Sometimes Smart Feels Selfish, But it’s Really Just Smart
It’s a common practice for an NFL team to align its offseason plans with the immediate future.
March sees a focus on re-signing current players and the initial burst of free agency activity.
As April rolls in, attention shifts towards the upcoming draft. If a player seeks a contract extension while still under an existing deal, patience is vital, much like in any other profession.
Seattle appears to be sticking to this approach with their prized yet notably underpaid quarterback, Russell Wilson.
Seahawks GM John Schneider recently noted, “Regarding Russell, he knows we are basically in phase two of free agency.”
He added that they aim to bolster their team before discussing retaining players with expiring contracts next year.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported yesterday, based on his sources, that both parties aim to finalize a deal before the commencement of training camp, though talks have yet to kick off.
This timeline aligns with the typical pace of offseason negotiations for a player with a year remaining on their contract.
The unique factor here is Russell Wilson himself. The countdown to training camp represents a significant period and activity for the Seahawks.
His contract situation is a rarity, occurring perhaps once in a generation. He occupies the league’s most highly compensated position but receives an annual salary far below the standard.
Despite this, in just three brief years in the NFL, he’s achieved two Super Bowl appearances, including a championship—a remarkable feat for relatively modest compensation by NFL standards.
In his initial three seasons, Wilson’s compensation has been notably lower compared to his remarkable productivity and the team’s achievements, setting a precedent in modern NFL history.
Given the constant threat of injury in a sport where quarterbacks rely heavily on their arms and legs, Wilson’s ability to navigate this period of modest earnings without sitting out a single game is nothing short of a minor miracle.
There’s a clear distinction between these two players, as they possess vastly different skill sets.
However, when it comes to their early-career compensation, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson share some similarities.
Brady spent a year in the shadows of Drew Bledsoe before his breakout season, essentially serving as an apprentice without experiencing the pressures of live game action, all while earning a rookie salary of $193,000.
On the other hand, in his first year, Wilson earned a rookie sum of $390,000, supported by an additional cushion of approximately $600K in signing bonus.
The significant contractual deviation between the two lies in Brady’s breakout season and Super Bowl victory, after which he never played at his initial rate again.
He signed an extension that brought his 2002 salary more in line with the starting quarterbacks of that era.
Brady’s advantage over Wilson lies not only in the utilized first year but also in the fact that he had a 3-year rookie contract, as opposed to Wilson’s 4-year rookie deal.
Wilson has endured three complete seasons at rookie-level, below-market rates, compared to Brady’s sole season from the early days.
In essence, Wilson has had no option but to navigate a path of unparalleled risk, fortuitously emerging from that period unscathed and poised to reap the rewards.
Having said all this, it would be cautious for Wilson to no longer take on unnecessary risks now that he’s in a position where he doesn’t have to.
Sit Until You Sign
While Wilson has shown patience in awaiting the Seahawks’ extension, I would argue that now is the moment to assertively – albeit discreetly – take control of his professional trajectory.
To put it plainly, Wilson shouldn’t set foot on a practice field, let alone a training camp session or game, until his extension is finalized.
This doesn’t necessitate a public declaration or a tactical negotiation maneuver; it simply requires conveying a clear message behind closed doors that Wilson’s level of involvement and the associated risk is no longer subject to Seattle’s preferred timetable.
The discussions regarding the contract must commence promptly – there’s no benefit in delay.
Wilson has shouldered a significant amount of risk for the team’s benefit, and in this unique situation, the customary NFL offseason timeline should be adjusted for the Seahawks.
Otherwise, they should not anticipate their quarterback participating in team-related activities until the deal is concluded.
Both parties should view this as a reasonable and logical progression.
For Wilson, refraining from activities that may appear harmless and less risky than a game likely contradicts his very essence.
Observers have often seen Wilson as the individual perpetually seeking to validate himself, consistently striving to assume a leadership role, and always endeavoring to make righteous choices.
While it’s admirable to be committed, it’s important to remember that injuries occur in the offseason every year, whether from weightlifting mishaps, training strains, or practice incidents during passing camps or OTAs.
These situations always seem improbable until they become a reality.
Taking an unwavering stance for one’s professional well-being may come across as self-centered, particularly for someone known for their selflessness.
However, given all the contractual sacrifices Wilson has made for his team, the issue isn’t about selfishness but rather a matter of prudence in managing the risk associated with the team’s preferred timeline.
If the team expects Wilson to be an active participant and leader throughout the offseason, they must assume the financial risk on his behalf.
In the NFL, significant contract negotiations typically transpire under pressure.
It’s not an act of selfishness for Wilson to relieve some of that pressure from himself and subtly shift some of it onto his team.
The expiration date on the discounted arrangement has come and gone in Seattle.
It’s pretty straightforward: finalize the deal and return to enjoying all the advantages of having Russell Wilson lead your football team.
Getting a lot for next to nothing has reached its limit.