Russell Wilson's stalled contract negotiations have become such a big story 29 days before training camp begins the star player is now going on late-night talk shows -- and his agent is getting almost as much pub as the Seahawks' two-time Super Bowl quarterback.
The day before Wilson appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live late Thursday, Mark Rodgers' home-base newspaper, the Vero Beach Press Journal in Florida, published a profile on him. It detailed how the baseball agent got back into representing NFL clients -- and how he views negotiating contracts in the two sports.
“It’s so different in football,” Rodgers said to the paper in an online edition of the story. “In baseball, you can dive into analytics. In baseball, there are so many numbers that really define the player to the minutest detail.
"In football, it’s a little simpler. I don’t have to argue statistics with the Seattle Seahawks on the value of Russell Wilson. In football, the most important stat to me has always been ‘Does he win?’ It’s hard to argue that Russell Wilson doesn’t win."
As Rodgers has no doubt reminded the Seahawks, Wilson is 42-14 for Seattle. That's the most victories in the first three seasons for a quarterback in league history.
Thursday night Wilson was on the ABC late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kimmel began by asking Wilson, "Are you more sick of talking about the Super Bowl, or your contract?"
"Both," Wilson replied with a chuckle.
The comedian then asked the QB: "You want to be the highest-paid player in football, correct?"
"I just want to be paid based off my play," Wilson said. "It will all work out in the end. We’ll figure it out."
As the segment ended and music played, Wilson shouted "Go Hawks!" as he always does.
“With Russell, he’s unique," Rodgers told the Press Journal, "so let the debate begin. He’s unconventional in size (5-foot-11, 206 pounds). People argue that he’s a game manager or say it’s the defense or Marshawn Lynch — or all of the above. I listen and take all that into account.
"At the end of the day, it’s about winning and what he’s asked to do and he does it very, very well.”
Rodgers helped pitcher Mike Hampton sign an eight-year, $121 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in 2000 — then the richest contract in baseball. Hampton was 85-53 before that contract -- and just 63-62 with two full seasons out of baseball due to injury after it. He ultimately retired in 2010.
Rodgers also got reliever Andrew Miller, a four-year, $36 million contract with the New York Yankees this past offseason, the most any team had ever given a non-closer.
Those baseball deals, of course, are fully guaranteed. The lack of fully guaranteed contracts in the NFL is a large part of this rub with the Seahawks. They have to manage contract guarantees by including stipulations such as roster and per-game bonuses due in later years. That's to enable them to work within the league's restrictive salary cap to keep their young, core, championship players.
The NFL's financial system is set up against Seattle keeping all of that core together for long. So would a mammoth guarantee for Wilson well north of, say, $60 million all due at signing. The team also has All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner entering the final year of his rookie deal and looking at an extension likely worth at least $9 million annually, among other veteran contracts ending after 2015.
Rodgers remarked to the Press Journal the other ways this negotiation for Wilson is far different -- and far more scrutinized -- than the one he did in baseball for Hampton 16 years ago.
“In 1999 with Mike Hampton, I was younger and less experienced, but we turned down the New York Mets’ long-term extension offer,” Rodgers said. “Mike was the MVP of the (2000) NLCS and played in the Subway World Series. Back then, Mike and I held a press conference the day before spring training started to say we would no longer negotiate and would go into free agency after the season. It was in the limelight for a while.
"But the biggest difference (today) is the boom of the Internet and social media. "Back then we could take a deep breath and analyze everything. Today, a lot of so-called experts are constantly writing and opinion-ating topics and Russell Wilson is a very popular topic today. But it doesn’t change the way I do my job.”