Don't hold your breath on a Russell Wilson extension, but ponder these 3-team trades in the meantime
Russell Wilson's deadline to negotiate a mega-deal is less than a week away
Less than a week remains until the Seattle Seahawks reach Russell Wilson's deadline to negotiate a mega-deal, and there isn't much reason to expect them to make history together at this point. Nothing I've heard gives me the sense that a deal is anything close to imminent, and Wilson's Tax Day cut-off point to talk contract is already looming.
The mere fact that this April 15th "deadline" exists at all is indicative of the bleak odds that a deal gets done. When it comes to quarterbacks of this magnitude, the need to impose any sort of artificial deadline at all doesn't apply. Because, generally, it's such a foregone conclusion that both sides already know in the back of their minds where it's going, and it's just a matter of carving out a spot on their calendars to get there. There is not only an unspoken vibe, but in almost every recent case I can think of (Aaron Rodgers/Packers, Matt Ryan/Falcons, Drew Brees/Saints, Ben Roethlisberger/Steelers) either one party or both is falling all over themselves to make it abundantly clear to the fans and the media that the QB is going absolutely nowhere.
Yet in this instance, there has long been a strong sense from those close to Wilson that the QB has never been fully appreciated – let alone celebrated – by Seattle's brass, a sentiment further honed by the club's scouting of first-round quarterbacks over the years and their tepid-at-best attempts to procure his services for the long term. Something has always seemed a bit off given all Wilson has accomplished. When it comes to record-setting QB negotiations, and showing a top-five QB the love, one of these things is not like the other.
When you hear Art Rooney II or Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert talk about Roethlisberger there is a finality to their comments; they have been down this road several times before and another deal is just a matter of time. Mark Murphy, de facto owner of the Packers, spoke about Rodgers' next deal at this time a year ago as a fait accompli, as did Falcons team president Rich McKay whenever Ryan's name came up last offseason. It was fairly matter-of-fact, and neither side saw a need for a cut-off point prior to the start of the offseason workout program, because it was going to be a fairly straight-forward negotiation whenever they set their minds to it.
But we are at a different time in the league, now, already, believe it or not. The cap will keep soaring and is perhaps about to spike drastically with an influx of sports wagering money flooding perhaps before the start of the season. And the television deals are getting closer to their expiration with a new horizon in online streaming now a big part of the revenue pie. Oh, and just yesterday formal negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA got underway. And Wilson has never missed a snap and is already a historically significant quarterback whose career passer rating and clutch production have him in the rarest of stratospheres.
To further complicate things, the Seahawks' franchise is in a purgatory of sorts after owner Paul Allen passed away last season, and at the recently completed NFL owner's meetings a very trusted source said it could easily be years before that team is sold. Add all of that up – and the Seahawks' ability to franchise Wilson in 2020-2022 – and, well, let's just say it's complicated.
Seattle's lack of anything close to a contract overture to Wilson a year ago – despite him being at precisely the same spot in his contract as Rodgers was in his (both had two years remaining) – with Wilson performing at a higher level than him and being healthier, too, always baffled me. That was the sweet spot to hammer something else, yet there wasn't even an exploratory phone call. A franchise that has been forward-thinking and proactive for years on contracts, including then-record deals for guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor during Wilson's tenure there, let an entire long offseason transpire without any words being exchanged, much less proposals.
And, well, given the daily, ongoing drama between Antonio Brown and the Steelers, and with Big Ben about to get yet another huge payday, I can't help but compare the way Rooney and Colbert and all of management have rallied around their quarterback – to a fault – and compare it to the relative silence coming out of Seattle after Sherman went to lengths to take shots, both subtle and overt, at Wilson on his way out of that organization. It's not even close.
So add all of that up, and the fact that a guy like Ryan – whose postseason resume can't compare and who is significantly older than Wilson – will receive an audacious $74M fully guaranteed in the first two years of his contract alone (2018-2019) as part of $95M in total guarantees at signing, and, well, let's just say the price of doing business with Wilson just continues to rise. And, given all of that, there has been no reason for his camp to initiate anything, and no reason to talk at all once the preparations for the 2019 campaign begin next week, either.
If it's me, the first digit on the annual value of any new contract better start with a 4, or a number easily rounded up to 40 (like, oh, $38.5M). Otherwise, I wouldn't be all that inclined to sign anything. And if in fact next Monday's deadline passes without any real traction, then the Seahawks face placing the franchise tag on him next February and facing a very real deadline of July 15, 2020 to complete a multi-year extension. It's really that simple. Or they trade him. Or they do both, potentially (tag him a year from now as a precursor to a mega-deal elsewhere via trade).
And as much as none of that is on the front-burner right now, I'd point out that Babe Ruth got traded and Wayne Gretzky got traded and Odell Beckham, Jr just got traded a few weeks ago. Never say never in pro sports. No one is untouchable and if this Tax Day deadline passes without any substantial movement, other teams will surely notice. Which got me to thinking … hypothetically … what kind of Russell Wilson trade would make sense?
I had a smart football guy whisper something to me about what a three-team swap between the Seahawks, Cardinals and Giants might look like, and, frankly, I thought it was a pretty cool concept. One I don't see happening for various reasons – mostly because it would run counter to whatever Dave Gettleman and John Mara are trying to accomplish by propping up Eli Manning like the dude from "Weekend At Bernies" – but it did get my attention.
And since the Giants could, conceivably, easily walk away from Manning if they did something as novel and out-of-character as this, I'll pass along his theoretical trade (this is a slight variation based on what I was told as I massaged it just a smidge in the sake of equity):
Trade scenario No. 1
Arizona gets: New York Giants' picks at 6, 17 and 37 overall
Giants get: Wilson
Seahawks get: 1st overall pick (could use on Kyler Murray) and conditional 2nd or 3rd (if Wilson goes to playoffs – third - or wins Super Bowl – second – in next 2 seasons)
It actually adds up.
In essence, Wilson gets dealt for three first round picks – which is fair value (guys like Jay Cutler went for two first-rounders) – but it's split up over two teams. According to the 'ol Jimmy Johnson draft value chart (which is hardly the Bible anymore but is a worthwhile reference point) – 6 + 17+ 37 = 3080 points, while 1st overall is worth 3000. That's basically a wash between what Arizona gets and what the Giants give up and what the Seahawks get in return. Oh, and the Giants get one of the top three QBs in the world, who is committed to playing beyond age 40 and is still very much in his early prime having just turned 30 in November, landing smack in the biggest media market in the world to sell jerseys and luxury suites and all that stuff.
The Giants moved on from OBJ, who they thought was trouble, and get a squeaky clean QB who is good for about 10 wins all by himself and immediately makes them vibrant and viable again. Sure, they wouldn't pick until the third round in this draft, but with Wilson and Saquon Barkley and a tweak here or there, the potential for a robust offense is abundant. Gotta give to get.
Seattle won a Super Bowl with an undersized, uber-athletic QB with a strong baseball background who was making peanuts at the time, just a few short years ago. Might they do it again? Arizona can go get a stud tight end and the top WR on their board and build around a young QB making peanuts whom they just traded up to take 10th overall less than a year ago (Josh Rosen).
Sounds like a potential win-win-win to me. Eli is cut post-June 1 for cap savings and Wilson will earn every penny in the Big Apple. Would I do this if I was Seattle? Heck no. But then again I would have been falling all over myself to give him Rodgers' deal last spring. And if you aren't ready to start paying Wilson $40M a year or franchise him three times, then you simply must keep an open mind about all other options.
This initial conversation about what a three-team Wilson swap might look like got me to thinking about what other trades-in-theory might make sense on some level. I came up with this:
Trade scenario No. 2
Oakland gets: Wilson, Giants pick at 37, and Giants 2020 1st round pick
Seattle gets: Oakland's picks at 4, 24 and 27
Giants get: Derek Carr
Follow me here. Seattle gets three first-round picks for Wilson, albeit two of them are pretty late in the round. Still, now they control the draft and could take a QB and 4 or land a blue chip stud and package picks to move up and take a QB, or if they like the kid from Duke, maybe he is there at the end of the first round. The Giants essentially trade a high second round pick and a future one to get a young QB who has flashed Pro Bowl potential and is signed long-term to a team-friendly deal (again, cut Eli post-June 1). And Jon Gruden gets a truly top notch QB to work with, very much in his prime, with a host of weapons around him. Wanna start selling tickets in Vegas? You will now.
And after giving up so much draft capital they get another future 1 to keep them in great shape in 2020. And having a trade for Carr already lined up as part of a three-way swap would be big for them, rather than having to peddle Carr after the fact if they simply acquired Wilson in a traditional trade.
If we think Wilson – even at $40M a year – is worth at least the first-overall pick, then that's 3000 draft-value points right there and in this case Oakland is giving up 3220, but also getting back real value from the Giants. For what it's worth, there were at least rumblings about the Browns and Seahawks making sense as trade partners a year ago when Cleveland held the 1st and 4th overall picks and about to take Baker Mayfield, and Wilson and the Seahawks not talking about a contract. This hypothetical option would be somewhat similar.
Again, this is an exercise conducted largely in the clouds. My suspicion is Wilson plays out this season for a steal at $17M and gets Seattle back to the playoffs and then gets tagged (and then trade rumors swirl like mad come next February). And the Cardinals will stay at first overall and take Murray and peddle Rosen, eventually, for whatever they can. But time is clearly running out now on a five-year marriage between Wilson and the Seahawks, and I will always believe the very best time to secure the future Hall of Famer's services for the foreseeable future came and went last spring.
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