On a seemingly yearly basis, trade rumors surrounding Russell Wilson start to swirl, but what is the situation with his NFL contract if he were to be traded? Let’s analyze Wilson’s contract situation, his impact on the Seattle Seahawks’ salary cap, and what options the team has regarding a trade, a restructure, or perhaps even another extension.
Russell Wilson’s contract details and bonuses
Russell Wilson signed a four-year contract extension with the Seahawks in 2019 worth a total of $140 million, making Wilson the highest-paid player in the NFL at the time of signing. The contract included $107 million in guarantees, $70 million of which was fully guaranteed at signing, including a $65 million signing bonus.
However, the deal has a structure where Wilson’s 2020 salary was fully guaranteed in February of 2020. The same structure is in place for 2021. If Wilson is on the Seahawks’ roster on February 12th, 2021, his $19 million salary fully guarantees for the year. Both the 2020 and 2021 salaries were fully guaranteed for injury at the time of signing.
Wilson’s contract length is for another three years
When Russell Wilson signed his four-year contract, he still had one year remaining on his old deal. Therefore, Wilson was essentially signing for five seasons. 2023 is the final of those seasons.
However, following the 2021 season, Wilson will have no more guarantees remaining on his salary. He has $5 million in roster bonuses in both 2022 and 2023, both of which trigger on the fifth day of the respective league year.
What impact does Wilson’s deal have on the Seahawks’ salary cap?
Russell Wilson has a $19 million salary as part of his contract for 2021. This, combined with the $13 million in prorated cap hit from his signing bonus, places his 2021 cap number at $32 million. Wilson carries the seventh-highest cap hit at the quarterback position. He sits just behind Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz in 2021 cap number.
With the salary cap set to be around $180 million according to Adam Schefter, the Seahawks have around $181 million in cap space when their rollover from 2020 is included. Therefore, entering the 2021 offseason, the Seahawks have approximately $4 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.
Can the Seahawks move on from Russell Wilson’s contract this offseason?
The Seahawks are in an interesting position with Russell Wilson and his contract in 2021. They have him under contract for three more years. Still, there was a report from Jason LaCanfora that Wilson “is growing increasingly frustrated by the Seahawks’ inability to protect the 8-time Pro Bowler.”
The major question is whether Wilson is angling for a trade or simply looking to strong-arm the Seahawks into guaranteeing more money on his deal.
In the background is that the Seahawks have limited cap space. They need to free up cap space if they want to add reinforcements to a team that struggled down the stretch. Therefore, the Seahawks may restructure or extend Wilson’s contract to free up more cap space in 2021. However, if Wilson’s frustrations are true, what are the Seahawks’ options when it comes to a potential trade?
The Seahawks may look to restructure Russell Wilson’s contract in 2021
A restructure of Russell Wilson’s deal would suit both sides to some extent.
The Seahawks could move some of Wilson’s impending guaranteed $19 million salary into a signing bonus. That would shift some of the salary cap hit into the final two years of his deal. Let’s say the Seahawks convert $15 million into a signing bonus. That would reduce Wilson’s 2021 salary cap number by $10 million and shift $5 million per year into 2022 and 2023.
However, with $13 million in prorated bonus money already present on Russell Wilson’s contract in those two years, adding a further $5 million may not be desirable. Wilson has $19 million and $21 million in salaries in both of those years, respectively. Additionally, both of those seasons come with $5 million roster bonuses. Wilson already projects to count $37 and $39 million against the cap in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
Could a contract extension be the answer for Russell Wilson?
It would seem odd to extend Wilson at 33 with three more years remaining on his deal. Yet, added security could allay some of Wilson’s concerns while also opening up cap space in 2021.
Extending Wilson’s deal would allow the Seahawks to further spread any prorated money from a signing bonus. Using that $15 million as an example, adding two years to Russell Wilson’s contract would mean those prorated bonus charges were $3 million instead of $5 million.
Doing so would likely mean the Seahawks having to guarantee large portions of Wilson’s remaining salary on the current deal. On top of that, Wilson would likely be looking for around $40 million per year in those extra years. The Seahawks are in an interesting spot in terms of pieces on both sides of the ball — that would be a big commitment.
However, Wilson is among the top quarterbacks in the league, so if an extension is what it takes, the Seahawks should consider it seriously.
What would be the cost to both sides if the Seahawks were to trade Russell Wilson and his contract?
These numbers do not make for a warm and fuzzy reading for the Seahawks. Russell Wilson has three years remaining on his contract with $13 million per year in prorated bonus money. All of that would accelerate onto the Seahawks’ 2021 salary cap in the event of a trade.
Therefore, the Seahawks would be left with $39 million in dead money following a trade. An increase of $7 million in cap number and not having Wilson under contract makes this seem like an unlikely option.
However, if the Seahawks receive an offer they are willing to take, Russell Wilson’s contract would be extremely favorable to his new team. Wilson would leave behind $39 million in salary cap over the next three years. Therefore, his new team would have just $69 million in remaining money.
That would spread nicely across the next three seasons. In 2021, Wilson would have a cap number of just $19 million. Then in 2022 and 2023, that would rise to just $24 million and $26 million, respectively. Those numbers make a trade for Wilson a desirable proposition. Thus, we could see teams willing to trade away several assets to acquire the talented quarterback.