There are plenty of reasons for training camp to begin with a freshly inked Russell Wilson at the helm.
1. It's a lovefest out there.
Those looking for acrimony in these negotiations are having a bit of a rough go.
"It's great, I don't think it's bad by any means." (RW on talks, June 29)
"I obviously want to stay in Seattle." (RW, June 30)
But even if there were hard feelings, harsh words, public statements of frustration, those still wouldn't be worrisome, judging by the Drew Brees-New Orleans negotiations. The Saints and their QB exchanged unpleasantries through the media after Brees was franchise tagged two straight years in 2010 and 2011. That relationship was damaged so profoundly that in July 2012, the two parties agreed on a deal that made Brees -- at the time -- the highest-paid player in the league.
If our little friendly negotiations up here had a theme song, it wouldn't be Jar of Hearts, Theraflu, or even Cold As Ice, or it'd be something more purple-dinosaury:
I love you/
You love me/
But I'm not gon' play for free
2. It'd be challenging for RW to make up the money he'd miss out on.
If Wilson gets paid 1.5 million this year and then negotiations resume in 2016, he'll forfeit two things: a year of earning potential and immediate security.
You already know this, but androids such as the RW-2012-rd3 are designed to mimic human aging. It was in the manual and everything. It/He only gets 12-20 years in which to earn football money. Giving one of those prime labor years away for almost free means probably $20 million or so that has be made up over the life of his next deal.
Whatever you think of Mark Rodgers, that's a hell of a sum to recover in 2016, with most QB deals being about five years long, and with somewhere between 20 and 33 percent of a career already in the rear view mirror. (Emoji sadface.) To say nothing of interest and compound interest lost by delaying the signing bonus. Can waiting a year be worth it, financially, for RW? Maybe. But it's awful likely to be just a wash, which of course isn't really a wash, because...
3. ...Waiting is riskier for RW than his employer
The FO isn't on the hook for any money to him. Should anything stupid happen in 2015, Russell loses out on tens of millions of dollars. He'd probably still stay here, but at a steep discount from Rodgers/Roethlisberger/Newton money. The real threats of physical injury or developmental hiccup ought to drive him to the bargaining table, where his case is strong but his urgency outweighs the team's.
I used to think the two sides had roughly equal amounts of leverage. No longer; now it's my conclusion that RW's camp wishes to strike a deal more desperately than the team. In simpler terms, the Hawks want to come to an agreement, because it'd be convenient, but Wilson needs to. Sure, Seattle eventually graduates from want to need as well, because a franchise quarterback is the most sought-after commodity in the league. Say what you want, but "Win Forever" doesn't fly with inconsistent Kriegs, raw Kitnas, flawed Jacksons and old Hasselbecks.
Right now, because of the franchise tag, all injury/regression risk sits on the player. When one side needs a deal more than the other, the urgency fosters compromise. Look for that to happen swiftly here now.
4. Because in the end, everyone wants this deal to get done.
Here's the meat of my argument.
The Hawks want it done. They can wait, but they want it sooner rather than later. Signing Russ allows the FO to operate with specific annual sums set aside for him, to spread it how they like and alleviate cap crunches, to continue to execute the plan they laid out long ago. Pete and John have known for almost three full offseasons now that this day of reckoning was coming. They've built contingency plans in case he doesn't sign, but for guys who make their living looking three to five years ahead, knowing the money details instead of the broad strokes would help immensely.
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Russell wants it done. He may say one thing in public, and he may very well sleep like a baby, knowing the big money is coming, someday. But does he want this distraction hanging over his head all season? Does he want to be a burden on his teammates, who'll surely be asked about the contract situation? I doubt that very much. And, that giant signing bonus tantalizes. Whatever dreams he has for that money... require that money. All while the previously mentioned dream-wrecking risks loom on the horizon, like storm clouds or swarms of locusts or deadly shark-infested twisters.
Less importantly, but worth mentioning: Agent/Evil Mastermind* Mark Rodgers wants it done. He's taking too big of a personal risk by drawing negotiations out. I don't see the financial advantage for him to get RW to free agency -- he wouldn't get getting paid significantly until three years from now. I don't see a clear motivation for him to draw it out. The time value of money applies to him, too. Plus, to what player could Rodgers ever promise the same deal: "Stick with me, ride out your rookie contract and a few years of being franchised, and I'll get you a few extra million bucks with a random franchise." Which existing or incoming player buys that spiel? And if, Beast forbid, RW gets hurt -- Rodgers says goodbye to millions. Agents make money when clients sign.
If Wilson doesn't want to get to free agency (and I don't think he does right now), then there is no reason for Rodgers to push in that direction. He would be essentially firing himself and denying himself his biggest payday.
(*sarcasm turned all the way up, like to 12 or something)
Finally, the fans want it done. No, I'm not being naive. Public opinion matters to people who run the Seahawks, and it matters to RW too. The longer this stalemate goes on, the worse they all look. Not to you, necessarily. You've seen this song and dance before and you know it's just business. But try telling that to your stupid neighbor who sees only billionaires directing multimillionaires to squabble with millionaires about where all the extra millions should go, #greedydicks, all of them. These talks are amicable, but the sooner they end, the more goodwill all parties earn, assuming the deal is reasonable.
The only ones who would like this to draw out, who are inconvenienced by a quick resolution? The click-based mass media, which loses another money-making story. Screw them.
Analogy time has arrived. There's so much collective incentive to get this deal done, it's just like when you need a picture of a cat pooping rainbows into a toilet. Yes, that is correct, dear reader. A cat pooping rainbows into a toilet.
If you can imagine it, then it already exists, and the Internet provides it -- all you have to do is think of asking for it. Whatever the picture was in your mind, there was already so much incentive for it to get made, that it did get made, and who created it first is quite beside the point.
It was going to get made.
This deal is going to get done.
But how fast? Well, it took me all of fifteen seconds to find this:
I know you didn't expect to see that image in a serious publication such as Field Gulls. I apologize. Those responsible have been sacked.
5. Cap space is not as big of an issue as it might appear.
Overthecap.com sees salaries of 138M this year, 111M next year, then 105M after that, for the top 51 Hawks. (Their salaries are the ones that count against the cap.) Removing growth speculation from the picture, space exists to fit two large new deals in, starting in 2016. The only creativity required? Finding how to arrange a new megacontract with only five million in immediate space. I don't see that as much of an obstacle.
A) The team has an expert or team of experts tasked with shaping contracts to fit under the cap.
B) Restructures and cuts can happen. They're not ideal, but if you have to go that route, you can.
C) The negotiations reportedly have not stalled or been broken off, quite the contrary; they're said to focus on bonus size and guarantee size. The fact that average annual value (AAV) is not mentioned, that tells me the cap crunch for 2015 is not an obstacle.
D) In return for structuring the deal as an extension, Wilson could offer to take more money later.
Quoting Davis Hsu from the latest Real In The Field Gulls podcast, he offers a different conclusion than mine, while supporting point 5. Such a crafty politician, our resident semi-amateur capologist.
"I think no [deal] this year -- I could be wrong, it wouldn't shock me if they pulled it off. But I wouldn't bet on that." (7:59 mark.). Then, later in the podcast: "If you saw the opportunity to secure both of those players [Wagner and Wilson] you know in a one-week period, you would do it and you could adjust your cap later -- just rearrange the furniture a little bit." (23:35 mark)
If they're not worried about it, I'm not worried about it. Life has enough stressors already.
6. At even $27 million in new annual money, extending Wilson is a present AND future bargain.
Wait, $27 million? How so? Because of savings on the front end and back end of the deal. There's not cap space overflowing in 2015, so let's tack on a hypothetical four-year, 108M contract like an extension. Might look something like this:
2015: 1.5M plus 4.4M signing bonus
2016: 20M plus 4.4M signing bonus
2017: 21M plus 4.4M signing bonus
2018: 22M* plus 4.4M signing bonus
2019: 23M* plus 4.4M signing bonus
Do the math and you'll see Wilson is rewarded with two giant piles -- one of cash and one of respect. $63 million guaranteed out of $108 million, that's the largest NFL guarantee ever, by percentage and by volume. It's $9 million more than what Aaron Rodgers got. Signing bonus is a little smaller to account for that large guarantee, "only" 22 million, to keep the cap happy.
Coincidentally, 5/109.5, if you want to go the route of mixing old and new money, is 21.9 AAV, right between Roethlisberger and Rodgers. That's respect, something Russell values. In between tweets about humility and forever_grateful hastags, there are simple gems like this:
Respect means everything.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) April 11, 2015
So this coming season, you're getting RW for far less than market value, clearly. I contend that the structure above pays him close to market value for the next couple years, before the team starts to come out ahead again in '18 and '19. At that juncture, Wilson is in the prime of his career, his age 29 and 30 seasons. But his salary will have increased only five percent from year to year. I'll bet, exactly as Schneider might, that annual cap growth far outpaces five percent, causing Wilson's percentage of the cap to quickly drop, while other quarterbacks sign richer and richer deals. Yes, Andrew Luck, I mean you.
Looking more than one year ahead is something I want my GM to do. And get value for their money, too. PCJS do love a good bargain. This gives them one that is immediate and delayed.
No more, c'est tout
Could my whole argument blow up because Russell Wilson wants to reform the league's salary structure, or because he is set on reaching unrestricted free agency? Sure. I just don't find that very likely, in the light of 1. through 6.
There you have it, half a dozen intellectual pillars supported by mainly my personal opinion, which is the last thing you should trust. I reserve my right to be wrong, daily. In fact, if I'm wrong that means Davis is smarter than me. I can most definitely live with that.