Russell Wilson is now the highest-paid player in NFL history. Just before the midnight (PDT) negotiating deadline Wilson’s camp had set with the Seahawks, the two sides agreed to an extension with a max length of four years and a max value of $140 million. Wilson had indeed tried to use his extraordinary leverage to wrangle a groundbreaking contract structure. The Seahawks wouldn’t budge, but in the end Wilson got two other things he wanted.
The NFL is very much a have and have-not league, but with revenues and the salary cap continuing to climb, there’s no doubt it’s good to be a quarterback:
Interestingly, for as rich as Wilson’s deal is—and for as lucrative as QB contracts keep getting—that APY will only rank fifth all-time in percentage of the cap at signing, according to Overthecap.com. This year’s cap is $188.2 million, which means Wilson’s $35 million in APY comes in at 18.6 percent. Somehow, Brett Favre’s still the all-time leader in percentage of the cap at signing (19 percent), on a deal with $7.87 million in APY that he signed in 1997.
Wilson’s camp had set a deadline of April 15, presumably to get the deal done before the offseason program got going, but also perhaps to get an early read on where the Seahawks stood. With Wilson being repped by Mark Rodgers—whose primary work is in baseball—it was fair to wonder whether Wilson might maximize his leverage, even if that meant a refusal to compromise. The two sides reportedly began bargaining in earnest on Friday. The talks could have gone any number of ways, with the franchise tag sitting right there for 2020.
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Like Aaron Rodgers, who reportedly flirted with getting a player option before ultimately signing what was then the biggest deal of all time, Wilson had an opportunity to reshape the way NFL teams draw up contracts. And per Tom Pelissero of NFL Media, Wilson sought to have his salary directly tied to future growth in the salary cap. He didn’t get that, but he did get the Seahawks to buck up with a $65 million signing bonus, which is fully guaranteed money he’ll see this year. The deal also includes $107 million in total (i.e., full and injury) guarantees, along with a no-trade clause, which Mark Rodgers told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport was the clincher:
“Russell wanted more than anything to stay in Seattle,” Rodgers told Rapoport. “My job was to make sure of it, while doing the best deal possible. The no-trade clause clinched it. We didn’t want to get to draft night three years from now and have his name in trade rumors. Once they offered that, we knew we would have a deal.”
Wilson is now under contract through 2023, when he’ll be 35, and he’ll make $157 million in the next five years, including the $17 million he was already set to earn in 2019. The deal was consummated at 11:30 p.m. PDT, per Pelissero, and Wilson tweeted about it soon afterward as he lay in bed with Ciara: