Apart from the significant gap in the raw dollars between what Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson currently wants and what the team currently is willing to pay, another major issue looms over the negotiations.
Per multiple sources, Wilson is looking for a considerable portion of the contract to be fully guaranteed. While he’s not asking for the entire deal to be fully guaranteed, it’s a larger portion than traditional veteran contracts.
It’s become a stumbling block not because of the guarantee itself but because of the league’s funding rule, which requires almost every penny of any future payments guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap to be paid into escrow upon signing. While Seahawks owner Paul Allen, the richest of the very rich men who control NFL franchises, can afford to put the money aside ahead of time, multiple sources tell PFT he doesn’t want to.
It’s unclear why he doesn’t want to do it, since he can do it with the stroke of a pen. And it invites further speculation that the funding rule, which was created to protect players from owners who lack the future cash to honor guaranteed payments, has become a tool for collusion among NFL teams.
Former NFL player Sean Gilbert made the case while running for the position of NFLPA Executive Director that the funding rule as written and applied results in collusion. The NFLPA apparently has decided not to pursue the issue.
But maybe it should. During the NFLPA campaign, Gilbert made a big deal about keeping the specifics of the collusion claim top secret due to concerns regarding the 90-day limit for filing such claims. The truth may be that he wanted to give incumbent DeMaurice Smith and other candidates less time to debunk Gilbert’s theory; if the violations are continuing, a collusion case arguably could be made within the 90 days after any specific instance of it, past, present, or future.
For any team owned by someone worth billions, there’s no legitimate reason to refuse to fund fully guaranteed veteran contracts, other than to avoid the widespread adoption of fully guaranteed veteran contracts across the NFL. That may be a legitimate business reason on a team-by-team basis, but it also amounts to collusion if multiple independent NFL franchises agree to do it in order to avoid fully-guaranteed contracts becoming the norm in pro football, like it has become the norm in baseball and basketball.