NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero: Seahawks ‘still have flexibility’ after Russell Wilson’s mega-deal

Apr 16, 2019, 2:50 PM | Updated: 2:51 pm
russell wilson, seahawks...
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw for a career-high 35 touchdowns in 2018. (AP)

Just how close to Russell Wilson’s midnight deadline did the Seahawks take contract negotiations? According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Seattle presented an offer around 11:30 p.m. Monday night.

Clayton: All the ways Russell Wilson’s deal helps Seahawks going forward

“(Wilson’s agent) Mark Rodgers had been working and building for several days,” Pelissero told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton Tuesday.

“(Seahawks general manager) John Schneider literally walked down the hall and handed him the offer. And then about an hour later they accepted it and Russ posted his tweet and the rest is history.”

That’s not hyperbole; with his new four-year, $140 million deal, Wilson is now the NFL’s highest-paid player. His average annual salary of $35 million eclipses that of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose contract signed in 2018 pays him an average of $33.5 million annually.

“They basically took money that would’ve been in base salaries and put it into the signing bonus,” Pelissero said of Wilson’s deal. “That’s how you end up with a $65 million signing bonus. Wilson gets $70 million fully guaranteed in year one. He’s got another $37 million in injury guarantees… so in terms of the overall deal, $35 million a year, that tops Aaron Rodgers. He gets strong upfront money, a strong signing bonus.

“In the end, the Seahawks wanted to preserve that structure. They end up making a big lump-sum payment. He gets $70 million in the first of this deal (and) gets to be the highest-paid player for the first time in his career. And now Russell Wilson knows where he’s going to be really throughout his prime.”

Next up for Seattle? Contract decisions for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive end Frank Clark, and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, all of whom will become unrestricted free agents in March 2020. Pelissero said that while the Seahawks will have the second-most cap space in 2020 and 2021, they’ll still have a difficult decision to make in particular with Clark. Top-tier pass rushers typically carry the second-highest annual salary on a roster.

“(Wilson’s extension) is in no way the death knell,” Pelissero said. “They still do have some flexibility. They’ve been planning for this. … Bobby’s in a unique spot because he’s negotiating his own deal. He doesn’t have an agent right now. So that one is a little bit unpredictable. Jarran Reed, I know that’s a guy that they really think is one of the core young leaders on the team (and) they really want to get him locked up.

“Frank Clark, from everything I’ve understood, they would like to extend him as well. It’s just that Frank Clark is looking out there at the DeMarcus Lawrence deal and saying well if DeMarcus got about $21 million a year, I want to get over that. That’s a sizable sum to be committing to one player in that defense, especially if the trade market materializes for Frank Clark. And the way I hear it, there are several teams that are in the mix for Frank Clark. Nothing imminent on that front, but that’s definitely a situation to watch as it plays out over the next nine days here.”

You can listen to Tom Pelissero’s full interview in the audio clip embedded above or on John Clayton’s podcast page.

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NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero: Seahawks ‘still have flexibility’ after Russell Wilson’s mega-deal