We're probably talking north of $30 million per season.
That's the takeaway from the two recent mega-deals that have reshaped the top of the NFL's quarterback market. The San Francisco 49ers gave Jimmy Garoppolo a record five-year, $137.5 million contract a week after Alex Smith got $94 million over four years from the Washington Redskins. Those deals push Wilson two spots down the pecking order of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks in terms of annual average.
Where exactly Wilson falls on that list depends on how you look at it. Counting only those quarterbacks who are under contract for 2018, Wilson's $21.9 million average ranks eighth (see chart). That takes into account Smith's deal, even though it won't become official until the new league year begins March 14. But it excludes Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins, who are scheduled to be free agents. Both made more than Wilson's average last season -- $24.25 million for Brees, $23.94 million for Cousins -- and are expected to come in ahead of him again on their upcoming deals.
So Wilson could soon drop to 10th before other quarterback dominoes fall and knock him down a few more spots.
It was less than three years ago that Wilson's four-year, $87.6 million extension put him second in terms of annual average salary, right behind Aaron Rodgers. After the deal was announced at the start of training camp in 2015, Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, told reporters that a breakthrough in negotiations that had dragged into the summer came when the Seahawks agreed to go four years instead of five.
A five-year extension would have kept Wilson under contract through 2020, by which point his contract could have been a relative bargain with the salary cap and the quarterback market rising every year (the 2018 cap is projected at $178 million, which would mean an average increase of $11 million per season since 2013). For the same reason, Wilson's side wanted a deal that put him in position to get back to the bargaining table a year sooner, and that's what it got.
Being signed through 2019 means Wilson will be eligible for an extension next offseason, based on the team's stated preference of not revisiting contracts that have more than one year left. Seattle has tended to extend its top players at that time, and doing so with Wilson would ward off the potentially dicey situation of having him play out the final year of his current deal.
In the meantime, former league MVP Matt Ryan is due for a new deal as he enters the final year of an extension that averages $20.75 million. Super Bowl winners Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger are both signed through 2019, so they could get extensions around the same time as Wilson, if not before then.
Wilson, who has won one Super Bowl and reached another, has a comparable enough résumé to those quarterbacks to get a similar deal -- if not a bigger one -- if all three reset the market this offseason. He's much more accomplished than the current five highest-paid quarterbacks and Cousins, significantly ahead of the top three. So are Ryan, Rodgers and Roethlisberger.
Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr and Cousins have zero playoff wins between them. Andrew Luck has three while Smith has two. Those six combined have three fewer playoff wins than Wilson. Of those six, only Garoppolo has a higher career passer rating, and he has started only seven games.
Something else to keep in mind with Wilson is how his role has expanded from when he signed his current deal, which was after his third season. It might not have been a coincidence that his $21.9 million average came in a hair behind the $22 million for Rodgers, a two-time MVP who has long been the focal point of Green Bay's offense. Wilson averaged 27 attempts in his first three seasons compared with 33 in the past three as more and more of the Seahawks' offense has gone through their quarterback.
Add that all up and you can see how easily Wilson's price tag could pass $30 million by next offseason.
That figure will no doubt make some Seahawks fans cringe, particularly given how the team's current cap constraints won't make it easy to bring back key free agents such as Sheldon Richardson, Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham. But remember, Wilson's next deal will be relative to a salary cap that has been steadily increasing each season.
And it's simply the cost of doing business with a top quarterback. It beats the alternatives -- not having one worth paying or having to pay an exorbitant cost for one who hasn't proved nearly as much.