In case you missed it, the Carolina Panthers decided to get the ball rolling on quarterback extensions by handing Cam Newton a whole lot of money. He just signed a new deal that will pay him $100 million, and though it’s an NFL deal and thus a bit of an illusion, the contract is structured to really, truly pay him a crapload of money.
Don’t think Russell Wilson didn’t notice this. Don’t think the Seattle Seahawks are unaware of what just happened with Carolina. This deal wasn’t designed specifically to set the bar for Wilson (and Andrew Luck, for that matter) but that’s more or less what it does. That, and it makes Newton a rich man. But that’s not the part we’re interested in.
The first thing we know about NFL contracts is that they’re usually a load of crap. A “guaranteed” four-year deal is often, in fact, a non-guaranteed one-year deal. Dollar figures are artificially inflated, if only for the sake of a flashy press release and a couple days’ worth of headlines. It’s silly, but it is what it is. There’s the disclaimer, and now here’s the attempted interpretation of what this means for everyone involved.
The most notable part of this deal is the signing bonus, which is reportedly a staggering $31 million. There’s the guarantee, up front and immediate. The first three years of this deal (which the press release says is for five years and $103.8 million) are when Newton racks up $67.6 million. He really will be joining the $20m+ AAV club. The deal is, surprisingly, more honest than we’re used to.
Russell Wilson is better than Cam Newton. Wilson has a better track record than Newton, and he’s accomplished more in the NFL than Newton. He’s played against Newton many times and has had tons of success against Newton’s team. Wilson’s contract will be bigger than Newton’s, make no mistake. But it’s the desired structure that makes this interesting.
A lot of times in pro sports we see situations where the athlete wants a longer contract, so as to guarantee himself a job further down the line. With quarterbacks this often isn’t the case, since they stay good for a while and want to get themselves back on the market so as to take advantage of inflation and make more money sooner. Wilson allegedly wants a four-year deal. Which makes it kind of easy to see where this is heading.
Take Newton’s $67.6 million over the first three years. That averages just under $22.6m a season, and Wilson is going to want to beat that, but over an additional year. You want a nice, clean contract for Russ? How about four years, $92 million? That’s probably what the ‘Hawks have to aim for now. Or they pay him even more up front in order to control him for an extra year or two.
This contract’s front end is likely the part that influences the Wilson negotiations. Russ could probably be convinced to sign if the ‘Hawks gave him one of the highest AAVs in the league, but we knew that already. Now the structure is in sight, but the challenge is adding another year’s worth of guaranteed exorbitant pay. Not that he’s not worth it, just that… kinda hard to feel comfortable handing out that much money to one player, you know?
The Seattle Seahawks can afford to do this, is the thing. They’ve got an eye for young talent, and young talent is cheap talent. They’ve got Wilson, a bonafide star quarterback and one of the most important players in the game of football. They’d undoubtedly be worse off without him, and so the choice seems clear. Sign him. Sign him, and lean on elite drafting ability even harder now that he’s expensive.
Russell Wilson’s extension won’t be exactly Cam Newton’s extension, but don’t be surprised if they’re very close in structure. Wilson’s might be shorter and fatter, but the influence will likely be obvious. Wilson’s going to be very, very rich – that much we’ve known for a while. Now all we can do is hope it’s the Seahawks who are signing his checks.
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