BY Art Thiel 05:50PM 07/31/2015

Thiel: Seahawks now must deal with hard part

With its hard salary cap, the NFL is set up to make the strong fall. Now that they will pay one player $87.6M, Seahawks have their biggest challenge yet to sustaining excellence.

Russell Wilson’s compensation puts him with the QB elites in the NFL. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — Since Paul Allen is the richest owner in the NFL by a magnitude of four, the casual football fan may be puzzled as to why the billionaire Seahawks owner can’t pay his star QB as he pleases. Allen can’t because there is a cruel irony baked into the game’s rules: All the ruthless capitalists who own the game have agreed to play football as socialists.

By sharing revenues and capping expenses, the NFL has created a Marxian utopia where the least shall be strong and the strong shall be least. For a fan in most markets, this is a fine thing, because nearly every franchise can offer the belief that this year or next year or maybe two years out, their team, unlike the Mariners, can be great.

But for fans of the teams on top, it’s hell. Good players leave for better offers from other teams, and those that do stay want to be heavily rewarded. In Seattle, that means that fans spent the entire off-season grinding molars over the varying attempts at cash grabs by Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner and particularly Russell Wilson.

For the other team in the past Super Bowl, it means having your quarterback suspended for four games and planning to sue in federal court.

Life at the top of the NFL. No room for puppies, candy and flowers.

At least in Seattle, there will be no injunctions. Lynch got his early in the off-season, Bennett showed up to camp empty-handed with no apparent pout, Wagner is likely to get his deal done shortly. Chancellor is still pouting, but will likely show up empty-handed too.

The big deal was, of course, Wilson. Late Thursday night, after the team’s 10:30 p.m. curfew, Wilson said he was in bed at the team hotel and on the phone chatting with girlfriend Ciara when agent Mark Rodgers interrupted with a call: The deal was done.

“It was one of the coolest days of my life,” Wilson said of the moment. “Being able to call my mom — even though she was on the East Coast she answered the phone. She was knocked-out asleep but she answered. That was pretty cool.”

How cool was her son’s story? A four-year extension through the 2019 season for $87.6 million that includes a $31 million signing bonus and $61.3 million guaranteed. Wilson gets $20 million within 10 days, and the rest April 1.

Wilson’s base salaries represent the rest of the guarantees: $700,000 in 2015, $12.34 million in 2016, $12.6 million in 2017, $15.5 million in 2018, $17 million in 2019.

The dealmaker was the Seahawks’ willingness to reduce the length of the proposal from five years to four, meaning that Wilson will be eligible, health permitting, for his next contract at 30, still well in the prime years for an NFL QB.

“It puts him in a situation where he’s still a young man,” said Rodgers, who joined his client at the club’s headquarters. “He gets an opportunity maybe to talk about another contract down the road. You don’t do a contract necessarily thinking about the next contract.

“But I think that’s the big difference between a four-year extension and a five-year extension. That’s a long year.That was a bit of a goal and I think we got there and he was pleased with it.”

Rodgers denied reports that he insisted on making Wilson the highest-paid player, or with the most guaranteed money. But Wilson’s deal is right there with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Carolina’s Cam Newton at the top of the market.

So Wilson basically received what he sought. The big question: Can the Seahawks live with it?

In so many cases, paying one player so much of the space under the salary cap handicaps  the franchise. It is the socialist prime directive kicking in. That’s a big reason why no team since the 1993 Buffalo Bills has made it to three consecutive Super Bowls — and that was before the 1994 advent of a collective bargaining agreement that included the salary cap.

Hard as it was for the Seahawks to make it to a second Super Bowl, a third consecutive appearance fights against the league mission to undercut the strong. Naturally, coach Pete Carroll has a plan and a purpose.

“We’re watching just what we’re going through right now — the growing pains of last year and this year,” he said after the team’s first practice. “There’s always this painful kind of thing that you work with. This is part of this ascent. Are we able to handle it? Can we keep our focus and practice like we did today, day after day after day, and keep our level of play?

“We’ll find out. I don’t know. But I do know how we’re going about it. We have to be able to endure these issues. We’re going to try to show you that we can figure it out and find out how to do it by our approach. I feel confident that we can. I don’t think it’s easy. But I feel confident that we can.”

Resolving Wilson’s deal was a large step in that direction. The cap hit for this season is about $7 million, which isn’t huge but eats up most of the $9.5 million cap space the Seahawks had. That could mean some veteran players will be cut or have contracts restructured to make room for Wagner’s deal, the last big one remaining.

For now, the biggest off-season wrinkle has smoothed out. Wilson, who heard from nearly everyone he encountered about the state of negotiations, was asked who was most prominent among his “counselors.”

Wilson cited Derek Jeter, then recalled his visit to Washington D.C. and the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

“I think President Obama mentioned it,” he said. “It was one of those things like, ‘Hey, they’ve gotta sign you.’ Just joking around. I think he was joking, I don’t know. I took it serious. I think he mentioned something.”

We as a nation can breathe easier knowing that the President can return his concentration to lesser tasks, even if his nation’s premier sports league’s socialist foundation is threatened by outliers in Seattle.



  • Jamo57

    Good piece, Art.

    I must say, though, that the NFL isn’t really socialistic. Otherwise, the Packers’ business model of community ownership would not be banned from being duplicated anywhere beyond America’s Dairyland. (How does Scott Walker sleep at night?)

    I’d call it a cartel, or more accurately an oligopoly.

    In any event, those cherished “market forces” we are asked to have faith in certainly don’t exist in the NFL.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Golly. Oligopoly? Is that like Gallipoli? What happened to the corpocracy?

    • art thiel

      The Packers’ ownership was grandfathered in, much to the regret of the other 31 owners. Oligopoly is probably closer, but the equal sharing of many (not all) revs is straight from the Marx-Engels Reader.

      • Jamo57

        Or Chairman Rozelle’s Little Red Book?

    • ShirleyRManley

      GET A BEST TOP258-CAREER ::: @1md9.




  • 1coolguy

    Art – why is it Brady and Manning do not demand the highest salaries. Everyone knows they and Rodgers are the best, so do they get paid outside of football? No way are they taking less salary “for the team” when we are talking about what, up to $5m?

    • Kevin Lynch

      Manning has to win the Super Bowl to get paid ‘the full meal deal’. Brady has allowed money to be deferred in the past. Russell outrageously outplayed his contract over the first three years while having amazing success on the field. He’s an anomaly? What’s your take, Art?

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    The Hard part was watching Seattle in the past pay premium $$$ for a Qb that just didnt deliver.The goal was always just making the Play offs before Holmgren then Carroll showed up. I think Seattle is suited to our franchise Qbs talents and i think we will have an excellent chance to compete with our elite defense much like Chicago did 20 years ago(and thier historic defense) with Jim McMahon tossing the pigskin. I dont think McMahon was an elite Qb in his day nor is RW what one might call elite but he will get the job done. He will give us a chance to win every time out. The Hard part would be to go back to accepting mediocrity when this team has been built to win now.
    A famous Raider once once said” Just win, baby!” This is what our QB does. Takes coaching well …flashes periods of brilliance and is one of the most mobile QBs of his generation. The best QB statistically(in wins) in the SB era as per first 3 years. With that morsel in hand one would surmise the next 5 years will not be hard at all.