Jimmy Garoppolo--and Russell Wilson--just got 137.5 reasons to shine.
The San Francisco 49ers re-set the rampantly escalating market on quarterback contracts in the NFL Thursday with a five-year contract reportedly worth $137.5 million.
The average of $27.5 million per year the Seahawks’ division rivals are giving Garoppolo is the richest deal in league history. For now. It tops the $23.5-million-per-year contract Alex Smith has agreed to with Washington, just last week. That after his trade from Kansas City that’s yet to be announced.
Garoppolo’s average of $27.5 million is the number that’s getting the attention, because it’s easy for media and the public to digest. And, yes, agents often use that figure in comparing their clients’ worth versus other players’ already-signed contracts during negotiations.
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But the figure that matters most to NFL players is guaranteed money. Unlike in the NBA and Major League Baseball, the majority of NFL contracts and cash are not guaranteed. The guaranteed figure--signing bonuses and clauses that kick in at the start of league fiscal years, for instance--is what NFL stars know they will bank, regardless of individual or team performance or his club’s finances down the road.
Garoppolo just set a record there, too.
The 26-year old reportedly got $90 million guaranteed in the first three years of his deal. If the 49ers want to ask him to renegotiate down his base salary in the final years of his contract to help their rising team stay under the salary cap, say, in 2021, Garoppolo will already be more than OK with his $90 million by then.
Smith’s contract with the Redskins reportedly includes $71 million guaranteed.
What’s all this have to do with Wilson?
Suddenly, Seattle’s franchise quarterback’s contract ends after two more seasons. That deal he signed before the 2015 season is worth $87.6 million with $61.5 million guaranteed. On Friday, $4.9 million of Wilson’s $15.5 million salary for 2018 becomes guaranteed.
Sounds like a bargain now, eh?
It won’t be one by the end of 2019.
Again for comparison purposes more than value to the player, Wilson is averaging $21.9 million per year on his deal. The three richest contracts in the NFL are now Garoppolo’s, Matthew Stafford’s with Detroit ($27 million per) and Derek Carr’s with Oakland ($25 million).
Those three have the same number of playoff wins as you do. Combined.
It’s not about talent, but timing.
Matt Ryan is about to benefit next in Atlanta. Falcons general manager has already said a top priority for his team this offseason is a new contract for their Super Bowl quarterback and league most valuable player two seasons ago. Ryan has taken his Falcons farther than Smith and Cousins ever have taken their teams, yet to only to half as many Super Bowls as Wilson has led Seattle.
And if Ryan is going to get more than Garoppolo, Smith and Cousins then two-time NFL MVP and 2010 Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers should be worth at least $30-35 million per year to the Green Bay Packers, right?
Essentially, each domino that falls is a raise for Wilson. The latest was Garoppolo Thursday.
Rodgers’ contract with Green Bay ends when Wilson’s does with Seattle, following the 2019 season. Rodgers is scheduled to earn $19.8 million in base pay in 2018 and $20 million in ‘19. He will be 36 years old when his current contract ends. Wilson, who went to two Super Bowls and won one in his first three seasons in the league, will have just turned 31 at the end of 2019. That’s younger than Smith is now.
The Seahawks will actually save money in the long run by giving Wilson an extension before a new deal for Rodgers re-sets that QB bar. But Seattle is no salary-cap shape to do that now, or in the foreseeable future.
While the intent of his agent, Mark Rodgers, in 2015 was to get Wilson to the cusp of free agency again in 2020, the Seahawks could keep him off the market by using their franchise tag on him for that year. The franchise-tag number for quarterbacks--the average of the top-five salaries for 2018 at the position--just went up from its projected $23.6 million for this year. It’s only going to go up again the next two years. And it will likely skyrocket after pending free agent Kirk Cousins, Ryan and perhaps Rodgers get their new deals.
Wilson and his agent would be all for that. Their insistence on holding the Seahawks to four years in 2015 is going to pay off royally after two more seasons.
Rodgers told the San Francisco Chronicle after golfing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California Thursday, soon after news of Garoppolo’s deal broke: “It’s crazy in football. A lot of times it takes just one or two guys in the right spot. And when you get John Lynch as the GM, Kyle Shanahan as the head coach and Jimmy G as the quarterback, that’s what a franchise is looking for.”
The understudy to Tom Brady in New England until the 49ers traded for him last season got his record deal after playing just five games for San Francisco at the end of the 2017 season. The Niners went 5-0 in his starts.
Yes, $137.5 million from San Francisco after just five games.
But the 49ers didn’t pay Garappolo all that ridiculous coin because he was worth it. It’s because they could.
San Francisco entered this week with an NFL-high $113.9 million in space under the 2018 salary cap. For perspective, the Seahawks have $8.1 million in cap space, taking out $6 million they need to set aside for their rookie draft choices this spring. Seattle is currently scheduled to have eight selections April 26-28.
For sure, Seattle needs to create cap room. Veterans such as benched defensive back Jeremy Lane (at a cap savings of $4.75 million) are likely to be released in the coming weeks and months. The Seahawks may also think of shopping three-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. He has already said he wants a contract extension now not later--and would save the Seahawks $8.5 million in cap money if he’s traded in this the final year of his deal.
On Friday, Kam Chancellor’s $6.8 million in 2018 base salary (that’s a whole ‘nother story, of course), Wilson’s $4.9 million, $4.5 million of Doug Baldwin’s base pay and Justin Britt’s $7.7.5 million salary for this year become guaranteed. Seattle can reduce Britt’s cost to $2.75 million for 2018 by exercising when the league year begins March 14 its option year of 2020 on Britt’s contract the center extended last year. That’s would give Britt $5 million more, but create cap space for this year for the Seahawks.
The cap limit for each team in 2018 is expected to be $178-180 million for 2018. Thanks to league revenues from steadily climbing broadcast and streaming rights that seem impervious to our society’s and multimedia’s economic ebbs and flows, the NFL salary cap has increased each year since 2013 by $10 million, $10 million, $12 million, $12 million and $11 million.
At that annual rate of inflation--three to four times our nation’s--the league’s cap will be at least $200 million per team in 2020. That is also the year of the next negotiations between the league and its players’ union.
The cap limp should be well north of $200 million in the first year’s of Wilson’s next deal.
And Wilson should be well north of the windfall the far-less-accomplished Garoppolo got on Thursday in San Francisco.
Again, it’s often not the talent. It’s the timing.
And Wilson’s is going to be exquisite.