They say that sports are cutthroat and that it's "just business, man" when a player gets let go or traded, but the odds that Russell Wilson won't be with the Seattle Seahawks in 2016 (the first year he's currently set to hit free agency) are lower than my odds of marrying Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
(Is she over 18? And do fish age faster or slower than humans? Do you add the two numbers up and divide them to find the average or does one half take precedence over another? And why is everyone always so intent on a mermaid turning into a full human rather than into a full fish? That's fishism, man. No politics.)
Wilson does not turn 26 until November, he's got some of the best first-two-year numbers in NFL history, he has won a Super Bowl, and the Seahawks will have more than enough cap room to sign him to an eight-year contract that ensures that if Wilson ever does play anywhere else, it'll be after they've gotten almost every last drop of talent out of him. And even if Wilson wanted to test free agency, he couldn't if the team didn't want him to, thanks to the franchise tag.
Hey, it's just business, man.
No matter what happens in 2015, Wilson will be $817, 302 against the cap this season. No more, no less. To put that in perspective, he's got the 29th-highest cap figure on the team. When he completes his first pass to Paul Richardson, the player who is earning more for his efforts next season for that play, will be Richardson. Luckily, I don't think Wilson is a bitter man, because that's a pretty dirty truth about the NFL.
And if the team decided that next season, for whatever reason, they didn't want to sign Wilson to an extension, he'd either have to sit out the year or play for less than $1 million again. And still after all of that, they still hold his rights in 2016 if they want to franchise him, with the only difference being that for a quarterback, it's a pretty high franchise tag figure.
But it would still be lower than what they're actually going to pay Wilson to play in 2016 after he does sign an extension. Because teams don't risk losing franchise quarterbacks ever, and there's no reason to not keep Wilson happy. That being said, the world wouldn't be as interesting if we didn't exercise our imaginations, and the idea of having Wilson wouldn't be as exciting if we didn't imagine a world without him.
Here are a few reasons why you might not see Russell Wilson on the team in 2016 and beyond, and what possible benefits it could have:
We 'jamin, and we hope you'll be 'jamin too
So you think you can take up $25 million in cap space? In this economy? Even if you said that the total cap space for a team in 2018 was going to be $175 million, then one player taking up nearly 15% of that is fairly outlandish unless the player is responsible for 15% of your success or more. On a team with the best defense in the NFL, built upon their elite secondary that's already signed through the next four or five years, is the quarterback worth 15% of your success?
The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl after the 2012 season and then locked up not-star quarterback Joe Flacco to a $120 million deal. Luckily his cap hit is less than $15 million for this season and next, but then it jumps up to $28.5 million in 2016 and $31.1 million in 2017. Even if Baltimore released Flacco in 2017, they'd only save about half of that. The Ravens won the Super Bowl on a combination of perfect timing, luck, and who-fucking-knows, but then followed it up with an 8-8 season and Flacco turning in one of the five worst seasons by a quarterback last year.
The kind of money that they had to pay to Flacco prevented the team from being able to afford Anquan Boldin and then left a void opposite of Torrey Smith that they comically could not fill. Similarly, the offensive line fell apart and Ray Rice could only run westward and could not even save himself.
Maybe Baltimore set themselves up for failure and refused to acknowledge that perhaps you don't sign your Super Bowl-winning quarterback to a mega-deal simply because he was the quarterback when you won the Super Bowl. Can a team truly remove emotion from the equation when signing players and should they remove emotion? If the NFL was truly just business, then Flacco would have had no business signing any contract that paid him nine figures. Throughout his career, he had been fairly good and fairly consistent. You could rely on him to be something like the 10th-best QB in the NFL at best, and 15th at worst.
But he's being paid like that magic word, "elite," and Baltimore will pay for that decision in more ways than one. The Ravens have been able to add players like Elvis Dumervil and Steve Smith in the last two years, but really must tread lightly with any new contracts and measure out their ability to pay those players two or three years down the line, as well as how they'll handle extensions for current players on the roster like Torrey Smith and Haloti Ngata.
There is no such thing as "unlimited riches" in the NFL, even when your owner is Microsoft, Jr. So a team always has to be cognizant of their 'jamins, or as you may more commonly know them, Benjamins aka Bennies aka C-Notes aka SEA-Notes aka money.
How does it relate to Seattle and Wilson?
They don't call him Rus"Sell Out" Wilson for nothing. (OMG, I'm so sorry, it's just a joke!)
For right now, the team has already locked down many key players for the next four years. This includes Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and Percy Harvin. As of right now, it does not include Wilson, but there's certainly room for him, even with the myriad of dollars that must still be distributed to the 20-30 players on the roster that aren't paid to be great, just paid greatly.
And more players than Wilson are going to be up for renegotiation over the next couple of years. What if you were presented with any of these scenarios:
One Wilson or both Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright?
One Wilson or both Wagner and Russell Okung?
One Wilson or Malcolm Smith, Okung, and more Doug Baldwin?
One Wilson or Smith, Bruce Irvin, and Byron Maxwell?
There aren't "one or two" guys that the team must evaluate from now until 2016. Many of your favorite players could be lost to free agency. Which is a natural byproduct of any franchise that accumulates a ton of talent -- that's why Chris Clemons and Golden Tate and Clinton McDonald and Red Bryant aren't here anymore -- but when is it "too much"?
Players that are set to hit free agency by the time Wilson is set to hit free agency in 2016:
- Jermaine Kearse
- Max Unger
- Marshawn Lynch
- Tony McDaniel
- Cliff Avril
Some of those players will return, some of those won't, and no two of them combined will cost as much as Russell Wilson will cost by himself. Arguably no three of them, in fact. If you looked at it with an unbiased eye, could you say with any certainty that hypothetically the team would be better off with Wilson and not Wagner, Avril, Baldwin?
However, what's the point in asking the question of what the team would look like without Wilson, when we all know that it's nigh impossible that the team will not extend him? If you didn't at least examine the possibility, then you've already lost the negotiation. And while team-QB negotiations are always friendly, it's not like the 49ers are regretting the leverage they had (and used) to get Colin Kaepernick in an extremely team-friendly deal.
Why would the Seahawks be able to walk away from Wilson?
"Walk a-Way" by Aer-GO-smith and Walk-DMC
If you looked at a football team from a technical standpoint and completely removed emotion from the equation, if you saw players as "numbers" for instance rather than as humans, then ideally you would rather have a player who did 100% of the job as someone else but at 5 or 10-percent of the cost. Seattle has benefited tremendously from the fact that they have a Pro Bowl quarterback who has costed less than $1 million per season. Not just on the roster in terms of being able to sign Bennett and Avril to free agent deals, and trading for Harvin, but it's not as though the franchise hasn't turned a little sweeter profit from seeing Wilson turn into one of the top five "names" in the league and at only a small percentage of what Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers cost.
An argument I saw recently on Twitter opined that the team would trade Wilson for Andrew Luck in a heartbeat, but that's untrue to almost an unbelievable degree. To the mysterious "110-percent" degree, that is not true. However, would John Schneider trade Russell Wilson in year four for another "Wilson" as a third round rookie? Basically, if you could pull down a new Wilsonbot off the assembly line every four years, would you do it?
"I got a man" What's ya man got to do with me?
Now, tests have not yet definitively proven that Wilson is a robot, and he's most likely a unique player that comes along once in a generation (not in the sense that he's one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever live (as far as we know) but in the sense that he was not a first round pick yet immediately was good and soon after that very special) so it would be tough to replace Wilson after four years with another Wilson, but what if the "system" really was designed to allow the team to be successful with any number of good quarterbacks?
Without a doubt, the Seahawks were an improved team under Tarvaris Jackson in the second half of the 2011 season. They were not happy with Jackson, which is why they added Wilson and Matt Flynn, but they were still very close to going 8-0 with him in the second half of '11. (They went 6-2, with a couple of winnable losses.) Seattle's offensive philosophy is run-heavy, explosive passing plays in careful measurement, and focuses on adding unique athletic talents around the QB -- players like Harvin, Golden Tate, Paul Richardson -- rather than having a quarterback that needs to make those around him better.
That doesn't mean that Wilson doesn't possess unique abilities that raise the level of play on offense, but would the team be able to win the Super Bowl with a player like Jackson? Better yet, would Schneider not be able to strike lightning in a bottle more often than your average GM? The team struck out on Charlie Whitehurst early, but didn't take long to eventually find their Pro Bowl QB at one of the greatest values in modern NFL history.
Remove emotion. Forget the logic of how difficult it can be to find a good quarterback. Theoretically speaking, would you like to have a new QB every four years and pay him a rookie salary, even if it's the first round, or pay one guy $200-$300 million over the next 15 years, somewhat inhibiting your ability to pay other players?
Plus, it's not like you have to let Wilson walk. You could also get something back.
Tr-Tr-Tr-Trade, Time to Trade the World, Tr-Tr-Traded
You rarely ever get to see an example of what a young, talented, Super Bowl-winning quarterback would get a franchise back in trade, because teams simply don't do it. Teams are often happy to move their backup or former starter, but only as long as they have a guy in place ready to take the reins and do just as good, or better, as the guy you're letting go.
Matt Schaub, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Cassel. All your basic Matts. Probably the best and most recent example of all would be San Francisco trading Alex Smith to the Chiefs for two second round picks. Many people thought even that was too high of a cost for Smith, but Smith had posted a QB rating of 95.1 over the previous two seasons, was 19-5-1 as a starter in that time, and certainly did more than just help the 49ers reach the NFC title game in 2011. Though he's not spectacular, as Cyndi Lauper might say, he's "good enough."
And if you refer back to one of those Matt's, you'll remember that Kansas City had the worst quarterback situation in the NFL.
Smith proved more than adequate in 2013, making his first Pro Bowl and throwing 23 touchdowns against seven interceptions playing with a myriad of shitty receivers. It's just the San Fran saw him expendable once they knew that they were even better when Kaepernick was playing, and it would only cause problems to have the both of them on the roster. Imagine for a moment that Terrelle Pryor wins the backup job, is forced into action for five games, plays spectacularly in this offense, and would be available to play on a small contract for the next three years.
What would Russell Wilson fetch in return?
Note that part of trading Wilson would still include that the team in trade would have to sign him to a mega-contract. So that denigrates his value somewhat. But probably not enough to make it any less than two first round draft picks in order to acquire Wilson, and some of you are still hollering that it's not enough for Wilson. Let's pretend that it is anyway.
Now I present you with two scenarios:
- Wilson stays with the team and signs a seven-year deal worth $130 million. Smith and Maxwell leave via free agency in 2015 and Wagner leaves in 2016.
- The team trades Wilson for two first round draft picks, and signs new deals for Smith, Maxwell, extends Wagner and Okung, and finds a quarterback that plays at 85-percent of the talent level of Wilson. Is that last 15-percent more valuable than what the picks and money could do for the franchise? It's impossible to know for certain.
This is entirely hypothetical. There is no reason for me to assume that the team will lose players because Wilson signs a new deal. I don't think Wilson wants to sign a deal that forces out good players anyway. But damn it allow yourself to imagine it for a second anyway, otherwise what did John Lennon die for?
Wilson holds on for 3,650 more days
You might call it a pointless exercise to ask "What could be accomplished if the team team traded away their star player before the probable prime of his career?" but if we didn't ponder the possibilities of life without, we couldn't quite appreciate life with. The franchise spent 97-percent of their history without Wilson, and I definitely think that if they traded him or let him go, they'd regret it. They'd rue the day.
But it's still fun to think about what the price would be if you could sell Wilson to another team at a premium cost, picking up valuable extra picks and recouping some of that hypothetical cash. However, it's imperative that the team bites the bullet and and gives him a contract, a binding document, that ensures he will be in Seattle until the end of his days as a useful NFL starter.
Because he's the savior. The one true son. Just think about those steps.
This has been Field Gulls. Goodbye.