The collective media have spent the last few days talking about how Russell Wilson reportedly wants to be the NFL's top-paid player, but that distinction might not be the main factor holding up negotiations. Per multiple reports, the fully guaranteed amount of money Wilson is seeking is the true sticking point.
Now, this isn't new -- it's been written about several times over the past few weeks -- but Jim Trotter was on SportsCenter this morning and articulated the situation very well.
Look, this is strictly about structured and guaranteed money, okay. It's not about average per year or any of those things. Russell Wilson wants all of his guarantees to be real guarantees. That's different from the way that the Seahawks normally structure their contracts. What they do are called "virtual guarantees" as what most other teams do. If a player is on the roster on a certain date, then his salary for that year becomes guaranteed. Russell Wilson doesn't want that. He wants any guarantees to be real, which means he gets it whether he's hurt or not, or whether he's on the field or not.
Right now, the Seahawks aren't willing to do that.
And, in part, they're not willing to do it because Paul Allen, the owner, would have to write a check and put any real guarantees in escrow for Russell Wilson. Most owners aren't going to write a check for $60 million and put it in escrow for a guy that's entering his fourth year.
So, is there a chance that the Seahawks will bend?
I don't think there is any chance that they change the way they do business. They may go up in the average per year and those type of things, but I don't think they're going to change the structure.
Paul Allen has other companies, and he runs them all the same way. He says there's a bottom line, and there's a procedure in which we do things. They are not going to change for one player, even a player as talented as Russell Wilson. So, in my opinion, what this comes down to is: who is going to blink here? Is it going to be Mark Rodgers and Russell Wilson, or is it going to be Paul Allen, John Schneider and the Seahawks? I would say it's going to have to be the player at this point, because the team isn't going to change, fundamentally, the way it does business for one player.
This stalemate is something that Jason La Canfora wrote about in detail this week as well, and his great look at Wilson's contract negotiations started with a long preamble on a real pet peeve of the author: Specifically -- NFL owners' ability to get away with not fully funding guarantees up front.
The reality is that teams could choose to do whatever they would like in that regard with any given player. But in large part, they get away with never having to because of an antiquated league stipulation that requires all owners to put the amount of any full guaranteed salary (for skill, injury and cap) in an escrow account -- up front -- at the time of signing, even if that figure will be actually paid out over a number of years.
No owner wants to be the first to fully guarantee an NFL contract, or to guarantee, say, 80 percent of a $100M deal. They have the CBA and the escrow language on their side and it's a precedent they have fought hard not to make. So you can't blame Paul Allen, as ridiculously wealthy as he is, if he doesn't want to go there either.
Multiple sources confirmed to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that Paul Allen does not want to fully fund the entirety of Wilson's contract up front.
Florio also added a little fuel to the fire this past week by bringing up the idea that no NFL team, and more specifically, no NFL owner wants to set that precedent of fully funding a guarantee up front, could amount to collusion among the ownership to keep the status quo.
It's a subject that Brock and Salk addressed this morning -- and Salk disagreed with this idea vehemently. I think it's definitely worth a listen. Said Salk: "That's not a group of owners sitting around saying 'don't do it, because that's going to hurt [everyone else],' it's them sitting there and saying 'don't do it, because it's going to hurt myself.'"
At the end of the day, we don't know what will happen going forward. Will Russell Wilson's side relent and accept those "virtual guarantees" that the team has given to Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and its other stars? Or, will Wilson continue with the "why not me?" stance and look to make history with the first contract of its kind? He's bet on himself before in the past, and it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see him do it again.
Either way, we may not even know until the end of next season, or perhaps even the season after, so just prepare yourselves for the possibility of a long standoff in the meantime.