Guaranteed dollars; If not now, when?

The Seahawks and Russell Wilson continue to haggle over a long-term contract that would keep the playmaking quarterback in Seattle. One sticking point seems to be the amount of guaranteed dollars Wilson would receive. But should it be?

The arguing points for most contract negotiations in the NFL revolve around three factors - length of contract, the final amount of money realistically attainable, and the "guaranteed" dollars that can come in the form of a signing bonus.

By now you've no doubt heard (or read) that Russell Wilson is seeking to become the highest paid player in the NFL. So what's the number his agent, Mark Rodgers, is trying to achieve?

The answer isn't as simple as it seems due to the complexities of today's NFL contracts and how they are spun in the media.

For example, according to, two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers can claim he's the highest paid player in league history as his deal with the Green Bay Packers averages $22 million per year. At the same time, Ben Roethlisberger currently can also claim he's the NFL's richest man, as he was handed $31 million in up-front money when he re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick was rewarded with the most "guaranteed" at $61 million. Meanwhile, in terms of total contract value, Chicago Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler could earn as much as $126.7 million over the course of his deal, more than anyone else in league history.

What becomes clear from these deals is that there are a variety of ways in which a player (or his agent) can claim their contract is the richest in league history. Further, it establishes the going rate for quarterbacks in today's pass-happy NFL.

According to reports from's Ian Rapoport and's Mike Florio Mike Florio, a sticking point in Seattle's negotiation with Rodgers is the amount of guaranteed and up-front money Wilson will receive. The yearly average of roughly $20-21 million Wilson has reportedly turned down is close to what reported back in March.

It isn't surprising that up-front cash could be a sticking point. Guaranteed dollar deals are relatively commonplace in Major League Baseball, where the vast majority of Rodgers' experience lies.

Given the greater threat of injury, guaranteed dollars is a much riskier proposition in the NFL than it is in Major League Baseball, however. That may be even more so the case when the player involved is physically smaller than the norm and often runs with the football, like Wilson.

At the same time, should the Seahawks be more willing to place give Wilson more cash up front, the club could potentially keep his yearly salary lower, thereby keeping some space to re-sign some of the other 32 players currently in the final year of their respective contracts. The signing bonus dollars are pro-rated over the length of the deal in terms of the salary cap. Theoretically, the Seahawks could give Wilson a massive signing bonus and fulfill the request to become the league's highest paid player in one respect without breaking the bank in every regard.

Given Wilson's Pro Bowl-caliber play on the field and his sterling image off it, one could make the argument that he is the ideal "face of the franchise" and therefore deserves an extraordinary deal that perhaps includes significant up-front money. There are plenty of other reasons to suggest this might be the way to go. Boasting arguably the league's most talented roster and with Pete Carroll turning 64 in September, the Seahawks are built to win right now. Billionaire owner Paul Allen certainly has the funds to make the deal. Further, John Schneider has the relationship with Allen to possibly convince the owner to consider a "creative" deal such as this.

One can certainly understand the hesitancy that any club would have in giving a massive signing bonus or guaranteed dollars to an NFL player. Perhaps the perspective to keep in mind, however, is not the risk involved in giving these dollars to Wilson but the havoc on the salary cap coming should the Seahawks be forced to play the Franchise Tag game annually with Wilson or the thought of the dozen or so owners throughout the league that would surely pay top dollar for the opportunity to sign the young, charismatic quarterback to lead their respective clubs.

As we saw recently with the massive (but last second) contracts landed by wideouts Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas of the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs' outside linebacker Justin Houston, sometimes it just takes a deadline to spark a deal. Perhaps I'm overly optimistic, but I think there is enough impetus on both sides for a deal to get done. Rodgers is expected to be in Seattle this week before training camp officially kicks off Friday.

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