Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) greets cornerback Richard Sherman (25) before Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Earl Thomas: The Price of Winning in 2014

As has been reported, the Seattle Seahawks recently inked safety Earl Thomas to a four year, $40 million dollar contract extension. The contract guarantees Thomas $27.725 million over the life of the deal, and effectively makes him the highest-paid player at his position in the NFL. However, this is not the only important decision the Seahawks will have to make over the course of the next few years. The Hawks have a roster stacked with players that they would like to retain for the long haul, but at what cost?

Locking up Thomas was no doubt the right thing to do at this time for a team coming off a Super Bowl victory. Thomas is one of the key cogs in the defense that finished first in the league in just about every statistical category. Thomas, however will not be the only player looking to get his payday in the next few years. The Seahawks are going to have to figure out what they want to do with quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman. Both of these two players stand to gain a huge raise as they are playing out the life of their rookie deals, and will be looking to the Seahawks to share the love.

Let’s start with Sherman. Richard Sherman has had perhaps one of the best starts of any cornerback in NFL history, and has endeared himself to Seattle fans who would not take kindly to seeing him leave. That being said there have been reports that the Seahawks are in extension talks with Sherman to make him the highest-paid player at the corner position with estimates being somewhere around $12 million a year.

The last of what I respectively like to call “The Big 3″ of players the Seahawks are almost obligated to retain is a player at the most important position on the entire football field. Namely, quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson has become one of the top QB’s in the entire league with his combination of speed, accuracy, arm strength, and the ability to manage a game better than just about anyone in the league. Being drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft meant he was able to receive a four-year, $2,996,702 deal, which means an average salary for Wilson of just over $749,000. That makes him the lowest-paid starting quarterback in the league. With Wilson’s performance over the life of this deal, and the recent acquisition of a Super Bowl ring, fans can bet that this total is going to go up. Dramatically.

With the recent bump in pay of NFL quarterbacks you can expect to see his average annual salary go through the roof. Even on a team-friendly deal, which I neither expect or intend him to sign just for the pure fact of being able to take care of himself after football, he could use Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo‘s shiny new deal as a starting point of seven years and $119.5 million with over $55 million in guaranteed money. That would give Wilson an average salary of around $18 million dollars, and this is on the friendliest of friendly deals you could think of.

So right away to three players you are using around $40 million dollars in cap space, and that’s not even considering the structure of the deal due to backloaded deals.

Evaluating these numbers leads me to question how John Schneider and Pete Carroll are going to move forward with these players in the future, and whether or not they can afford to pay these players these type of contracts and still have enough cap space to put players around them to contend for the foreseeable future.

These three players have all of the bargaining power right now. As the Seahawks go forward they are going to have to decide if they are going to pay these players and bargain on the drafting skills of John Schneider, Pete Carroll and company, or let one of these players walk. Either way, the Seattle Seahawks are going to have to pay the price of winning in the not-so-distant future.

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Tags: Contract Earl Thomas Richard Sherman Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks

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