To be very clear before we get into the meat of this article: We know this is unlikely. We understand that we are talking about a huge "What If." On the other hand, isn't that half the fun of the off-season?
What if the Cleveland Browns sign this guy? Draft this guy? What if Johnny Manziel makes that big step forward? What if Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline complete the WR group perfectly? What if the offensive line and entire defense are good enough to carry the team?
That leads us to this What If question: Is Russell Wilson worth the picks and salary it would take for the Browns to acquire him if he is franchised AFTER this season?
First lets set the stage. Wilson is skipping OTAs, partially/possibly due to his contract. Wilson was drafted in the 3rd round and has been paid peanuts compared to QBs who are drafted in the 1st. However, he has led the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs in 3 straight seasons and 2 straight Super Bowls. He is now going into the final year of his contract and things could be getting contentious, according to a recent ESPN report:
Mark Rodgers, the agent for quarterback Russell Wilson, sent a 16-page letter to the Seattle Seahawks stating his position on the contract negotiations between the team and Wilson.
"Russell is under contract with the Seahawks," Rodgers said. "He absolutely would be fine playing his fourth year under the contract he signed coming out and then moving on from there. I don't feel any particular crunch on time or any real particular deadlines."
So Wilson's agent, obviously using it as leverage, says that the QB is willing to play out his contract. His agent is doing his best job of pushing Seattle to sign Wilson to whatever huge number he is angling for. If they don't sign Wilson, Seattle could Franchise Tag their star QB. In the same report ESPN noted that the tag would be for between $21 and 24 million dollars.
There are two types of Franchise Tags. The first is the Exclusive Franchise Tag. It is the most expensive tag, which means it puts a larger cap hold on the Seahawks books, but doesn't allow the player to negotiate with any other team. Seattle could place this tag on Wilson but it is rarely used and would make other moves a little more difficult for the team. If the Seahawks place this tag on Wilson, the rest of this article is a moot point.
The non-exclusive Franchise Tag is cheaper but allows the player to negotiate with other teams. If another team signs the player to an offer sheet, the current team can match or let the player go in exchange for two First Round Picks.
That is where things could get interesting for the Browns. If Seattle gives Wilson the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag, the Browns would likely be highly interested in the versatile young leader. The Browns could negotiate a big contract for Wilson, who would be going into his 5th year, with the hopes that Seattle would not match.
The Seahawks would then have to weigh out a few things. First, do they want to pay Wilson however much the Browns are willing to pay? Second, even if they do, would they be better off building their team with those two extra draft picks and more cap space? Some of that decision may come down to where the Browns pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. If it is in the Top 10, plus their 2017 First Rounder, Seattle might bite.
The Browns have a ton of cap space, a great offensive line and run game and the makings of a great defense. They lack top flight weapons and a QB to get the ball to them. We know that quarterbacks can make receivers better, so adding a good one could make Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Bowe, Hartline, et al. look so much better. The Browns might be a QB away from competing for a Super Bowl after this year.
The Browns will have to process similar information to that which Seattle would. How much is an elite QB worth financially? Unlike Seattle, who has paid a lot of defenders, the Browns only have two high priced long term players: Joe Haden and Joe Thomas. Hopefully Alex Mack is a 3rd after this season. They haven't invested much in long term contracts, so they can swallow a big deal for the most important position on the field.
On top of that financial cost, the Browns would also have to decide if giving up the 2 first round picks is something they are willing to do. For a team that has constantly stated their value of picks, this could be tough. It is possible they could negotiate with Seattle to lessen the cost but that likely wouldn't happen. With a roster full of young players from the last few drafts (Up to 20 in the last two years if you count UDFAs), and a big hole behind center, would they spend that much to lock up a young QB, at a high salary?
So we come to you for your thoughts. Would Russell Wilson be worth the big contract and two First Round picks it would take to pry him out of Seattle after the season?
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