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Why Russell Wilson shouldn’t give the Seahawks a discount

New England Patriots Vs. Seattle Seahawks At CenturyLink Field Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Thursday here at Field Gulls I took a look at the discount* under which Russell Wilson is set to play the 2021 season, and readers absolutely loved** both the post and the title and responded with great approval to the analysis*** performed.

*there is no discount
**hated
***the methodology was preposterous and the purpose of the article was to show how ridiculous the analysis that Tom Brady had taken a $60M discount over the course of his career is

Thus, today I’ll be taking an actual, meaningful look at the purported Brady discount by comparing the cap hits of Brady to the same season cap hits of the contracts which the authors of the original analysis used as comparables. As a reminder, for those who were so infuriated by the Thursday article that they don’t recall the methodology of the Business Insider piece that “conservatively calculated what Brady might have earned in his career if he had signed a new deal equal to the going rate for top quarterback contracts throughout his career”, here it is:

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.

Here are the contracts we used:

2005: Peyton Manning — 7 years, $99.2 million

2009: Eli Manning — 6 years, $99.8 million

2013: Drew Brees — 5 years, $100 million

2017: Ben Roethlisberger — 4 years, $87.4 million

Now, in addition to imagining a history in which Brady signed contract extensions every four years as opposed to using the actual history of when he signed his extensions, it appears as though the authors also used the average per year of the contracts noted in order to calculate the alleged discount. Most fans with a basic understand of the salary cap and contracts will understand the flaw in this, as contracts are often backloaded to take advantage of the rising salary cap with lower cap hits in the early years.

So, to perform an actual comparison of Brady’s contracts to the contracts listed as the comparables from the Business Insider analysis, here is a year by year review of the cap hits of the contracts under which both Brady and the comped quarterbacks played (all data courtesy of OverTheCap.com).

Tom Brady cap hits versus the cap hits of comped contracts

Year Comp Cap Hit Brady Cap Hit Comp QB Difference
Year Comp Cap Hit Brady Cap Hit Comp QB Difference
2005 $8,431,000 $8,423,000 Peyton Manning $8,000
2006 $10,566,000 $13,823,000 Peyton Manning -$3,257,000
2007 $8,200,000 $7,340,000 Peyton Manning $860,000
2008 $18,700,000 $14,620,000 Peyton Manning $4,080,000
2009 $13,060,000 $14,620,000 Eli Manning -$1,560,000
2010 $12,100,000 $12,420,000 Eli Manning -$320,000
2011 $14,100,000 $13,200,000 Eli Manning $900,000
2012 $9,600,000 $8,000,000 Eli Manning $1,600,000
2013 $17,400,000 $13,800,000 Drew Brees $3,600,000
2014 $18,400,000 $14,800,000 Drew Brees $3,600,000
2015 $23,800,000 $14,000,000 Drew Brees $9,800,000
2016 $17,250,000 $13,760,000 Drew Brees $3,490,000
2017 $18,200,000 $14,000,000 Ben Roethlisberger $4,200,000
2018 $23,200,000 $22,000,000 Ben Roethlisberger $1,200,000
Total $213,007,000 $184,806,000 N/A $28,201,000

One obviously need not be a brain scientist or rocket surgeon to quickly realize that this $28,201,000 difference between Brady’s contracts and those of the comps used is far smaller than the $60M of the original piece. Adding on to this, it’s readily visible that more than a third of this calculated discount, $9.8M or 34.75% to be precise, all comes from the 2015 season.

Now, as with any analysis, there are multiple ways to slice and dice things, and multiple perspectives from which an issue can be looked at. So, there’s obviously going to be some wiggle room in any number, but comparing apples to apples, ie cap hits to cap hits, the purported discount comes in far smaller. That said, it’s at least possible to form a somewhat sensible argument that Brady played on a discount of somewhere in the $3M-$5M range from 2013 through 2019. There are other factors at play that help generate that “discount”, including the timing of the signing of Brady’s extensions, but just for the sake of this piece, let’s go ahead and assume there was indeed a discount in the amount of $4M or $5M per season.

The logical next question becomes: What can a team do with $4M or $5M in additional cap space? The entire point of Wilson taking a discount is in order to allow the front office of the Seattle Seahawks to add quality veteran players in free agency, correct? If so, then an analysis of what the Seahawks have done in free agency in recent seasons should shed some light on how much the team could improve if Wilson were to take a discount of say $5M per season. Thus, here’s a review of players added in free agency in recent offseasons.

2020:

  • Greg Olsen: 1 year, $7M
  • B.J. Finney: 2 years, $8M ($4M per year)
  • Brandon Shell: 2 years, $9M ($4.5M per year)
  • Benson Mayowa: 1 year, $3.05M
  • Bruce Irvin: 1 year, $5.5M
  • Cedric Ogbuehi: 1 year, $2.3M

2019:

  • Jason Myers: 4 years, $15.45M ($3.863M per year)
  • Ziggy Ansah: 1 year, $9M
  • Mychal Kendricks: 1 year, $3.95M
  • Nick Bellore: 2 years, $2.23M ($1.15M per year)
  • Jamar Taylor: 1 year, $895k

2018:

  • Ed Dickson: 3 years, $10.7M ($3.567M per year)
  • Barkevious Mingo: 2 years, $6.8M ($3.4M per year)
  • Jaron Brown: 2 years, $5.5M ($2.75M per year)
  • Shamar Stephen: 1 year, $2.1M
  • Dontae Johnson: 1 year, $1.3M
  • Brandon Marshall: 1 year, $1.105M
  • Tom Johnson: 1 year, $1.866M

2017:

  • Dion Jordan: 1 year, $640k
  • Bradley McDougald: 1 year, $1.8M
  • Eddie Lacy: 1 year, $3.563M
  • Luke Joeckel: 1 year, $7.688M

2016:

  • J’Marcus Webb: 2 year, $6M ($3M per year)
  • Bradley Sowell: 1 year, $1M

That’s enough of a painful look down free agent memory lane, but it brings to illustrate the point that the Hawks may not be the best team to look at when it comes time to spend an extra few million a year in free agency. For every Brandon Shell the team has unearthed in free agency, it’s had to sift through a whole lot of B.J. Finney, Ziggy Ansah, J’Marcus Webb, Luke Joeckel and so on.

In short, for any fans calling on Russell Wilson to take a discount, how confident are you in the ability of the Seahawks front office to properly utilize the cap space from any discount to improve the roster? How much of a discount would Wilson need to take in order for the team to add free agents that would in fact materially improve the roster rather than simply squander cap space on a third string center, a fourth string running back or a rotational defensive end whose offseason was extremely limited due to surgery?

Basically, if you were in Wilson’s shoes, given the track record of the front office, would you be willing to give a discount to the front office in order for them to add talent to the roster?

Or given the track record of the front office, before even considering taking a discount now or in the future, would you demand some sort of say in the decisions of the front office in terms of offensive coaching staff and personnel?