It’s time to address the elephant in the room. The Seattle Seahawks are in their final week of organized team activities, a fancy term for voluntary practice without pads. OTAs might as well be on the moon considering how much of a back seat they are taking to the No. 1 topic of conversation.
Quarterback Russell Wilson's contract status continues to be national news. It isn’t going away, no matter how many times Wilson and the Seahawks say everything is fine. It will continue to be a major subject of speculation until a new deal is reached, if a new deal is reached.
The hope was that this would be resolved before training camp. Then, there would be a love-fest news conference with a rich, happy franchise quarterback, who is thrilled about the appreciation the team has shown for what he’s done.
That hasn’t happened. It doesn’t look like it’s close to happening.
My take on the situation: Pay the man, even if it means making him the highest-paid player in the game. He’s earned it, regardless of individual stats and the nonsense about him being only a "game-manager" for a great team.
Wilson is a winner. He’s proven it at every level of the game and in every aspect of his life. He has led the team to back-to-back Super Bowls. He holds countless records for a quarterback in his first three NFL seasons. Here are just a few of those:
His 15 fourth-quarter/OT comebacks are the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2012.
He is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards and rush for more than 100 yards in the same game (at St. Louis last season).
He is the only quarterback in history to rush for more than 100 yards and run for a TD, and pass for more than 200 yards and throw a TD, in a "Monday Night Football" game (at Washington last season).
His 36 regular-season victories are the most for any quarterback in his first three NFL seasons.
And he also has done everything right off the field, representing the organization and the city in the best light. What else can Wilson do?
The Seahawks stepped up and paid cornerback Richard Sherman ($56 million) and free safety Earl Thomas ($40 million). They ripped up the last year of running back Marshawn Lynch's contract and will pay him $12 million this season.
Now they are going to take a hard-line stand with the face of the franchise? The man is beloved by the most loyal fan base in the league. Wilson could run for governor of Washington tomorrow and win by a landslide. In fact, he probably will be governor one day if he stays here, which suddenly seems in doubt.
Every day this goes unresolved is another day his status gets scrutinized by reporters and commentators across the country. It’s not worth it to drag this out. And this could go on for years, with the Seahawks using the franchise tags, which also would cost a fortune.
But this isn’t about the money. That’s easy for me to say, of course. It’s not my money and I don’t have to figure out salary-cap implications.
What would it take for Wilson to become the highest paid player in the league? Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers holds that title, making $22 million a year. It’s a deal that was signed two years ago when the salary cap was $20 million less than it is today at $143 million. And the cap numbers for 2016 likely will be in excess of $150 million.
The other Rodgers in this equation, Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, sent a 16-page letter to the Seahawks last week stating his case. The details of that letter are not known, but he probably wants Wilson to top the salary list in the NFL.
Whatever the Seahawks need to do to make it fit, they need to do it; even if it means cutting a player or two they wanted to keep.
Many NFL followers would say Wilson isn’t on the same level as Rodgers. If you are judging strictly by numbers, you’re right. Wilson isn’t going to throw for as many yards and as many TDs as Rodgers, not in the Seattle offense.
For me, that argument misses the point. The goal is to lead your team to championships. Wilson was one horrible play call by the coaches from doing that in back-to-back seasons.
This should be about rewarding a man who has done more in his first three seasons than any player has for this franchise, and probably more than anyone for any NFL franchise in his first three years.
I don’t want to go ad-nauseam on all the numbers, contract structures, new money, guaranteed money, etc..., or to compare things with the new $103.8 million deal for Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. It’s misleading.
This is about doing the right thing. Unless Wilson and Rodgers are asking for ridiculous numbers like $30 million a year (highly unlikely) the Seahawks can’t win this on the public-perception front.
In that regard, it looks like the Seahawks don’t value their quarterback as one of the best. That’s how it’s being perceived. And if they don’t value him, why would he stay in Seattle long-term? Maybe the organization believes it can win without him.
True or not, that’s how the narrative is shaping up nationally.
The Seahawks need to end the rhetoric. Do the right thing for the player who has done the right thing from Day 1.
Pay the man.