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O’Neil: Why I hope the Seahawks reach a deal with Russell Wilson now

Russell Wilson's record-breaking deal won't hamstring the Seahawks, says Clayton. (Getty)

I hope the Seahawks reach a deal with Russell Wilson on Monday.

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I say hope for two reasons. The first is that Wilson’s continued presence on the roster not just for the next three seasons but through his 30s would unquestionably give Seattle its best chance at winning another Super Bowl.

The second reason I’m hoping a deal gets done is because I do not doubt Wilson’s resolve, and if he has told the Seahawks, as NBC’s Peter King reported, that he’s done negotiating not just this year but for the next three years if there’s no deal when Monday turns to Tuesday, well, I’m inclined to believe him.

The fact that this entirely artificial deadline has resulted in such a public staredown points to the very real possibility that Wilson is asking for more than the Seahawks are willing to give, and the answer to the question of whether he’s worth all that won’t be determined by his performance with Seattle over the next three seasons, but what happens once he leaves Seattle as an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Because that’s the threat being made by this deadline. Either the Seahawks meet Wilson’s price right now or he never talks to the team about a long-term deal again, and in 2022 Seattle would face the choice of paying him more than $50 million for one season of work or let him become an unrestricted free agent.

I do not believe that’s an idle threat.

Wilson has never been one to let someone else dictate his value to him. It was true in college when he stuck with baseball in spite of his coach at North Carolina State threatening and ultimately taking away his starting job and precipitating his transfer to Wisconsin. It was true in the pros, too, though not many people remember because after endorsing Nike his first three years, Wilson was sufficiently underwhelmed by Nike’s offer that he wore other shoes, usually Under Armour, in 2015. Well, he got a new deal in January 2016 and his signature shoe launched last year.

So the reports of this deadline aren’t necessarily posturing. They’re the public revelation of what amounts to a power play, and really, there’s nothing else to call this.
The quarterback who’s off to the winningest start in NFL history has done the only thing he can to create leverage in a league where the rules give teams most of the bargaining breaks. Wilson has delivered an ultimatum.

Now, usually in the NFL, the only ultimatum a player has is the threat to withhold service. Wilson is not doing that. He’s not even threatening to dial back his commitment to contractually stipulated levels.

What he’s told the team is that if you want me long-term, you have to meet my price. Now. The year before my existing contract expires and before the franchise tag is even an option.

What that price is is the great unknown. Oh, lots of things have been bandied about. You’re hearing people talk about market rate and even going so far as to debate finer points of NFL funding policies on contractual guarantees, but let’s get really basic about what Wilson is after. He’s after more than the Seahawks have been willing to give either in the size of the salary – which to me indicates that he’s looking for an average that is closer to $40 million annually than $35 million – or he’s seeking a different method of guaranteeing the contract than Seattle customarily uses.

And really, I’m not sure which is the worse scenario for keeping Wilson in Seattle beyond the 2021 season.

Because while I think the Seahawks are willing to make Wilson the highest-paid quarterback in the league, I don’t believe they’re ready to redefine the salary structure at that position. To make a (potentially tortured) housing comparison, they’re willing to give Wilson the nicest house on the cul de sac where all the best quarterbacks in the NFL live, but they’re not putting him in his own development.

But if this is about the specifics of the guarantees in the contract – and this really boils down to an argument over the practical difference between money that Wilson is virtually assured of receiving and it being a true guarantee in which his future salaries are fully funded at the time of signing – then this is a largely ego-driven exercise that is more about proving a point than it is about providing real financial security.

The third possibility is that this whole thing is not just being done, but being performed publicly through the Twitter accounts and online updates of our nation’s football press to exert as much pressure as possible on the team to wring as many concessions as possible. And then at 11:59 p.m. he’ll accept the best deal that’s on the table and we’ll all pretend that there was some miraculous hard work and 11th-hour deal making done to extend the relationship.

And honestly, I hope that’s what happens. Because the alternative to that is the possibility that we’ll know the expiration date of Wilson’s tenure in Seattle.

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