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.