Dear Mom, Russell Wilson Did Not Disrespect The Seattle Seahawks

After writing about Seattle’s long-term future and the need to secure its franchise quarterback, one of the “commenters” took me to task.

The following is an actual email I received from my mother in response to a piece I wrote about Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks: 

Hi Sonny Boy,

I think Russell Wilson disrespected the rest of his team because of the salary cap. Whatever is left over is what the guys who support him will get. Now they are getting in line. I know I don’t know anything about football compared to most “guys,” but I do understand there is only so much to go around. If it wasn’t for the salary cap, since we have Paul Allen, we’d be like the Koch brothers. 
But we aren’t. Recently, someone pointed out that the millions he or any of them get are so far above the lifetime salaries (10 x?) of most of us 12s that it’s hard to conceive of the idea. How much does one person need?

I know it’s a lifetime commitment and they worked so hard all their lives to do this, and football is big business, but it is getting to the point of hurting the Seahawks (IMO).

But someone else pointed out the Wilson can give so much more to charity now (true).
I love your articles.
You’re being quoted! Hurray!

Love, Mom

Hi Mom,

You make some fair points. Let me play devil’s advocate (my most natural role), and add some perspective to the Russell Wilson contract situation.

First, Wilson got a ton of money. But while his new deal will cost the Seahawks a significant amount of cap space, he did not cost the team an inordinate amount of cap space. Consider this: Wilson’s new contract tacked on to his current 2015 salary ($1.5M) with a four-year, $87.6 million extension. (The new-money average is $21.9 million.) In other words, the deal is competitive with other top-tier quarterback contracts in new-money, per-year averages.

When taken as a whole, however, over the entire five years his deal, the average-per-year drops to $17.8 million. In terms of winning the negotiation, the new money average per year represents a solid get for Wilson and his agent, Mark Rodgers. In terms of overall value, though, it’s a win for the Seahawks — mostly because that $17.8M is far less than the going rate for a franchise-level, Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Not to mention not having to worry about finding a quarterback anytime soon.

Pigs in space

Back to the cap space. Wilson’s actual cap hit this year will be large, owing to his reported $31M signing bonus, plus his $1.5M salary. Based upon the reported per-year average of his contract, the percentage of cap space Wilson will take up (averaged out over the five years of the deal) will equal about 12.42 percent of the 2015 salary cap of $143.28M, give or take.

Compare this to Aaron Rodgers’ 2013 contract (the league’s top per-year average at $22M seven years, $130.75 million), which took up some 16.78 percent of that year’s salary cap ($123M).

Let’s work with rough estimates based on average-per-year, since we don’t know the ins and outs of either QB’s guaranteed money, likely-to-be-earned incentives, allocations each season, etc. Presumably, the NFL salary cap increase annually as the game continues to explode, so the percentages of both Wilson’s and Rodgers’ cap space will continue to decrease during the terms of their deals at varying and independent rates.

Sure, Wilson and his agent negotiated and postured in an attempt to get all they could while not missing any training camp or regular season time, but squeezing the Seahawks for everything they could was good business sense; it doesn’t mean that Wilson was disrespecting ownership, his teammates or the club’s fans.

Money, it’s a gas

On the whole, Wilson’s contract jibes with many league observers’ sentiments that he’s is a good/great, but not elite quarterback talent. Seahawks fans think he’s a Tier 1 QB — certainly the best in franchise history — and should get what top quarterbacks get. Except you, apparently.

In new money, he did pretty well. Overall (factor in all eight years of his contractual obligations to the Seahawks) and the blue birds have gotten and are continuing to get a hell of a bargain in the quarterback department.

Let’s not feel sorry for poor, l’il Russ. I know you don’t. He was already wealthy and now is fabulously wealthy. When the Seahawks are in a position to negotiate another new contract for him in four years, he’ll be 30 years old. His next contract projects to dwarf this current one. If he should falter in his remaining Seahawks years and become a free agent in four or five years, he’ll be a hot commodity as an-already rich backup quarterback with a latter-day Matt Hasselbeck type of career. That’s the worst case scenario. All the other scenarios see the Seahawks or other NFL teams throwing ungodly amounts of money at him to secure his services while he is at his NFL peak.

So that’s Wilson’s situation. If you, like others, believe he disrespected the Seahawks by taking the hard line in their contract negotiations, then you also have to levy that charge at Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. Both got new contracts in 2014 that were not near the top (like Wilson’s) but the very top of their respective positions. Thomas’ new contract was the highest for a safety in NFL history. Soon after, Sherman signed the richest deal for a cornerback in NFL history.

Combine that with big money paid out to Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Marshawn Lynch, in addition to other Seahawks. What do these last three have in common? They are demanding (or have already successfully demanded) more money early on in their already big-money new contracts. The Seahawks already generously paid each of them. Lynch pouted and performed his way to an even-richer new deal. Twice. Chancellor signed a five-year deal in 2013 worth just under $30M. He’s now holding out for a better contract.

Holding out! Let’s remember that Wilson negotiated his deal and then showed up. On time.

Michael Bennett has been demanding a new contract all offseason. Bennett signed a four-year deal in 2014 for $32M. He’s probably kicking himself right now for not holding out, since his mate Chancellor decided to make the bold move.

Let’s make a deal. Again.

Why do these important Seahawks keep trying to tear up their own already rich deals? Two reasons: 1) because the NFL’s contracts are not fully guaranteed, despite the inherent injury risk for players, and 2) because they can.

Since NFL players don’t get deals as sweet at MLB or NBA players, their only recourse is to act like petulant children and throw tantrums threatening to withhold their services in order to get fairer (in their minds) deals. Enter Seattle. The Seahawks, by virtue of kowtowing to Lynch recently and repeatedly, have opened the door for such conduct.

Some NFL teams wouldn’t budge at all for any player. The Seahawks have taken a much more pragmatic approach to NFL contracts. The downside of this is now apparent, if it weren’t already. In light of this, I think it’s remarkable that the one guy they took a hard line with was Wilson. The blue birds decided to not give in to the franchise’s best quarterback ever when it came time to securing his ongoing services.

The other guys got theirs. If any of them could have gotten even more, they would have. Wilson got his, but he didn’t get a league-leading deal, like Thomas and Sherman. And he surely didn’t endanger the team’s chances with a protracted holdout. He didn’t even threaten to hold out. It may have cost him.

It’s true that money now paid to Wilson is no longer available to pay other players. That’s true of any contract in the NFL. The Seahawks have a top-notch quarterback. Shouldn’t they have to pay for that privilege, just like the rest of the league?

You are right that the amount of money is crazy. It’s obscene, in fact. (My words, not yours.) However, as NFL supporters, we really only have ourselves to blame, right? We keep buying and watching. We keep coming back. The free market has spoken.

That’s entertainment

The NFL is entertainment business. As a species, we honor our entertainers among the highest of all professions. Six years ago, actor Christian Bale, at the peak of his Batman/Terminator marketability, answered the issue of entertainers deserving rich pay days. In a 2009 interview with GQ, Bale had this to say: “I’m into a realm now where it doesn’t matter what you do, you don’t deserve to get paid that. It’s fair, because if you’re not, someone else is gettin’ it — and they didn’t do what you did for it. But do you deserve it? Hell no.”

Does anyone doubt what the crazy man says is true? Sorry — he’s super rich so we have to call him eccentric — not crazy. I won’t argue with him. At least not to his psychopathic face. Bale probably sees Wilson’s contract and thinks, “You should have had my agent.”

In our family, we’ve got a lot of teachers — sisters, aunts, great-grandmothers, in-laws … on and on. We know who the real heroes are. We live in upside-down world, where entertainers out-earn teachers, scientists and writers a thousand-fold. OK, nobody pays writers. If black weren’t white, if up weren’t down, then reality would more beautifully reflect a Key & Peele sketch.

It’s funny because it’s never going to be true.

Anyway, Wilson scored. The Seahawks scored. We’ll be watching.

Say “hi” to Dad for me. Remind him that the NFL season is only a couple weeks away. Then we can all start living again.


Sonny Boy