The story behind Russell Wilson’s contract extension with Seahawks
What were negotiations like ahead of the NFL’s new richest contract? A day after signing a record-breaking four-year, $140 million extension, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson – joined by head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider – spoke with reporters about the hours leading up to his midnight deadline.
The trio declined to disclose specifics, but through their answers about deadlines and turning points, they painted a picture of the process that led to the biggest contract in league history.
About that deadline
While it was Wilson who officially set the April 15 contract deadline, both sides were amenable to making a decision on a long-term deal early in the year.
“Just so you guys know, because I’m sure you guys want to know about the April 15 thing, the reality was is that we were coming back to play football,” Wilson said. “I have an obsession with football, I just want to play the game and I just want to be able to focus on that.
“I remember the first time, the other (2015) contract, it was one of those things that took us all the way to the summertime right before training camp, literally like 11:50 at night that summer, and the next day we were practicing. So for me and for everyone involved, really to be honest with you the whole organization, it was really moreso, ‘Hey, let’s figure out how we can make sure that we don’t have to drag out this whole process — everybody writing, everybody talking, everybody speculating — and just remain focused on what I really want to do, and that’s win and do everything we can to prepare in that way’.”
Schneider echoed Wilson’s sentiment, adding that the organization thought it was a good idea to set a deadline.
“The last one quite frankly took too long and took a lot of energy away from what we’re supposed to be doing,” Schneider said about Wilson’s previous contract extension that was signed July 31, 2015. “So we thought it was a good idea on their part and it worked out for both sides.”
No-trade clause was a turning point
Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, explored the possibility of having Wilson’s salary tied to the team’s salary cap, he told Sirius NFL Radio Thursday. The two sides didn’t come to an agreement on that – which isn’t surprising, given that it would be an unprecedented contract structure. Instead, they agreed to include a no-trade clause.
The no-trade clause isn’t a new concept – Philip Rivers included one in his most recent extension with the Chargers – but it isn’t especially common. The clause gives a player more control over his own future by requiring the team to ask for permission before a trade can be accepted, and giving him the right to veto a trade. Wilson stressed that knowing he could remain in Seattle through the first part of his 30s was an incentive.
“What it really came down to… we talked about the idea of the no-trade part just because we really wanted to be here,” Wilson said. “That was the thing that we were really excited about. And that’s kind of what really sealed the deal for us and what (we were) really fired up about.”
A record-setting signing bonus doesn’t hurt
Wilson’s new deal includes a $65 million signing bonus, which surpasses that of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, owner of the NFL’s biggest deal prior to Wilson’s extension.
“They basically took money that would’ve been in base salaries and put it into the signing bonus,” NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said of Wilson’s deal during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton.
“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, at $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.”
The deal still came down to the wire
Despite the deadline, Wilson’s camp and the Seahawks negotiated late into the night on April 15. Seattle’s quarterback told reporters he received a final call from his agent, Mark Rodgers, shortly before midnight.
“I called Mark at 11:15 and I said, ‘Hey, I think I think I’m going to go to sleep, I’ve got practice in the morning, but if you call me hopefully my phone’s on loud,'” Wilson said. “So anyway, I get a call around 11:50 and it’s Mark and he says, ‘Hey, I think we got a deal done.'”