As Russell Wilson’s April 15 contract deadline closes in, several conflicting reports have surfaced over the past week in regard to negotiations between the Seahawks and their star quarterback.
Though Seattle has known about the deadline proposed by Wilson’s camp since January, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reported on April 7 that sources indicated “little progress” had been made between both sides.
Then on Saturday, a mere 48 hours away from the deadline, former Seahawks teammate Jake Heaps provided a more optimistic update via Twitter, indicating Wilson’s agent and general manager John Schneider had been meeting for several hours over the past few days trying to iron out a new contract.
Putting some icing on top of the speculation cake that wasn't necessarily asked for, Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu became the latest in a long line of rumor mongers to push the Wilson wants to play in New York narrative, following up former NFL coach Jack Del Rio's statement that he "wouldn't be surprised" to see the quarterback in a different jersey next year.
While these claims about Wilson wanting to depart Seattle seems absurd and unfounded, if he truly does want to play for another team, he’s going to have to play out a long, dramatic process to make it happen, as the Seahawks hold most of the leverage moving forward.
Sure, Seattle could pull off a stunner and become the first team to trade away a top-tier quarterback rather than pay him at market price. If another team presented multiple first round picks and more in return as compensation, maybe Schneider would roll the dice and see if he could build another title contender around a quarterback on a rookie deal.
But Schneider would be putting his job on the line with such a bold, if not reckless, decision to part ways with a proven top-five quarterback in his prime. He’s never been one to trade away stars to begin with. Why would he suddenly alter strategy and jettison Wilson?
If it worked out? Schneider would be seen as an innovator. If it blew up in his face? He’d be out of a job and might have a tough time landing another one even considering his strong resume. That’s far too big of a gamble to take.
Instead, Wilson’s way out of town would surely have to include playing the patented Kirk Cousins franchise tag game. Seattle would have the ability to use the exclusive tag at least once, if not more, keeping him in a Seahawks uniform for another two seasons minimum.
Seattle would be risking losing Wilson in the long-run, as his price tag for a long-term extension would continue to climb and a franchise tag for a third straight season would exceed $50 million. But for the next two seasons, he’d be affordable in comparison to the market for elite quarterbacks, making it a no-brainer the organization would apply it if necessary.
Under this premise, by the time Wilson would eventually hit free agency with a chance to go to New York, he’d be 33 years old with 11 seasons under his belt. Though far from old in today’s NFL, that’s a much different situation for teams than it would be if he became available to acquire by trade now, and specifically looking at the Giants, they may very well have a new franchise quarterback by that point.
If that’s the path Wilson is willing to take to wind up where he wants to be, then there’s certainly a route to New York or another big market. Seattle’s hands would be tied after the second franchise tag, as there’s no way the organization could afford the exorbitant price of paying him on the tag a third time.
But ultimately, there shouldn’t be any panic for the Seahawks and their fan base about a long-term deal coming to fruition. Both sides want to get this done now, with the sticking point likely being guaranteed cash for Wilson's next deal. If it doesn’t happen by Monday’s deadline, the franchise tag will be there to ensure he's in uniform beyond 2019, creating ample time to continue negotiating.
And if Heaps report has teeth to it? There’s still a solid chance a lucrative extension can be struck before midnight, finally ending this speculative nightmare and keeping Wilson where he belongs in Seattle.