After an off-season of brinksmanship, the Seattle quarterback has signed an extension making him the second-highest-paid player in the NFL

By Peter King
July 31, 2015

Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks got perilously close to the edge of a contractual cliff this off-season, and the Seahawks began to seriously consider a football future without their 26-year-old, two-time Super Bowl quarterback. But today that all changed.

Seattle general manager John Schneider and Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, beat a 1 p.m. Eastern Time deadline—the official start time for the first training camp practice of Wilson’s fourth NFL season—by agreeing to a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension, making Wilson, for now, the second-highest-paid player in NFL history.

The deal includes a $31 million signing bonus and approximately $60 million in guarantees.

The previous biggest contract signed in the NFL was Aaron Rodgers’ five-year, $110 million deal in 2013. That contract became a major stumbling block in these talks, because it was signed 27 months ago, when the NFL salary cap was $123 million. Now, with the cap up 17% over the last two years (it is $143.8 million this year), Rodgers was insistent that the new contract wouldn’t be soon overtaken if Wilson was going to commit to the Seahawks long-term. With the cap likely increasing up to $10 million a year over the life of Wilson’s deal, Rodgers surely argued, Wilson’s deal had to be in Aaron Rodgers’ league. Turns out it was $100,000-per-year less.

Photo: Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated

That’s certainly hard for most people to fathom, the 75th player in the 2012 draft in the same money league with the best quarterbacks in football just three-and-a-half years later. But the alternative for Seattle wasn’t good. If the deal didn’t get done this week, and a quarterback or two (Eli Manning, perhaps) broke the bank in the coming months, Wilson’s agent would simply have asked for more after Wilson was due to make $1.54 million in this, the final year of his four-year, $3 million rookie contract. And the sticking point during the deal was the Wilson side’s refusal to accept an offer in total dollars and guarantees that would not place him at or very near the top of the quarterback money standings. He now stands ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, whose deal averages $21.85 million, Cam Newton ($20.76 million) and Matt Ryan ($20.75 million).

Seattle is 42-14, with two trips to the Super Bowl in Wilson’s three seasons as quarterback. In the three years before he was drafted, Seattle was 20-30. Wilson’s passer rating over his three years is 98.6; in the three previous years, Seattle passers had a 75.5 rating. Clearly, Schneider and the Seahawks didn’t want to risk a future without Wilson.

• MORE RUSSELL WILSON: THE MMQB 100: One play will not define him | Robert Klemko on the roots of Wilson’s self-belief | Peter King one-on-one with the Seahawks QB | Wilson on race in the NFL

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