At 30, based on the Brady/Favre/Brees/Rivers Scale of Biomedical Age Avoidance, he has eight to 10 years of top play left.
Given that proven QBs at the top of their games, with no major personality disorders, come along as often as acid, drop-the-mic one-liners the moment the boss fires you, the market for Wilson would be intense.
Just take a look at general manager John Schneider’s text messages since the story broke (I haven’t, but if you contacts with Saudi intelligence agencies, access, please text me). I imagine Schneider responded with steaming-pile emojis, then just as quickly entertained the second responses.
That’s how the system works.
Wilson has a final year remaining on his current four-year contract, and can remain in Seattle for 2020 if the Seahawks put the franchise tag on him, at a cost of about $30 million. They could tag him again in 2021 at around $36 million. By then, who knows what Wilson’s health, the QB pay scale, coach Pete Carroll’s passion (nearly 70 by then) and the NFL’s latest collective bargaining agreement — not to mention the entire world — will look like then.
The Seahawks hold nearly all the cards.
Rodgers must do what he can to make a market for Wilson now, ahead of draft. Once the draft passes, teams largely are settled into their personnel plans following the biggest signings in free agency. A trade could still get done, but front-office paranoia is at its apex ahead of the draft, when Rodgers would like to stimulate a stampede.
A contract from the Seahawks or any team would likely exceed in average annual value the deal of Aaron Rodgers, who gets a $33.5 million stipend from Green Bay. Wilson will get $25.2 million this season.
The lesser known markers are length of deal and guaranteed money. The most money guaranteed in the current market is $94 million for Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, and $84 million for Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins. As far as length, the Seahawks want as many years as possible, and Wilson’s camp probably wants no more than three, so he can re-enter the marketplace in his later prime.
However the negotiations play out, including what happens after the April 15 deadline if no deal is struck, Wilson said after the season ended he was ready to play into his final year despite all the speculation about his future that would come with it.
“Oh, yeah, if that’s what I’ve got to do,’’ he said. “It’s business, and I know essentially after this season I could potentially be a free agent, that kind of thing. I don’t think that way — I see myself being in Seattle. I love Seattle, special place for me. I also understand it’s a business world and everything else.”
In his seasonal post-mortem, Carroll sounded as committed as ever to Wilson.
“Russ and I met and we talked about the future,’’ he said. “We are talking about where we are going and what we want to get done. And, you know, that’s very much in our plans.”
Given their success together, there’s little doubt the Carroll wants to keep Wilson. But also given the results after re-tooling the 2018 roster and coaching staff, Carroll also has to be intrigued about the franchise renewal possible with another premier QB on a rookie contract.
If nothing else, the deadline could put the biggest story of the year to rest in two weeks instead of 18 months.