Once again, the Seahawks and Russell Wilson made deadline. This time, they also made NFL contract history.
Just as they did in 2015, the two sides came to an agreement on a new contract on the night of a deadline set by Wilson, with Seattle agreeing late Monday to a four-year, $140 million contract extension that keeps him with the Seahawks through the 2023 season and makes him the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL.
ESPN initially reported the terms of the deal and a league source confirmed the numbers to The Seattle Times. The contract also includes a $65 million signing bonus that is also the highest in NFL history.
The average of $35 million per season in new money surpasses the $33.5 million of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had been the highest-paid player in the NFL. The signing bonus also breaks the record of $57.5 million received by Rodgers in a contract he signed last August. The contract includes total guarantees of $107 million, which also would be the most in NFL history, and includes a no-trade clause.
And it all marks a significant raise for Wilson, who was entering the final season of a four-year, $87.6 million deal signed on the day training camp opened in July 2015, agreed to late the night before. That deal made Wilson at the time the second-highest paid player in the NFL at $21.9 million per season, just behind Rodgers at $22 million.
This time, the two sides got the contract done as the clock struck midnight sending Monday into Tuesday, a source saying the two sides worked all day with Wilson having set a deadline of April 15 to get an extension completed with the Seahawks. Wilson was already under contract for the 2019 season, though the new deal will drop his base salary to $5 million this year, with four years then added on, meaning he could not become a free agent until following the 2023 season, when he would be 35 years old. That means in total, Wilson will earn $157 million over the next five seasons, an average of $31.4 million. That also puts Wilson ahead of Rodgers, who when including current years on his contract averages $29.1 million over six years.
And according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Seahawks "stuck to their structure" in not fully guaranteeing future base salaries, which had been viewed as a potential sticking point. Rapoport reported that there are also roster bonuses of $5 million for each of the final two seasons of the deal.
The contract agreement puts an end to months of uncertainty over Wilson's future that included rumors that he wanted to be traded or was asking for a contract that would include clauses never before seen in NFL history.
But as the talks wore on over the weekend and into late Monday night, Wilson also made it clear to those around him that what he wanted most was to stay in Seattle.
"Russell loves this town, this team, and these fans," Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, told the Seattle Times early Tuesday morning. "Part of the compromise involved his affection for all things Seattle. The idea of playing anywhere else was not nearly as appealing as playing right here, the place he and his family call home."
Wilson broke the news of the agreement in unique fashion, with a tweet sent at 12:44 a.m. Tuesday in which he wrote "SEATTLE Let's get it" that then included video while in bed with his wife, Ciara.
"Hey Seattle, we got a deal," Wilson said.
"Go Hawks," Ciara said.
"Go Hawks," Wilson responded, then added, "but I'm going to see you all in the morning – time for y'all to go to bed."
Shortly after Wilson tweeted the news, teammate Bobby Wagner, tweeted back "Congrats @DangeRussWilson ! Well deserved my g."
Wilson then responded: "Love you homie. You next! Let's go do this thing together!"
And with that, Seattle's long, anxious wait to see if the man who went from risky third-round pick in 2012 to quarterback of the city's only Super Bowl champion less than two years later would stick around for a while had been answered.
Until Wilson's tweet, it was unclear where things were headed amid a report Sunday that if the two sides did not reach agreement by Monday night then Wilson would not negotiate with the team again – not just this year, but ever.
But while his agent and the team negotiated all day Monday, Wilson went about his business as usual, showing up at the VMAC in Renton for the first day of the team's official offseason training program.
While Wilson had a year remaining on his contract, he wanted an extension before the year began – as is usual custom for star players, and especially quarterbacks – and set a deadline of Monday to get it finalized, with a report from Peter King of NBCSports.com surfacing Sunday night that Wilson would not negotiate with the Seahawks further if a deal did not get done now.
Wilson set April 15 as the deadline because it marked the beginning of the team's official offseason program and he did not want uncertainty as the team returned to work and then into the summer – basically, he wanted to avoid all the discussion and rumors that circulated last time and had already begun to dog the process this time around.
Regardless of whether he had a new contract, it had been expected all along that Wilson would fulfill all of his regular requirements, including the offseason training program, which is technically voluntary.
He did just that, as the Seahawks made clear in one of a series of photos released on their official website, Seahawks.com. Wilson was pictured in one photo sitting alongside defensive tackle Jarran Reed (who also is entering the final year of his contract).
Not pictured anywhere was defensive lineman Frank Clark, whose status also remained in question as he has yet to sign a franchise tag that would pay him $17.1 million this season while the two sides try to work out a long-term deal. Clark did not attend voluntary sessions last year, either, raising the expectation that he also won't be around this year until his future is settled, or mandatory camps begin.
That Wilson is now signed to a significant extension will only lead to more conjecture that the Seahawks could consider trading Clark rather than sign him to a long-term extension.
The Seahawks will also have to consider giving an extension to Wagner – as Wilson indicated in his tweet back to him. Wagner is also entering the final season of his contract.
While the world waited on word on Wilson on Monday, the Seahawks did make a few other moves, with restricted free agents George Fant and Quinton Jefferson officially signing their tenders, and nine exclusive rights free agents also signing their tenders.
The nine ERFAs kept in the fold are: linebackers Austin Calitro and Emmanuel Ellerbee, center Joey Hunt, defensive end Branden Jackson, safety Shalom Luani, running back J.D. McKissic, snapper Tyler Ott, cornerback Kalan Reed and guard Jordan Simmons. The only ERFA who did not sign his deal Monday was receiver David Moore. But Tom Peliserro of the NFL Network reported that Moore will sign his contract Tuesday.