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Russell Wilson to play 2021 on a discount for Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Yes, that’s a clickbait title.

No, I don’t care you’re upset.

Simple fact is you are reading this, which means it worked so sit back and enjoy.

With that established, it’s possible to discuss how with the 2020 NFL season in the rear view mirror, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hoisted the Lombardi trophy as league champions. By leading the Bucs to victory, the legend of Tom Brady has added yet another chapter, and the addition of a seventh Super Bowl win further separates Brady from the quarterbacks who are anywhere even close to him.

Brady’s greatness is relevant with the 2021 league year set to start in less than four weeks on March 17, as one of the major issues teams across the league are set to face is the impact of the COVID pandemic on the 2020 revenues, and the anticipated decrease in the salary cap for 2021. For the Seattle Seahawks, that will mean needing to figure out how to create cap space in the coming weeks, as while currently lists the Hawks as having a projected $4.95M in space, that’s not an entirely accurate number.

First, that number only includes 47 players under contract, so once the roster is built out to 51, it will represent an addition of at least $2.64M in cap costs even if only minimum salary rookies are added to the roster (at $660k each). Add in an additional $3M or so in cap charges associated with the tenders that are likely to be extended to exclusive rights free agents and restricted free agents, and all of a sudden Seattle is looking at being in the red, even based on the prediction of a cap set at $180M or $181M.

Now, it’s no emergency for a team to be over the cap, as teams can create cap space through a multitude of ways, and it just comes down to how exactly a team decides to create the space it needs. When it comes to the Seahawks, many haves have called for quarterback Russell Wilson to take a discount in order to allow the team to put better talent around him. Many of the calls have cited the “discount” Brady provided the New England Patriots over the years, in particular proffering a Business Insider article authored in March of 2020, which posits that Brady “sacrificed at least $60 million in his career”.

Now, I could go on and on about the flaws in the analysis conducted by Business Insider and poke holes in their evaluation of the discount Brady got, but it’s a long offseason and I’ll dig into the specifics of the alleged discount at some point in the coming weeks. For now, I’m going to one to shy away from dumping on poor analytical work, here’s the methodology of that Business Insider article (bolding added is mine):

We imagined a scenario where Brady signed new deals in 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017 that were the equivalent of the going rate for the top quarterback at the time. In each of those four years, we gave Brady a new contract equal to that of the biggest contracts for veteran quarterbacks that had been signed before that season or the previous season. We also imagined that Brady only played four seasons under each contract and then signed a new deal.

So, basically, they made up a scenario where Brady signed contracts at opportune times. In reality, Brady signed extensions in 2005, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019 prior to becoming a free agent in 2020. So, starting in 2010 Brady renegotiated every three years, rather than the four years the Business Insider article “imagines” and on which they base their estimates.

For comparative purposes, let’s take the same methodology and “imagine” a scenario where Wilson signed a contract extension every three years beginning in 2015 and give Wilson a contract equal to that of the biggest contracts for veteran quarterbacks that had been signed before that season or the previous season. Here’s how that looks based on Wilson’s 2015 contract, which had him $100k per season below the highest paid player in the NFL and his 2019 contract, which made him the highest paid player in the league.

So, for reference the contract that will be used for comparative purposes are the contract under which Aaron Rodgers played from 2015 through 2017, then the Jimmy Garoppolo contract from 2018 through 2020 and the Patrick Mahomes contract from 2021 through 2023. Here’s how, using the same methodology as above, Wilson’s discount calculates.

Russell Wilson contract discount by season

Year Wilson Comp Comp Player Wilson Discount
Year Wilson Comp Comp Player Wilson Discount
2015 $7,054,000 $22,000,000 Rodgers $14,946,000
2016 $18,542,000 $22,000,000 Rodgers $3,458,000
2017 $14,660,000 $22,000,000 Rodgers $7,340,000
2018 $23,786,000 $27,500,000 Garoppolo $3,714,000
2019 $26,286,000 $27,500,000 Garoppolo $1,214,000
2020 $31,000,000 $27,500,000 Garoppolo -$3,500,000
2021 $32,000,000 $45,000,000 Mahomes $13,000,000
2022 $37,000,000 $45,000,000 Mahomes $8,000,000
2023 $39,000,000 $45,000,000 Mahomes $6,000,000
Total $229,328,000 $283,500,000 N/A $54,172,000

So, using that methodology, Wilson is set to play 2021 on a discount of $13M relative to the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, and by the time his current contract runs out, will have given the Seahawks a discount of more than $54M. Even excluding the 2015 season when he played on the final year of his rookie contract, Wilson would be considered to have given a discount of nearly $40M over the eight years from 2016 through 2023, an average of $5M per season.

Is that “discount” imaginary and completely made up based on the scenario I “imagined”? Absolutely one hundred percent, and I intentionally did so in order to illustrate how lacking the methodology of the alleged Brady discount of $60M truly is. That said, the key thing to take away is that Russell Wilson isn’t going to give the Seahawks a discount, nor should he, because he’s already set to play the 2021 season on a $13M discount.