Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson gets NFL-record deal to stay with Seahawks

It’s done. And in an only-in-2019 way.

Russell Wilson’s deadline for getting a new, top-of-the-NFL contract from the Seahawks passed with midnight becoming Tuesday morning. About 45 minutes later, the franchise quarterback posted on his social-media account, from bed snuggled with his wife, Ciara: “Hey, Seattle, we got a deal...Go Hawks.”

Agent Mark Rodgers confirmed to The News Tribune at 1:35 a.m. Tuesday the contract is worth $140 million in new money over four years, with a $65 million signing bonus and $70 million guaranteed to be paid within 12 months of signing.

That $35 million per year makes Wilson’s the richest contract in NFL history, as he had sought and the Seahawks had planned.

The contract has total guarantees of $107 million and includes a no-trade clause, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, citing a source.

It keeps Wilson tied to Seattle through 2023, when he will be 35 years old.

Four years was the length of Wilson’s second deal that he signed with the Seahawks in the summer of 2015. That was worth $87.6 million, and will pay him $17 million in its final season this year.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Seahawks of Wilson’s new contract.

Then again, it was 12:44 a.m.

Before his past-midnight bombshell from bed, Wilson was where he always is on the first day of Seahawks official offseason workouts: with his teammates at their Virginia Mason Athletic Center headquarters in Renton, lifting weights and doing conditioning drills permitted by the NFL in its first phase of offseason drills.

The team confirmed Wilson was present, as expected, with a photo within a gallery posted on its website Monday afternoon.

Seahawks teammate Bobby Wagner was congratulating Wilson on Twitter into early Tuesday morning.

Left tackle Duane Brown trumpeted how much Wilson deserves this.

How does Wilson’s new money compare to the previous richest contracts in the league?

Last year Matt Ryan got a record $94.5 million guaranteed at signing, including a $46.5 million signing bonus in an extension with Atlanta.

Then Aaron Rodgers, 35, re-set the market with his four-year deal last summer to remain with Green Bay. It averages $33.5 million per year, with $98.2 million guaranteed. Of that, $57.5 million was his signing bonus and $78.7 million of Rodgers’ money was guaranteed at signing, according details former agent Joel Corry obtained for CBS Sports. Rodgers’ other $19.5 million became guaranteed this spring, applied to his 2020 pay. So that’s $98.2 million guaranteed within the first year for Rodgers.

Wilson is five years younger than Rodgers, with as many Super Bowl rings.

Ryan, 33, got another $5.5 million guaranteed from the Falcons last month, from a contract clause adding to his pay for 2021. So that’s $100 million guaranteed within the first year of signing for Ryan in Atlanta.

Wilson is three years younger than Ryan, who has yet to win a Super Bowl.

Ryan’s $100 million guaranteed within one year of signing was thought to be the baseline for what Wilson was seeking from Seattle in guaranteed cash.

Thing is, Schneider and Carroll have not guaranteed second years of Seahawks extensions at the time of signing.

Corry said later Tuesday morning, at a more humane hour, on KJR “I think it’s the standard, more or less standard Seattle model.”

The $65 million signing bonus signals to Corry that Wilson doesn’t have his second and third seasons guaranteed up front. That means, per Seahawks usual, per Wilson’s current ending deal, the rest of his $107 guarantees are against injury in the future that vest in spring of that future year.

Wilson got $61.5 million guaranteed in his second Seahawks contract four years ago. About half of that was up-front guarantees at signing. The rest were Seattle’s typical guarantees-as-you-go, future guarantees for injury. Those clauses did not become fully guaranteed for Wilson until each March of the last three years of his current four-year deal, which ends after the 2019 season.

Ultimately, Wilson’s deadline did what he first intended it to do: spur progress toward a new, megabucks deal that will make him the richest player in the league.

A league source told The News Tribune this month that his April 15 deadline was Wilson’s way to spur more progress on talks that had mostly been stagnant since January. Mark Rodgers was continuing negotiations with Seahawks general manager John Schneider and Matt Thomas, the team’s vice president and top contract numbers man, well into Monday night. Wilson’s current deal paying him $17 million this year (12th-most in among NFL quarterbacks) ends after the 2019 season.

Rodgers has been negotiating with Schneider consistently since Friday, with both men reported to be meeting inside team headquarters since that day.

Peter King of NBC Sports wrote for his weekly Football Morning in America column a league source told him Wilson was likely seeking an unprecedented escalator clause in his contract tied to annual increases in the league’s salary cap into the 2020s.

That first-of-its-kind clause would be to ensure Wilson doesn’t go from the highest-paid QB to, say, eighth in the league in a couple years. That would be as the cap keeps rising, the league gets new revenues from upcoming renewals of television contracts and possibly legalized sports betting, and young stars such as Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes get new deals in the near future.

King also wrote of the Monday deadline: “My source says they’ve told GM John Schneider it has to be done now, or not at all.”

King elaborated on Seattle’s KJR-AM radio Monday afternoon he was told by his source Wilson and his agent have informed the Seahawks “this is our last negotiating window on a long-term deal. If we don’t get something done we will go year to year.”

That presumably would have meant Wilson would not sign any long-term offer from Seattle after Monday night, that he would play out his contract this year, then sign the franchise tag the Seahawks would almost certainly give him to keep him from leaving in free agency in 2020, again in lieu of a long-term deal.

Further complicating all this, Wilson’s side and the Seahawks have been negotiating on shifting sands. The league’s collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2020 season. No one knows exactly what the NFL contract laws and accounting will be in the new CBA, whether they will even be a franchise tag as we know it in 2021 and beyond.

All that makes it understandable Wilson didn’t have his deal done until past bedtime Tuesday morning.

Coach Pete Carroll and Schneider have staked their Seahawks careers and legacies on Wilson since he won them the Northwest’s only Super Bowl title in February 2014. And Wilson is still in the prime of his career at age 30.

Now Carroll and Schneider will try to work Wilson’s new extension within their plans to extend Wagner’s deal; the All-Pro linebacker’s contract ends following 2019. The Seahawks are also in negotiations on an extension for top pass rusher Frank Clark beyond the franchise tag they gave him last month for 2019.

Wilson’s new contract will not keep Seattle from being able to re-sign Clark and Wagner. Now it’s a matter of how much they want.

Past 1 a.m. Tuesday, Wilson was already looking forward to Wagner getting his new Seahawks deal.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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