What did we learn from Wilson's Contract Process?
The clock struck midnight and nothing happened. Seahawk friends messaged frantically. Twitter's 24 hour meltdown piqued into a symphony of confusion.
What did it mean? The rather arbitrary and final deadline imposed by Russell Wilson's agent had come and passed and nothing happened. Was that it? Was he a goner? Doomed to be traded before or during the draft when best value would be gotten?
Of course all the hand wringing was for not, as soon all was revealed.
Russell Wilson re-signed! Four years on top of the remaining year! Five more years! And even I felt relieved. Which is odd. Ive written at length at my skepticism that Seattle can win a Super Bowl while devoting 35 million to Wilson. I've always also said though, it wasn't that I dont like Wilson or underrate him. He is the funnest QB to watch Ive ever seen and so I look forward to 5 years of watching him and hoping Im wrong.
So what are the lessons to be learned from this process and the contract eventually signed?
- Posturing takes on new levels when the stakes are this high.
In all negotiations, at least where both sides are at least somewhat skilled, there is some posturing. Initial offers and statements are all aimed at setting the table to get what you really want. I know that. The people around me know that, and Im not stranger to negotiation. But this process highlighted just how far it can go when youre discussing tens of millions of dollars. Consider the converging threads of evidence that made it seem plausible Wilson really did want to leave. When at least three different sources give different, independent indirect takes that indicate it.. a lot of people believed. Or, the narrative really pushed in the last couple days -- Wilson wanted unprecedented conditions in his contract. Wilson wanted the first 3 years fully guaranteed. He wanted his salary locked in as a percentage of the salary cap.
In the end, those were all initial positions designed to get Wilson what really mattered: a conventional contract for the most part that just "showed him love" and made him top of pay scale for now.
- Lack of real information leads to a lot of projection.
As the process continued, the lack of updates and real information about what was happening led people to a lot of conclusions that said more about themselves than anyone else. If you are already the type that somehow has had your confidence in the Seahawks brain trust shaken, you may have been out there giving takes that really were coming from within -- condemning the Seahawks and getting ready to burn things. If you were of a more positive bent, you may have been one of those tweeting what really seemed unwarranted optimistic tweets. In the end, people shared their feelings almost among ideological lines and it was interesting to see.
- Trust what you see.
The last few days , as I wrote earlier, featured particularly strong posturing that made me at least question what I knew about Wilson. I know some people think he's fake or a robot, but if that's true we could stand to have a lot more "fake" people who are good people and fewer jerks who are just "keeping it real". For me, Wilson does purposely maintain a public image but I think that's natural and positive. But suddenly I found myself really believing he wanted out of Seattle. Believing he didnt really care much about anything except his ego. I admit last night I briefly actually worried about the children in the hospital he visits weekly -- what would happen if he just stopped visiting. How would those kids take it?
Of course, everything that led me and others down that road of thought was wrong. Wilson seems to really like Seattle and to fit it in. Now we see that really likely is true.
- Evaluate your sources.
Whether it's old school media or social media, more than ever its important to evaluate the sources. Big shout out to Jake Heaps at 710am. In the face of some national media types even saying the opposite, he stuck to his guns with his narrative, which seems the one that is far more likely to have been true in hindsight: the sticking point was the guaranteed money in the second and third years. He was saying things while others were reporting the Wilson camp was going hard after the salary cap tie. But Jake is local, knows Wilson, knows the people involved. Personally, I dont really love Jake's on air presence, but he's turning out to be informed and a good judge of accurate information. Likewise Bob Condotta had the most level headed updates and comments on the drama as it unfolded, while many other media outlets ran in the wrong direction, in good faith, but just not as dialed into Russell Wilson as the local people.. and Russ is a complex guy to really figure out. The Social Media.. well.. some of the most respected members of it were being the most ridiculous and it set me into old man mode.
- Better hit on the draft picks.
At 35 million a year.. a 31 million cap hit.. roughly 1/6th of it.. the Seahawks are going to have to seriously money ball everything else that they can. They like cheap receivers and if they can get away with that again, I expect them to try for that again. Frank Clark probably wants more than he is worth and the Seahawks need draft picks.. Wilson's contract may lead directly to Clark being traded. They need an EDGE rusher who isnt going to be 23 million a year. I will be interested in the moves the Seahawks make regarding this draft because more than ever those picks are going to be gold. The rest of the roster needs to be cheap with just a few pricey guys. A cap hit of 31 million a year over 22 million means 2 mid level type guys cant retained, or that money has to be saved elsewhere. Every pick counts even more than before, there is even less room for error.
- We will get to see the transformation of Wilson.
No one can say what Wilson will be like in 3 years. As he slows down and has to become more and more of a pocket passer, less elusive, what will he be like? Some point to his great pocket passer rating and say he is already a pocket passer when he wants to be. Others suspect that number is still influenced by the THREAT of what he can do. When teams dont have to assign their defensive ends to just run upfield and hold, when the entire defensive front 7 isnt having their play style dictated by the threat of a Wilson scramble or play extension, will Wilson still be a top 3 quarterback? I think there is a good chance he will. He is extremely smart with an agile, creative mind and I think that will pick up the slack for slowing legs and perhaps slightly thicker stature.
Im looking forward to watching what this team will be in Wilson's 3rd contract. Its not secret I have reservations about what it means for the team, but who wouldnt want to watch Russ play ball for the next 5 years?
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- The current access to media really skews things because new information comes out all the time and we are left with the last thing we year. Someone that info is complete garbage and other times there's truth in it. Since Pete and John never said anything, I never worried. It's easy to get freaked out by the lack of news or the type of news we're hearing.
- At the end, I was confident that the FO and Wilson would work something out because teams don't let their Franchise QBs walk unless they have a back-up in place; Manning was able to leave because the Colts had Luck and Brees was allowed to leave because the Chargers had Rivers. There are no other comparisons because there are no other QBs that are at the same talent-level as Wilson.
- I fully recognize that paying your QB this much of your salary cap will hurt the team's chances to add depth and retain their 2nd-level talent. But we are not giving up the best players in the league at their position but plus-plus players and that does put more pressure on the FO to hit in Free Agency and the Draft.
I wonder how Frank Clark is feeling today though. I read.. but now Im not sure its true that he was frustrated last week with no progress towards a long term deal..but surely he knows that really dealing with Russ is the priority...?