- Two Super Bowl-winning QBs are in the news for different reasons. Here’s what really matters when it comes to Russell Wilson’s contract and Aaron Rodgers’s relationship with his old coach.
The business of football never stops, and the two QBs in the news right now are a couple of Super Bowl champs who happened to face off in one of the wildest games of the decade back in January 2015. Here are my thoughts on the current situations in Seattle and Green Bay.
Regular readers know my saying by now: Deadlines spur action. Monday’s deadline that Russell Wilson and his agent imposed on the Seahawks—the start of team offseason workouts—is not a typical NFL deadline. But offseason workouts do represent the actual start of team activities for the 2019 NFL season, and it worked for Wilson here as he now has a four-year extension reportedly worth $140 million with a $65 million signing bonus. While full details of the deal have not yet come out, I am familiar with both sides of the negotiation and have a strong sense of what happened.
Wilson’s contract negotiations were not about what you may think. Whether he made $33, $34 or $35 million a year, or some other number, was never the true sticking point. Whether he made $150, $160, $170 million or some other number in total over the life of his next contract was not the question either. This negotiation, from the team’s point of view, was all about one thing: Seahawks precedent.
The Seahawks had managed to negotiate every one of their contracts, including Wilson’s prior deal, without true guaranteed money in the future. The only future guarantees have been injury guarantees, which have very little risk for the team, as players rarely are injured for multiple seasons. The Seahawks, like most teams, ascribe to a “rolling guarantee” format that, beyond the first year of the contract, will only provide true guarantees if the player is on the roster at certain trigger dates. Teams like the Seahawks hide behind the antiquated NFL funding that makes the team put any future guaranteed money beyond Year One in escrow. In other words, even though the ownership of the estate of the late Paul Allen is worth $20 billion, the team was strongly fighting the possibility of funding tens of millions. The Seahawks were maintaining that stance and holding fast to the precedent in their negotiations with Wilson.
Wilson, of course, wanted to be treated differently. His agent was likely saying what many of you are saying: “Precedent shouldn’t matter for the face of the team and its franchise quarterback.” Thus, we had a stare down until a resolution at the deadline.
Again, without seeing the contract, my sense is that the Seahawks did the same thing the aforementioned Packers did with Aaron Rodgers: they threw “stupid money”—at least in NFL terms—at their franchise QB to avoid any departure from their standard contract structure. The Seahawks likely not only avoided future guarantees but also some novel bells and whistles that some were suggesting (that never had a chance) such as tying compensation to percentage of the salary cap or making contracts adjustable to the market.
So many ask me about the prospect of stronger NFL contracts for the players side and whether this will be an issue in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Well, the union has to do a better job on the collective side, but players with extreme leverage—such as Wilson—have to be willing to push the envelope in the face of teams hiding behind precedent. It appears Wilson, like Rodgers, could not…