Could a mega deal for Russell Wilson hurt Seahawks’ ability to build Super Bowl-caliber team?

May 11, 2018, 3:48 PM
The Seahawks are facing their longest Super Bowl odds since 2012. (AP)

After Matt Ryan’s extension with the Falcons last week made him the first quarterback to earn $30 million a year, NFL analysts questioned what future negotiations might hold for other franchise quarterbacks nearing the end of their contracts. Chief among those is Russell Wilson, who will enter the final year of his deal in 2019.

FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt talked to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard and Mike Salk about the economics of the NFL salary cap Friday morning. Specifically, how quarterback salaries impact a team’s ability to build a Super Bowl-caliber team. (The conversation drew inspiration from Steven Ruiz’s article for USA Today, which looked at the correlation between quarterback compensation and wins.)

“The capitalist in me says, ‘Yes of course, everyone should get paid what the market bears,'” Klatt said, “and the competitive, organizational side of me says, ‘Organizations generally, as a gross generalization, don’t win the Super Bowl when their quarterback is making what I would categorize as a top-5 salary.”

Klatt doesn’t necessarily define “top-5 salaries” by overall value, but rather by per-year cap hit. For example, Wilson’s $87.6 million contract with the Seahawks includes a $31 million signing bonus and $61,542,000 guaranteed. But his per-year cap hit changes depending on how the contract is structured over the four years of that deal (this year, his salary accounts for 13 percent of Seattle’s cap; next year, that grows to 21 percent).

It’s difficult to be a perennial contender or powerhouse with the league’s salary cap and booming quarterback contracts. The only team that’s been able to do it has been New England.

“A quarterback carrying a team to greatness year in and year out is so rare,” Klatt said. “So you’re asking the Seahawks to be competitive at a level that they have been over the last five, six years, and yet the economics of the league really don’t allow it. All these exits are not necessarily the teams fault, it’s just what happens in the modern-day NFL.”

So what do you do with Russell Wilson next year?

“If I’m John Schneider I say no way, if I’m Russell Wilson I fight for every penny.”

Did Seahawks do enough to help Russell Wilson in draft?

The Seahawks were panned by several national outlets for their draft class this year, but Klatt isn’t on board with the critique.

“I really like Rashaad Penny. I really do,” Klatt said of Seattle’s first-round pick. “I talked with several coaches in the lead up to the draft that said that he was the second-best running back in the draft because (Saquon) Barkley was so dynamic and he kind of separated himself as almost like a shooting star, and rightly so. But when you look at pure running backs, from a tailback standpoint, between the tackles, the ability to carry the load of the game, the ability to carry the ball 25-30 times, maybe even on a week-in, week-out basis if needed, I thought and most people in the league thought that Rashaad Penny was the steal of the class, if you will … While it might not have been the splashiest draft, I thought it was certainly positive.”

Critics especially took issue with the fact that Seattle didn’t select an offensive lineman until the fifth round. But Klatt argues that padding the run game is a boon for Wilson as well.

“You can make an argument that he was most successful, regardless of what was going on on the defensive side, he was most successful as a quarterback when he had the ability to throw big, in-the-pocket play-action pass. Without Marshawn (Lynch), I felt like that ability was not afforded him. Drafting Rashaad Penny, who is a true tailback between the tackles, power-style home run if he gets the edge, I think is trying to afford Russell the ability to get back to a game in which he’s most effective. Now, does it look like it’s the most splashiest of targets? No. But is it a tool that will potentially maximize Russell’s ability or put him in a position where he’s most comfortable or has the biggest ability to impact the game positively for the Seahawks? Possibly. So from that standpoint, I think it has helped.”

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Could a mega deal for Russell Wilson hurt Seahawks’ ability to build Super Bowl-caliber team?