The lengthy, convoluted contract negotiations between the Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson appear to have a finish line. When Wilson steps on the field for his team's 2015 training camp on time and without a holdout, though neither party has come out and said it, talks will be done. The Super Bowl-winning quarterback will concentrate on football, his teammates, his play, but not his contract.
But will the window of opportunity for an extension close for good when camp begins?
According to people who have worked with agent Mark Rodgers, his history with high-profile, big-money deals shows that to be the case. If Rodgers continues to do business the same way he always has while representing baseball players, each day closer to free agency means decreased likelihood of a deal before Wilson is free (after two franchise tags in 2016 and 2017).
The two sides have been talking about an extension since the Super Bowl ended. Wilson surely hopes to be the game's highest-paid player (which will last until Andrew Luck does his deal), while the Seahawks want to reward him for his efforts but also retain their ability to keep their best players.
It's not that Wilson wants to hit free agency, according to a source who has spoken with him. It's that he wants to be paid as if he did. Meanwhile, thoughts of a fully guaranteed contract have not left his mind, especially with an agent who regularly negotiates such deals with baseball players.
As for the negotiations, the two sides are not close. But talks will ramp up as camp gets closer. The Seahawks report to training camp on July 30 and have their first practice on the 31st.
As he has said publicly, Wilson is prepared for the possibility of playing 2015 on his base salary of $1.54 million. He has defied the odds already in his career, and he's comfortable with betting on himself.
If there is no deal by camp, and if Rodgers' history in baseball is any indicator, Wilson will receive the exclusive franchise tag of more than $25 million in 2016 and likely play on it (assuming Seattle doesn't successfully use it as the jumping off point for a mega-deal). If no deal is reached, the tag would likely eclipse $30 million in 2017. Then free agency in 2018? Does no deal by camp mean all of this is a foregone conclusion?
There has been no definitive word. The practical implication is that free agency is very much a possibility.
Rodgers has done similarly with other clients, who didn't strike deals by proposed deadlines, then ceased talks until free agency.
It was that way when the Mets of Major League Baseball missed their window to sign Rodgers' client Mike Hampton, eventually watching him ink an eight-year, $121-million deal with the Colorado Rockies. New York tried to get involved before the conclusion, only to be told it was too late for them. It's the same way with Chicago White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija, who has been traded twice because his window to do a long-term deal has been closed for some time. The assumption is he's headed to baseball's free agency.
Could Wilson follow the same path? Time will tell.
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