The NFL quarterback market continues to soar to sky-scraping heights. If you can sling a football, you’re going to be cashing a monstrous check — even if you’re not considered one of the premier signal callers in the league.
Proof of this came down last week when Raiders QB Derek Carr — a good but not great player — signed a three-year extension with Las Vegas for $121.5 million. That’s $40.5 million per year.
No, the deal isn’t exactly what it seems. Much of the guaranteed money kicks in three days after the next Super Bowl, which means Carr is going to have to prove himself to the Raiders in 2022.
But it still represents a massive hike in what quarterbacks command these days. And it makes me wonder: Would extending Russell Wilson have been worth it for the Seahawks?
This, of course, is a hypothetical, as it appears Wilson made clear he wasn’t interested in playing on a new contract with Seattle. His displeasure is ultimately what forced coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to trade him to the Broncos for a plethora of draft picks.
Still, for many Seattle sports fans, that trade might have been the most depressing transaction they’ve ever had to endure. But might it have been a good thing in the end?
It certainly won’t feel like it next season, when Geno Smith or Drew Lock or whoever else is behind center for the Seahawks. There’s a reason Vegas Insider has the Seahawks’ over-under win total at 5.5.
With today’s rules, it’s nearly impossible to compete for a championship without an elite quarterback. But those quarterbacks also need support — and it isn’t easy to do if they’re eating up over $45 million of salary-cap space each year.
Take a player such as Patrick Mahomes, who might be the best QB in the league right now. He signed a 10-year, $450 million extension with the Chiefs in September 2020, but that new deal won’t kick in until next season.
In other words, the former MVP who has won one Super Bowl, been to another and lost in two other AFC Championship Games did so on a rookie contract. The odds of him repeating that success as the richest player in football? Likely a whole lot less.
Who do you think of when you think of the great Seahawks teams from the past decade? Likely Wilson, and Marshawn Lynch, and Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner among others. It was one of the most dynamic collections of talent — particularly on the defensive end — that the NFL has ever seen.
But did those Seahawks teams replicate their success once all those guys got their big paydays? Not so much. They haven’t been to an NFC Championship Game since the 2014 season.
There is one player, however, who has regularly taken less money than market value. His name is Tom Brady, thought by many to be the greatest player of all time. With seven Super Bowl rings and five Super Bowl MVPs, no quarterback can match his résumé. But almost as critical as his arm were his team-friendly contracts, which always allowed him to have the necessary complements to win.
No quarterback should feel obligated to go the way of Brady, who isn’t even the breadwinner in his own home. Athletes of all calibers should feel free to get what they’re worth. But combining exorbitant contracts with Super Bowl titles is rarer than the average fan might think.
So what would have happened if Wilson was content in Seattle and not seeking a trade? Well, if he had stayed healthy and performed well next season, he likely would have sought a deal resembling that of Mahomes — and certainly one bigger than Carr’s. And given that Wilson is a scrambler who, according to both the eye test and his rushing numbers, has slowed a step athletically, that would have been a questionable investment for the Seahawks.
I’ve said it before, Wilson is the most valuable player to ever suit up for Seattle. The team wouldn’t have won a title without him, nor would they have been able to so consistently make the playoffs.
But Carroll and Schneider have shown the ability to build a winner. Moving on from Wilson had to be difficult, but it might have been the best thing for this franchise.