Cap percentage may be the key to a Russell Wilson deal

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As the Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson move toward an April 15 deadline for signing Wilson to a long-term deal, one key factor looms over the negotiations: Paying Wilson based on a fixed percentage of the salary cap.

It’s a simple calculation. Wilson would have a set salary, along with a term potentially increasing his pay to match a specific percentage (e.g., 15, 16, 17, etc.) of the annual spending limit.

Multiple players have tried to get in the past a term that would tie their pay to a specific percentage of the cap, including Kirk Cousins (while in Washington) and Darrelle Revis (while with the Jets, the first time around). Teams consistently have refused, however, to utilize this device, even though the labor deal allows it.

There’s nothing unreasonable about a player seeking to base his compensation on a fixed percentage of the cap, given the manner in which the cap continues to grow, at a rate of more than $10 million every year. Sharper spikes may be coming, given the looming extension of the CBA, eventual new TV deals, and the impact on leave revenue of gambling. For long-term deals being negotiated before those changes happen, it makes plenty of sense for players to seek protection against major jumps in the annual money available to spend on rosters.

Currently, Wilson’s cap number of $25.286 million correlates to 13.4 percent of the $188.2 million cap. He presumably will want more than that moving forward. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford currently has the highest cap percentage based on cap number, at 15.6 percent.

Teams aren’t required to agree to this term, and no team ever has. At some point, the possibility of collusion becomes inescapable, given that teams often shy away from contract terms that would meet with the disapproval of the Management Council, which has a reputation for telling teams what they can and can’t do when it comes to contract negotiation — and which necessarily amounts to collusive activity.

Still, if the Seahawks want to sign Wilson to a long-term deal, they may have to break ranks with league precedent.

35 responses to “Cap percentage may be the key to a Russell Wilson deal

  1. Oh here we go with this again… If Wilson pulls this stunt he’ll be on the road to “Kurt” Cousins-Ville, that is if he stays healthy long enough which is always a big if for a mobile, and aging QB… one day it will blow up in their face…

  2. Tv contract values are going to go down and that will burst the NFL bubble. Businesses need cost certainty and a percentage of the cap complicates that.

  3. Seattle was a 2 year “dynasty.” If they think that vastly overpaying one player, then go ahead. That will only ensure the Seahawks won’t will the NFCW…

  4. Collusion? Hardly, it’s a bad business practice to not have certainty regarding expenses. I think Seattle should give Wilson what he wants and take that money out of what they would be paying their offensive line. You can’t have it both ways.

    By the way, if a team were ever agree to a percentage and the cap were to go down at some point, I can already hear the whining about players who would have to take a pay cut.

  5. Yeah, I can see the rationale for a percentage of the cap. But then the team needs some protection against injury or performance drop-off. Ying and Yang.

  6. Just pay him 40% of the cap so Martyball 2.0 can call more draw plays on 3rd and 7 while losing in the fourth quarter. Genius idea!

  7. Even less likely with the CBA talks looming. Cap formula and/or revenue split could change.

  8. Why are tv contract values going down and the NFL bubble bursting? is the world going to end in 2020 also?

    I wonder what these types of contracts would look like realistically. Would the Seahawks be able to offer Wilson a competitive % of the cap, while maintaining cap flexibility for the rest of the team? The total guaranteed money would still be the most important factor, right?

    It’s rare to see elite level QBs like Wilson hit the open market though, so he definitely has a lot of leverage to negotiate right now

  9. Cap has gone up an average of 5% over the past eight years, and an average of 7% over the past five years, but the increase has declined over the past three years.

    30 + 32.1 + 34.3 + 36.7 + 39.2 = 172.3 million

    That is 30 million increasing by 7% over five years. Lets say the team offers the player a five year, $172.3 million contract with the salaries consistent with what’s above. How is that different than your proposal?

    Under a fixed percentage, if the cap goes up at a greater percent (it won’t) the player will make out. However, if the cap increase declines (it will), the player will actually lose money.

  10. Oh, good, we have heard this drum banged since last year. Teams aren’t going to do this because they want to have lower cap hits later on.

    Further, good NFL owners have likely paid attention to the 10 million annual cap increase each year for the last 4-5 years and realized the cap is increasing by a smaller percentage every year not looking at the over number increase. That means you get tighter with labor costs not take risks.

  11. Wilson is past his prime and what has he really done?
    Compare him to the QB of the city that the little North West Slum is so envious of
    Joe Montana 4 super bowl rings
    Joe Montana 3 super bowl MVP’s
    Russell Wilson denied his defense a chance at #2 by not being able to read a defensive set

  12. Teams pay a lot the first yer or two but can make it back on the back end.
    It has to make business sense to sign a player, being very good is not enough.
    If Tom Brady cost 50MM/year you would probably be better off with Ryan Tannehill at 5MM/year, because that 45MM could hire a lot of players.

    I’d like to see a team give up draft picks to trade for Russel Wilson, and sign him to the contract he wants – then go 8-8 for 4 years in a row.

  13. Wilson should ask for a Kirk Cousins deal, but with more money. 3yrs-$105m fully guaranteed. Wilson is far more accomplished than Cousins will ever be, so why not?

  14. Offer him 5% of the cap, move on if he does not take. Players after this with such a demand should be offered 4%.

  15. The problem with paying him big bucks is that he relies so much on his legs that if he ever gets hurt and he is no longer as mobile, then he would not be very effective.

  16. You do this with qbs then wrs will want the same thing, then dbs, pass rushers, etc etc. Horrible idea, and no team in their right mind would throw this idea out there or agree to it. If you really wanted the players to make more money, then your next article would be why the salary cap must go. Then all of these players could make “what they deserve” I’m a cowboys fan so I have 0 issues with this since jerry could pay anyone and everyone like the old days. But smaller mkt teams like your titans and panthers would lose out.

  17. Blah, blah, blah. Pay them what they are worth. There’s no entitlements in sports. you should never be paid more than you earn. It’s a year to year thing. do better, we pay you. not pay me and i’ll do better. At least, that’s how it should be.

  18. jernimoza says:
    April 3, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    Why are tv contract values going down and the NFL bubble bursting? is the world going to end in 2020 also?

    I wonder what these types of contracts would look like realistically. Would the Seahawks be able to offer Wilson a competitive % of the cap, while maintaining cap flexibility for the rest of the team? The total guaranteed money would still be the most important factor, right?

    It’s rare to see elite level QBs like Wilson hit the open market though, so he definitely has a lot of leverage to negotiate right now


    You’re right, it may not. But there are plenty of reasons why it easily could.

    #1 All networks are losing hand over fist with NFL tv contracts.

    #2 Did you know that it costs more for the TV rights to ONE MNF game, then it does for the entire production of the final season of Game of Thrones? In fact, then add about another 30 percent.

    #3 Nothing from 2008 was ever fixed, they only blew another bubble and it’s worldwide. When this sucker blows it’s going to make 1929 look like a day at Disneyland. There’s a reason why it’s called the EVERYTHING BUBBLE. Because it is.

    Now as long as TV networks can get funding to go into debt to pay ever-larger tv rights deals, it could happen. But given that everything is broken, it’s only a matter of time, whether it’s this year or in a few years before everything blows up. Once it does, all bets are off. No one wants to lend money to a company with a business model that loses money.

    Have you wondered why ESPN has been firing people left and right over the past couple of years? It’s because they are losing tons of money. In fact, they could fire everyone and have a robot do the shows and still lose money. Why? TV rights deals. They are completely overextended. Disney is under no obligation to keep ESPN afloat, just like the NFL is not entitled to networks losing money hand over fist to keep their coffers and by extension salary cap growing.

    Now add to that people have been cutting cords and even streaming isn’t making up the slack, and you can see that as this likely progresses over the next few years, it’s dire indeed for the various networks. Fewer people with the channel, means fewer people watching.

    Additionally, fewer bidders for TV rights means less money overall. Why? Because suddenly there is less demand for a good or service, in this case, the NFL tv rights. This is why the NFL is trying to drum up streaming rights, especially for stuff like a streaming NFL Sunday ticket. It’s the only way they can grow as everything else is shrinking.

    People forget that there are only 256 total NFL games in the regular season they can sell rights to. They get far more per game than the NBA and MLB… BUT those others have far more volume to sell. Basketball has 2460 games to sell PLUS a much bigger postseason featuring 16 teams playing in best of 7 series. Baseball has 4860 regular season games. Seeing the picture?

    This is also why it’s absolutely hilarious when OBJ was complaining about wanting to be paid like Steph Curry. Well Curry not only plays far more games, he’s on the court longer than OBJ is on the field for each game. In a sense, OBJ makes far more per game than Steph Curry, and he should be thankful that he can.

    No one knows the future, but if you notice the trends of the present, the future isn’t hard to make a educated guess on.

    Unless they unleash hyperinflation, the future is debt deflation. You would also much rather have the latter. But both options are contrived.

  19. I’m sure Wilson or any other interested player is going to be totally fine, and have no issue whatsoever with their pay when a future year’s cap goes down, or grows less than their agent told them to expect.

    I don’t get why a contract based on cap percentages is considered better.
    A good agent can simply calculate what are likely increases in the cap and build a contract proposal that way…and there isn’t any risk of a potential, however unlikely it is, of the cap going down.

  20. Cowherd nailed Urban Meyer stepping down from THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY this year. If Russell is valued as a top tier QB, would it not make sense for the Giants to trade #4 for him now? Just a theory? If they take a QB, it wont be to flip him to Seattle for Wilson, unless his last name is Manning, and Daddy helped him

  21. Russel Wilson is a very good QB.
    If he wants to make top dollar, to the point that a signing team can’t win, then that’s his prerogative.
    Not everyone values super bowl rings, he’s got one, and wants to cash out, which is his right.

    The team should negotiate, and if they can’t reach a sensical agreement then trade him and get a lot of draft value.

    The reason QBs get big contracts is:

    A – they have far more impact on the game than any other player, including Khalil Mack or OBJ

    B – its very hard to replace QBs, unlike any other position

    C – the contracts are long, so the team over pays up front but makes it back on the back end. You don’t win if you pay your players top dollar, you need some surplus value for the team. Otherwise you are an 8-8 team. Businesses hire people because it helps the business. If the employee is so expensive that even though he’s very good, his cost = his production, then you haven’t benefited.

  22. Wilson is going to get the highest contract just above what Aaron has made. Not saying he’s a better QB than Aaron but he has more leverage than Aaron. Both have 1 ring. Both are extremely talented (please let me hear all the negative comments on how Wilson isn’t a great QB). But Wilson has never missed a game or practice in his football life (HS, College, or pros). That to a team is way more valuable than sitting on the bench cause your collar bone is broken or your calf is strained. Seahawks will acknowledge all of that and pay him for 4 more years at the going rate of the top paid QB right now. There will be no salary cap %s/escalators in the contract. It will be a standard contract with boat loads of money. The deal will get done the morning of the 15th. You can stop the constant stories of of all this.

  23. Teams need to wake-up and stop paying this kind of $$ and stop with the long term deals.
    Players want guarantees, fine 1-2 year deals.
    Teams can not keep paying 30m+ a year for a QB, then 15m a yr for a couple WRs, a RB, an Edge rusher, 10m for a LB, 8-10 for a LT…
    There are 53 guys to pay, using 1/2+ of the cap for 5 or 6 guys is crazy.

  24. Guaranteeing a permanent cap percentage to a player completely goes against what makes big contracts work for teams. The team signs a guy today for what seems like a crazy high amount but in a few years it actually becomes rather a bargain as salaries continue to rise. They’re paying big upfront knowing they’ll get a break of sorts down the line. Nobody is going to put themselves in the boat where each and every year it’s the equivalent to having just signed a guy to a record deal.

  25. The NFL needs to have a system similar to the NHL. Where they have a salary cap and no one player can make more than a set percentage of that cap. The majority of players would support this type of solution.

  26. Prediction: The Seahawks will draft a QB this year. They would be idiotic to hamstring themselves to Wilson. The only success they were able to realize had to do with successful drafting and having younger players on their rookie deals. Time to go back to the well.

    Nice to see Russ’ true colors, though. All that “go Hawks” and fake humility is nauseating.

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