RENTON, Wash. — Drawn out to nearly the last moment before a deadline that was not just for show, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks discovered a compromise in contract talks.
Those worries about Wilson hitting free agency or Seattle having to use a franchise tag are now tabled for another five seasons. Wilson is locked up in Seattle for the prime of his career after signing an $87.6 million, four-year extension on Friday that includes a $31 million signing bonus.
It’s one of the richest contracts in football history, slotting Wilson slightly behind Aaron Rodgers and just ahead of Ben Roethlisberger in the hierarchy of quarterback contracts on per-year average. It’ll likely get passed when Andrew Luck signs his next deal, but for now it pays Wilson at an elite level for helping lead the franchise to consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
“For me, I just want to be paid based on what I’m worth, what I’ve produced, whatever that means. For me, I just let the play speak for itself,” Wilson said. “That’s not my job to kind of do all that. That’s why I hire [agent] Mark Rodgers and that’s why I trust him to figure everything out for me, work everything out and sure enough it did and I get to play here for another four more years. Couldn’t be much better.”
Wilson’s extension keeps him with the franchise that took him in the third round of the 2012 draft and watched him become one of the most successful young quarterbacks in NFL history. He’s locked up in Seattle through the 2019 season — the year he turns 31 — giving him the opportunity at another big paycheck down the road.
Settling on a four-year deal was a big emphasis for Wilson’s agent to give the quarterback a chance to capitalize on what will be an evolving market over the next five seasons.
“I think it’s just a sense this is the right deal. It’s the right deal at the right time,” Rodgers said.
Wilson has led Seattle to the playoffs all three of his seasons, beating the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl in his second season before losing to the New England Patriots in the title game last February.
He’s also been a bargain for Seattle. The 2015 season was the first time Wilson was scheduled to make more than $1 million. That’s now just $700,000 in base salary for 2015 with a $31 million signing bonus — $20 million now and the other $11 million next April — more than making up for the shortfall.
Wilson’s contract status was the biggest story in Seattle, and the more time passed without an agreement the more conjecture grew about his long-term status. There was growing concern that Wilson would play out the final season of his rookie contract and then test free agency. The Seahawks likely would have used the franchise tag to keep Wilson for the 2016 season but at a cost that would significantly hamper their salary cap situation.
Rodgers said a number of times during the offseason that the quarterback had financially planned to be playing for $1.54 million. Wilson took out an insurance policy to protect against injury just in case no extension was reached.
“He’s really competitive. No surprise, right? He’s really competitive like the rest of us,” coach Pete Carroll said. “So it was emotional to some extent, but I think in his heart he knew that we wanted this to happen, we were going to get it done, we were going to find a way and he handled himself beautifully throughout the process.”
Last season, Wilson threw for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns against just seven interceptions in the regular season. He added another 849 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, and saved some of his most memorable moments for the playoffs.
He had the Seahawks on the cusp of a second consecutive title. Wilson got Seattle to New England’s 1-yard line in the final seconds of the Super Bowl, only to be intercepted by Malcolm Butler, clinching the Patriots’ 28-24 victory.
Wilson holds the NFL record for most wins in his first three seasons and was the third-youngest quarterback in league history to win a Super Bowl title.
He’s been a difficult quarterback to categorize outside of leading Seattle to the type of success it’s never before enjoyed as a franchise.
“I think his performance on the field builds the case for him,” Rodgers said.
The Seahawks now have Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor all under contract through 2016.
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