It's Russell Wilson contract week, gang, and I hope you're ready for it. With the report from multiple sources that the negotiations between the Seahawks and Wilson will be tabled for next offseason once training camp starts on Thursday/Friday, we're going to be hearing a lot of details on this situation every day. Here's what's out there this morning:
Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reports that Wilson's camp has backed off some of its demands on the average-per-year number, but is still holding strong to a compromise that the Seahawks pay him record numbers in full guarantees.
Wilson has been willing to come down on his demand to be the highest player in the league. In return, however, he's expecting that the guarantee on this deal will come up.
The Seahawks, a month ago, offered [to Wilson] the Carolina Panthers deal that they gave to Cam Newton, which basically guaranteed $54M and was worth $21M per year. What Wilson is expecting at this point in time is to get somewhere above Ndamukong Suh's $60M figure for a guarantee, according to a source that I've talked to, and basically re-set the notion of where a guarantee should be for a quarterback, and for all players, for that matter.
This jibes with an Ian Rapoport report from Sunday that also had the $21M per-year number as "essentially correct." As Rapoport noted, though, that "sources familiar with the situation say Wilson would make (under the latest offer) below $20 million cash up front," which would be salary for 2015 plus a hefty signing bonus. With Wilson's ridiculously low salary of $1.5M due this year on his rookie deal, the full 'up front' money thing is a sticking point. Most top-tier quarterbacks that have received contract extensions were, at the time, already due to be making double-digit-million dollar salaries in their final year.
Said Rapoport: "Those in Seattle say there are significant guarantees, but most of the guarantees are simply for injury only." This speaks to the fact that the word "guaranteed" in the NFL is a fairly ambiguous word.
If Wilson's contract money is all fully guaranteed money, per the NFL CBA, the Seahawks would have to be put the entire amount in an escrow account to be paid out as Wilson's deal matures. Most NFL contracts, however, use "partial guarantees" or "for injury only" guarantees or whatever you want to call them. Essentially, teams do not fully guarantee the money for a player's particular season until that season rolls around. So, for instance, if Wilson is due a guaranteed $20 million in 2017, that $20 million doesn't become fully guaranteed until the start of that year on a pre-determined date (it's also guaranteed for injury, so if Wilson suffered a career ending injury, he'd still get it).
What this structure does is that this allows the team to cut bait on a player if he's not performing a few years into his deal, and the team can avoid paying that (example) $20 million for that season. Most of the Seahawks' big-time contracts are structured this way, and in fact, most NFL deals are set up this way. For instance, it was originally reported that the Panthers had given Cam Newton $60M guaranteed, but as it turned out, only $31M of that was fully guaranteed, with the other $29M in "guarantees" for injury only. For Newton's deal, he got a $22.5 million signing bonus and $7.5 million roster bonus upon signing the contract. This is the $31M in fully guaranteed money.
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However, in 2016, Newton will receive a $10 million option bonus, and his 2016 salary will become fully guaranteed if on the roster the 3rd day of the League Year. In 2017, $6 million of his salary will become guaranteed if he's still on the roster the 3rd day of the League Year. These are the so-called rolling guarantees, and the "pay as you go" type of deal the Seahawks are reportedly looking to give Wilson.
As Cole reports, Wilson is looking to change that paradigm altogether. He essentially is saying that he wants those per-season roster and options bonuses to be fully guaranteed up front. ESPN's Jim Trotter said this morning that,
"Everything I'm hearing is that the Seahawks are not going to blink in terms of the way they do business. They are going to maintain the structure of the contracts, they way they've done them in the past."
Because of Wilson's stance on this, and because the Seahawks apparently don't want to set this precedent, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora doesn't think that anything will happen this week. Says La Canfora:
"I'd be very surprised if much changes in the Seahawks situation with quarterback Russell Wilson, and I don't see either side flinching now. It would take a massive shift in terms of the kind of up-front money ownership is willing to spend to facilitate this deal, and contrary to the way this deal is being framed elsewhere, I continue to hear that the Seattle structure would be highly 'pay-as-you-go' and the true guaranteed money remains a significant obstacle."
So, what's that mean? Per La Canfora,
"I'm still thinking this is headed to a franchise tag in 2016, and I would fully anticipate that being an exclusive designation."
We shall see.