@ZackMooreNFL on Russell Wilson’s Contract

Man, no matter what deal the Seahawks gave Russell Wilson there would have been detractors, huh? Some people saying that Wilson is now the most overpaid player in sports, others saying that he didn’t get a record or market setting deal, so there’s something wrong with that for the fourth year pro with two Super Bowl appearances in his career.

I’m here to hopefully dispel all of that and just talk about the contract itself, through my analysis of it. If you want to see what I predicted back in early June, here’s the link, it could actually give you a solid base to get you thinking of how both sides may have been approaching the deal as some of what I discussed ended up in this contract.

When I first saw four-years at $21.9 million per year, I flinched just because of how monstrous that is with Aaron Rodgers averaging $22 million per year and the last year of looking at his 13.20% cap hit in 2014, which really could have been the difference between a Super Bowl or the reality of what happened. With all the research I do regarding cap hits, my own biases had me thinking of $22 million at like 13% of the cap and with my knowledge that Steve Young’s 13.08% is not only a record setter, but high above Eli Manning’s second highest Super Bowl cap hit in 2011, 11.75%.

Luckily for the Seahawks, there was so much time between when Aaron Rodgers signed that extension before the 2013 season of a $123 million cap and today that $21.9 million is much more manageable.


As a reminder, the projected salary cap comes from this article I wrote on Justin Houston a few weeks ago, but was improved the next week with cap projections through 2021. (I included both because if you want to have all the information for how I arrived at those theories and you have that kind of interest in the salary cap, check out the ideas and see what you think yourself and if you see any flaws in my thought process.)

One thing I’m including in Caponomics is my dislike of contracts that use the first year as a low cap hit, then inflate the next few years in a way that takes them out of where the market should be in later years of the contract. While Wilson’s only at 4.92% in year one, the cap is moving at a rate, where his contract is not out of the market set by Super Bowl champions in later years.


With Houston’s contract, he will be far outside of the market that was set by those at his position, but with this Wilson contract, he is right within the area that he should be in. It’s very cool to see when teams stick within the same assumptions that you’ve created in regard to the cap percentage because, as a fan of Wilson’s, I want to see him succeed and I believe this contract gives him a great chance at succeeding as well as maximizing his earning potential.

Wilson’s biggest goal with this negotiation should have been to make a deal that pays him as much as he can earn during the course of it, while giving his team the best probability of being the best they can be these next few seasons. As a quarterback, your incentive to win is huge because quarterbacks are so hugely judged on their success in the playoffs, whether that’s how teams should look at quarterbacks or not, the bias definitely exists, so quarterbacks must keep it in mind.

As it was reported, Wilson is making $21.9 million per year, but the cap hit only ends up being $17,858,974, which then translates into five years with manageable cap hits if my projections are correct. In terms of the projections, I explained why I arrived at them in those two articles I linked, but simply put, I believe they are solid projections off the historical data and, while they will not be perfect, I don’t think they’ll be off by much. If anything, I believe that the salary cap could grow at even higher rates because of the opportunities in technology for the NFL, but those estimates are solid enough and backed with the past data.

A lot of people are arguing over if Wilson is worth that much based largely on how he performs statistically and the role that he plays. Well, the Seahawks know that there is a high probability that they can make the playoffs every year with a player like Wilson at quarterback if they don’t overpay him past a certain percentage of the cap. The incentive for both sides should be to figure out that balance of paying Wilson as much as possible with a lot cap percentage, so that both of them can grow their wealth long-term. In August 2014, Forbes calculated “that the Seahawks’ value soared 23 percent to $1.33 billion after their first Super Bowl season,” and their brand value continues to increase as they have this mini-dynasty that they’re trying to turn into long-term dominance. For Wilson, I’ve already explained his incentive to be on a winning team as he could really get a massive contract in 2020 with a salary cap that should be around $205.5 million and the 2021 cap could be at $221 million.

Just as an exercise, let’s imagine that Wilson and the Seahawks win one Super Bowl in the next five years and they’re competitive in the way that the Patriots are every year and they’re contending for an NFC championship. Considering that Wilson will be 26 in September of this year and 31 in September of the first year of his 2020 contract, he could have three more contracts structured in this exact manner with the same exact cap percentages as they’re about the pinnacle of where the quarterback should be and here is what the result for Russell Wilson’s projected earnings through his 40-year old season, which is when Brady is signed through, so this career projection is very possible if Wilson stays healthy and keeps improving and playing at this rate.


Think about that, if Wilson keeps playing like this and just uses those cap percentages, he could make $401.5 million over the next 15 years. Keep in mind that those 4.92% seasons don’t need to exist at that level, they could be a little higher in future years, which then could decrease some of the other figures or allow them to just pay him more money.

I personally believe that Tom Brady has set the top of where the quarterback market should be with his 11.13% of the cap in their 2014 Super Bowl season. Steve Young was on a team that used the uncapped 1993 season to re-sign 17 veterans in December of that year to avoid the 1994 salary cap, so his 13.08% cap hit should be taken with a grain of salt. We have reasons to be skeptical of Eli Manning’s 2011 cap hit as well as the 2011 Giants were, arguably, the worst team statistically to ever win a Super Bowl according to Kerry J. Byrne’s interesting take at Cold Hard Football Facts.

If you want to see the affect that cap percentages have had on the careers of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, you might find this an interesting read.

So taking that 11.00% of the cap area, let’s look at what Wilson’s earnings would be if they just signed him for 11.00% of the cap from 2020 through the end of his career.


While he could potentially get in the neighborhood of 12-13% of the cap in these later years especially, I would highly recommend to both sides that they simply take the same approach that they took with this contract and make it have the same percentages of the contract be in a signing bonus and guaranteed.

I don’t want to get into the 11% of the cap contracts, so let’s just analyze what the current contract would look like if it were signed with the same percentages in 2020. This includes the same signing bonus and guarantees. To get that, we need to see the percentage of the cap hit that the signing bonus and base salary are because that’s what results in his cap hit and his contract figure.


Okay, so the Signing Bonus divided by Cap Number plus the Base Salary divided by Cap Number should result in 100% when you add them together. Then we take these estimates and we make them for a five-year contract in 2020 and here’s the result.


That means that it will be a contract worth about $128 million total over five-years, so $25.6 million per year with a $44.7 million signing bonus and about $80-85 million in guaranteed money. As we see from the other projection, this helps Wilson get to that end goal of around $400 million in career earnings through his 40-year old season.

It’s worth noting that Wilson also should want to stick with Carroll and stick with a system that’s working very, very well for him. In the current chapter I’m writing for Caponomics, I discuss the system that Carroll created at USC and has implemented in Seattle. Carroll’s goal with the system he created at USC was to come back to the NFL with an old school style of play and show teams that it still could be done this way.

The things Carroll learned in four combined seasons with the Jets and Patriots, during which he went 33-31, set him up for the perennial contender he has in Seattle. As John Clayton wrote in this piece right after the Seahawks beat down on the Broncos, “Pete Carroll went to USC to prove to himself that old-school football could work. To Carroll, that meant rugged defense and running the football, a mindset that he then imported to his next NFL stop with the Seattle Seahawks.” Interestingly, Carroll had to go back to college to perfect a system that was all about old-school football, a run-first, defensive mentality. In my research, it seems that once the league begins to make a philosophical shift, everything else from before can become forgotten. As Clayton writes, the team that the 2013 Seahawks most mirrors is the 1985 Bears, before the Seahawks, the Bears were “the last NFL defense to lead the league in fewest yards and fewest points allowed, as well as most takeaways.” In that Super Bowl game, they shut the Broncos out for three quarters and won the turnover battle by forcing four and giving up zero.

The 2013 Seahawks and 1985 Bears were built in a very similar way as perfected Run-First/Defensive modeled rosters. The Bears were first in rushing attempts (610), yards (2761) and touchdowns (27), while they were fifth in yards per carry (4.5). The Seahawks were second in attempts (509), fourth in yards (2188), but 12th in yards per carry, although only 0.2 yards per carry below that Bears team. Something that I’m toying with as a concept is whether or not Run-First/Defensive modeled teams need a mobile quarterback to succeed and, interestingly, both teams had one as Jim McMahon had 252 yards at 5.4 yards per carry with three rushing touchdowns and Russell Wilson is not only one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the NFL today, but could be one of the best ever. In 2013, Wilson had 539 rushing yards at 5.6 per carry, then in 2014, he had an astounding 829 yards at 7.2 per carry, which led the NFL. That aspect of Wilson’s game is a real x-factor that could be impactful for at least a decade as his ability to baseball slide from years playing the game at a high level, could keep him healthy enough to do so.

Both teams controlled the game through a great running game and then had a shutdown pass defense to make sure the opponent couldn’t engage them in a shootout. The Bears were third with 2816 passing yards allowed, only 176 per game, while the Seahawks were first, allowing only 2752 yards over 16 games, so 172 yards per game. The combination of a powerful running game and a great pass defense results in games where you dictate the pace and helps the defense keep the scoring down. Both teams were first in scoring and yardage defense and I think that’s in large part due to that combination of solid rushing offense and great pass defense. The Bears only gave up 12.4 points per game compared to 14.4 for the Seahawks.

Like the Bears of 1985, the Seahawks were near the bottom of the league in passing yards with the Bears 20th and Seahawks 26th. The most important factor was the Bears were sixth with only 16 interceptions thrown, while the Seahawks were third with only nine picks thrown. Doubly important, both teams were #1 in defensive interceptions as the Bears had 34 and the Seahawks had 28. That brings us into one of Carroll’s main philosophies and something that I’ve found a direct correlation to championship football teams: creating turnovers and protecting the football, turnover ratio.

Both the 1985 Bears and 2013 Seahawks were fourth in turnovers and first in takeaways. The Bears had 54 takeaways and 31 turnovers, resulting in a turnover ratio of +23, while the Seahawks had 39 takeaways and 19 turnovers, which means a +20 turnover ratio. Very solid numbers that mean they had at least one more turnover forced per game than their opponents, which is always a huge shift because of the addition and subtraction of a scoring opportunity for each team in the sense of a possession. I go over this concept in depth in this Moneyball vs. Caponomics piece.

Here are the playoff turnover ratios for the Super Bowl champions of the cap era:


Clayton writes that Carroll meets with Russell Wilson on Mondays and is constantly reminding him the value of protecting the football saying, “turnover ratio is the path to victory in the NFL.” This isn’t just a saying, as you can see, it’s clearly backed up with data as the margin for error in the NFL, and especially in the playoffs, is so small that a turnover for either side could make all the difference in the world.

Wilson’s larger cap figures will make it a little bit harder for the Seahawks to build a powerful running game and great defense in the future, but it won’t be an insurmountable task like it would be at 13-15% of the cap. Wilson could have probably gotten a contract that paid him 13-15% of the cap in some years on the open market, but I think that the deal he signed with Seattle fully maximizes his earnings, while allowing his team the best chance at success, which, again, gives him the best chance at long-term financial success.

Carroll proved at USC that his system has an ability to raise the level of performance at the quarterback position through surrounding his quarterbacks with elite talent, especially an elite running game. That 2005 team that lost to Texas at the Rose Bowl had Reggie Bush and Lendale White combing for 397 rushes for 3042 yards (7.7 ypc) and 40 touchdowns on the ground. This and their great defense helped Matt Leinart win a Heisman and look like a first round draft pick. I think that his experience at USC affects the way that Carroll looks at quarterback, which is why I think they took so much time negotiating down to as manageable a cap figure as possible, while allowing Wilson to earn what he’s worth financially.

Something that’s been a very interesting discovery this last month for me is how the spread offense is all about spreading the defense in every direction, which is why the great spreads today have a good run/pass balance in terms of yardage, not play calls. This is something that Carroll did at USC, but through an old school system, while Chip Kelly is attempting to do it through the spread. In 2005, USC had 260 rushing yards per game on 40 carries and 320 passing yards per game on 37 passes, that’s a very solid split and something that you’ll find in Kelly’s Oregon teams as well as schools like Baylor who run the spread well. If you want to see what Kelly’s trying to create, but also the perils of running a pass-heavy spread with no running game, check out the 2008 game between Oklahoma and Texas Tech box score. It’s just a perfect illustration of how balance and being good at both helps a team be more efficient. This balance aspect of the Seahawks offense is a huge part of Wilson’s success and a key factor in why he made the right decision to stay in Seattle for this contract.

Here are the Seahawks per game stats in terms of the rush/pass balance with attempts and yards per game. As you can see, they only got better and more efficient in 2014, they even ran three more plays per game.


This is very similar to how Jim Harbaugh helped turn around the 49ers with Alex Smith as he stopped trying to make Smith the quarterback who had to throw the ball to win and instead adjusted to take advantage of their running game and defense, while having Smith, and now Kaepernick, be able to throw as a complement to the running game, rather than throw it 40 times per game, which is not who Smith, Kaepernick or Wilson are as players. And guess what? That’s okay. The NFL has become so QB Obsessed that we think a QB needs to throw the ball 40 times per game to be an “elite” quarterback. For what Wilson is asked to do, he is elite, he does it about as well as you can do it, hence why they’ve been in two Super Bowls the last two years. Worth mentioning that the Seahawks were 31st and 32nd in passing attempts in both seasons, while they were second in rushing attempts both years.

The construction of the system also takes advantage of the current positional hierarchy as Jason went over in this article. For the Seahawks because of how they’re constructed and what’s important to them, some very low-cost positions are on the list of what’s most important for them. Without getting too deep into it, this is a very important factor when it comes to saving money on the cap. If running back is your most important position and the top of the market was 9.27% for Adrian Peterson, then that’s quite a bit lower than what the highest paid receiver, Mike Wallace, made at 12.97% of the cap. When it comes to the averages for the highest paid player at these positions on each team, the average RB1 made 3.17% and the WR1 made 5.45%, these are market differences that the Seahawks can take advantage of. They established with their 2013 Super Bowl win and the 2014 season that they didn’t need elite receivers to compete, so they got rid of Percy Harvin and actually used the about $6.5 million that they saved when John Idzik allowed them to dump off Percy Harvin. In 2013, Sidney Rice took up 7.89% of the cap, which is an absurd figure for him as the only Super Bowl winning receiver who made more was Jerry Rice at 8.56%, but this taught them that they didn’t need top receivers to win with this system and that’s something they’ll continue to take advantage of through their scouting. In the 2014, they drafted Paul Richardson out of Colorado who is about as similar to Harvin physically as a player in the draft could be, while 2015 pick, Tyler Lockett reminds me a bit of Doug Baldwin and could take over that spot when they decide that Baldwin’s either too expensive or that Lockett is a better option at a lower cost. Remember, they don’t need that much production out of these receivers, so this is a huge cost savings for them to not overspend and then to still get solid talent for what they need.

This is similar to the success they’ve had identifying defensive backs, which has helped them save money there. Their scouting of pass catchers and pass defenders has really helped them save money at cornerback and wide receiver in the past and will continue to moving forward. The Seahawks just have less room to make salary cap mistakes than they did in the past, but that’s something that they learned through overpaying Zach Miller, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, which will influence their future construction of this roster. Jimmy Graham has a manageable cap hit moving forward, which is largely due to the tight end market being lower than the receiver market, another way the Seahawks used the markets and their needs to save cap space, while still getting the performance they need. Also, Graham was the 15th ranked run blocker in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus with a 3.1 rating, which wasn’t too much lower than Travis Kelce’s leading 6.8 rating. This may be why teams with great tight ends seem to be at a huge advantage in recent years, like the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski because you’re getting an elite talent that is more of a match-up nightmare for the defense than a receiver, but who will cost you less of the cap.


For Wilson, it’s critical to stay in this system, so that he can continue to improve and make more money in the long-term. Even if this were free agency and he were to get a deal worth $10-20 million more with another team, would it be worth it? With the cap increasing, would he lose more money in the long-term by playing on a team for five-years that wasn’t as good as these Seahawks teams could be?

These are the interesting, but tough questions that agents and players have to ask themselves. Where are you best suited to make the most money long-term? In Seattle, Wilson will continue to grow into a quarterback of a great team who has the pieces around him to win football games.

Overall, the Seahawks did a great job with this deal and are going to at least be a contender through that 2019 season. Remember, there are a million different ways to win a football game and having Russell Wilson as your quarterback in the Seahawks offense with enough money to spend on defense and a running game, is a damn good way to do it.

As always, if you want to join the e-mail list for Caponomics, e-mail me at Caponomics@gmail.com to get a chapter on the 2000 Ravens and be alerted to when the book will be made available.


  • McGeorge

    I don’t think 11.5% is a realistic cap percentage for QBs.
    The game has changed over the last 15 years and it’s much more of a passing game. The plays are more complex and it’s getting harder and harder to find Tier 2 QBs, let alone Tier 1 QBs.
    Look how many teams have bad QBs. Asfor teams with Tier 2 QBs , how happy are the Bengals with Dalton or the Bears with Cutler?
    There are no low priced mediocre alternatives like Kyle Orton for 8MM.
    You have to drop to scrub level.

    If a team wont pay more than 11.5% of the cap for a decent Tier 2 QB, plenty of others will – because the alternative is they have to start a scrub like Mike Glennon, EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, McCown, etc. Those guys will add a few losses to a .500 team.

    • I’m not saying that 11.5% should be the top tier, I’m saying that quarterbacks are going to have to decide to fit into that area if they want the highest probability of winning a Super Bowl. I know that the percent of the cap that they’re paid may continue to grow, but 11.5% is a really ideal spot for a player to be in. Look at Brady last year at 11.13% and him this year under 10%, the Patriots give themselves the highest probability at winning the Super Bowl every year through their cap and that’s why they’re in the AFC Championship every year.

      • I’m also saying that teams should do what they can to give the player enough in guarantees to get the cap percentages around 11% or so.

      • G.Noid

        An ideal spot? An ideal spot is paying Aaron Rodgers a million a year. That’s not going to happen but while the Seahawks were paying Wilson 3rd rookie money they were as close to that as we’ve seen. The Seahawks were a juggernaut that could even afford to eat an egregious deal for Harvin that would sink many teams who didn’t have the luxury of a franchise qb who made less than most teams backup.

        Seattle remains an exceptionally strong team but the singular advantage they had in terms of salary will vanish next year. The most recent article posted here lays out their strategy moving forward very effectively I think. It’s the stars and scrubs model. With the talent they have they promise to be formidable. But whereas they were paying a number of the leagues top talent a fraction of their true value they now face the prospect of dealing with paying these guys basically what they’re worth.

        That amplifies the difficulty of assembling a winning team as the margin of error is gone. It also means that injuries will be more damaging. They can still win with these guys and the NFL is so high variance that predictions of wins/losses/championships are foolish. Paying Brady less than Green Bay pays Rodgers gives New England a competitive advantage. Seattle has been the biggest beneficiary of that type of advantage. Now that’s gone.

        • Paying Aaron Rodgers one million a year isn’t an “ideal spot for a player to be in” like I said because it means he’s getting far, far below his worth. The whole point of the 11-11.5% of the cap is that the player will still make tens of millions per year, but he will have a higher likelihood of being on a winning Super Bowl caliber team each year because of the value saved by not having to pay him 13-15% of the cap like some elite level quarterbacks.

          “They can still win with these guys and the NFL is so high variance that predictions of wins/losses/championships are foolish.”

          Listen man, you really gotta stop mischaracterizing my articles with your feelings on them because at no point have I ever said that I’m predicting things. I’m creating theories that I think can help a team increase their probability of winning a Super Bowl.

          • G.Noid

            Ideal for who? It’s ideal for a team to get elite talent at bargain prices. Is it ideal for the player? Of course not, but what are we talking about here?

          • And “ideal spot for a player to be in” is one where he’s making a ton of money on the field, winning so he’s a huge brand like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady and making income well into his post-NFL career because of that kind of brand he’s built through being on great teams.

          • And that 10%+ range, but below 13% really gives them a decent chunk of money, load it with guarantees, so he definitely gets the money and then make more money long term off the field and in future contracts through performing well.

          • G.Noid

            okay. I see this point. Its an interesting 1 to be sure but it also raises questions for me as well. For instance, not all players have equal access to the building of a brand. It’s a complex issue that combines market, fame, personal appearance/style, personality, etc. Beyond that a player has to make their own decisions in terms of how big they want their celebrity to be vs issues of privacy.

            RG3 burst onto the scene as a promotional power house. Andrew Luck has been (until recently) an almost non entity in that world. Neither player has as much as sniffed a super bowl appearance. I don’t have the numbers on what they’ve earned but I’d be surprised if RG3 hadn’t made substantially more. Most players are not nearly as famous coming out of college. Now Luck is on the cusp of signing what I expect to be a record breaking contract on the basis of his football playing ability while RG3 is entering a make or break season which could catapult him towards a hearty extension or see him relegated to back up status.

            Peyton v Brady is interesting as a case study as well. As football players they’re peers but in terms of pitch men Peyton towers over Brady despite Brady having a substantial edge in terms of team success. Is this due to Brady accepting very team friendly contracts? Possibly. Maybe even probably. But there’s more to the story. Peyton has definitely cultivated a much bigger commercial brand. Why does he also push the limits on his contracts on top of that? He clearly doesn’t need the money. On the other hand Brady is married to a super model and their combined income is reportedly larger than Peyton’s. Does that make a difference? We’re talking about mega millionaires who will continue to have huge endorsement opportunities after they retire. So does Peyton care less about winning than Tom?

            Russell is on a Brady-like career arc and his endorsements opportunities are beginning to blossom. 1 could argue (I think you are making this argument) that if he wanted to maximize those opportunities he should have accepted a sub-market value contract in order to give Seattle the best opportunity to win, thus expanding Wilson’s fame. In comparison Cam signed a contract that by some metrics exceeds Wilson’s- but that’s not apples to apples.

            Cam, as a 1st overall pick, had a bigger salary going into the extension. Seattle was able to push some of Wilson’s extension into the so called “year 0” so that the 4 year average (’16-’19) is 20.55. Wilson, by my estimation, is a vastly superior qb to Cam.

            I could go on and on… its complicated.

          • “Forty QBs made more than Wilson in 2014 in playing salary, according to Spotrac, but few can match Wilson off the field. He is the first NFL player to collect more than $3 million in a year from the NFL Players Association’s group licensing program where players earn income via the use of their names, numbers, likenesses and images. ”

            That’s not including vast other off the field endorsements like deals with Nike, Alaska Airlines, Bose, Braun, Duracell, Microsoft and more. That’s how players winning increases their brand value through winning.

          • G.Noid

            Interestingly, Cam is a promotional power house as well. Would it behoove him to accept less in salary to enhance Carolina’s roster? He pretty clearly didn’t do that if you ask me. But Cam’s fame/brand are strong despite his relative lack of success on the field and furthermore, he plays in a relatively small market.

            (I think this goes towards initial fame- Cam was a college super star and 1st overall pick thus he started with a big leg up over Wilson and others. He also has the smile, looks, etc that work well on TV.)

          • It also takes more money to increase over what Cam expects as a natural raise, since he was a first round pick.

          • G.Noid

            yep. Hence me saying that its not apples to apples to simply compare cap hits. That being said, its the cap hits which matter to the GM when he tries to extend his players or sign guys in free agency.

            In terms of cap hits Sea was able to push Wilson’s “year 0” (aka this year) up to 7 M and thus reduce his per year cap hit ’16-’19’ down to 20.6 M. Comparatively, Cam is 13 M against this year which actually represents a 1.6 M decline in comparison to what his previous contract gave him in 2015. That cap relief against 2015 is made up in future years. Hence despite the per year value of Cam’s deal being less than RW’s his average cap hit from ’16-’19 is higher: 21.1 M. Advantage: Seattle.

            But then look at the other young qbs who are getting locked down. Assuming Colin Kaepernick doesn’t get cut or hit his escalator (SF makes the superbowl or he’s an all pro) his cap hits from ’16-’19 average 18.8 M. To my eye Kaepernick is every bit Newton’s equal but not on Wilson’s level. SF gets ~2 M per year more than Sea and Car to use in free agency/extension of their guys. For Andy Dalton the number is 15.3 M (5-6 M advantage). Ryan Tannehill comes in close to Kaepernick at 18.2 M (2-3 M).

            The book isn’t written on any of these players and Luck is likely to re-set the market. But to me it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes down. You don’t commit this amount of money to a player if you don’t think you’ll be making the playoffs with them. The Seahawks are the strongest team and so Wilson doesn’t have to do as much as his peers in order for SEA to succeed. But for CIN, SF, and MIA they have more money to spend. CAR effectively has less.

          • I;ve never said it was aples to apples or claimed to think it was. Just spitballing on Wilson’s deal here and comparing it to others because I have to compare it to others to give it context.

          • G.Noid

            I think its these comparisons that are most meaningful. The cap will rise over the coming years but (assuming these numbers aren’t renegotiated) all of these teams locking down their young guys will have to live with these deals. Wilson may be second only to Luck in ability and yet Indianapolis looks to be on the hook for much more money. On the flip side if Dalton could take a big step CIN would be at a competitive advantage compared to all these teams.

          • I mean yeah, that’s essentially what I’m saying with this article and with all of the articles that are attached to this article. I can’t state every single side to every single issue that someone might have with how I communicate the idea, so I make the comparisons to show what players are getting paid and then the question of value is included in that as well without even saying.

          • “”Peyton v Brady is interesting as a case study as well. As football players they’re peers but in terms of pitch men Peyton towers over Brady despite Brady having a substantial edge in terms of team success. Is this due to Brady accepting very team friendly contracts? Possibly. Maybe even probably. But there’s more to the story. Peyton has definitely cultivated a much bigger commercial brand. Why does he also push the limits on his contracts on top of that? He clearly doesn’t need the money. On the other hand Brady is married to a super model and their combined income is reportedly larger than Peyton’s. Does that make a difference? We’re talking about mega millionaires who will continue to have huge endorsement opportunities after they retire. So does Peyton care less about winning than Tom?

            Russell is on a Brady-like career arc and his endorsements opportunities are beginning to blossom. 1 could argue (I think you are making this argument) that if he wanted to maximize those opportunities he should have accepted a sub-market value contract in order to give Seattle the best opportunity to win, thus expanding Wilson’s fame. In comparison Cam signed a contract that by some metrics exceeds Wilson’s- but that’s not apples to apples.”

            This is essentially what I’ve said quite a few times on the site in different variations, including in this article, so generally, yes.

          • G.Noid

            Looking at your data above, a healthy majority of Super Bowl winning teams were paying their qb less than 10% of the cap. With the current cba that’s only feasible if you are starting a player on his rookie contract or if you have acquired a player that the free agent market valued as sub-starter material.

          • Which is why I increased it above 10% to get with the market right now.

          • Still a sizable amount of money, but not so low that you’re losing out on $10 million.

      • McGeorge

        I don’t think Brady is a fair sample point because of the income from his wife. He’s an outlier.

        I think the new QB “fair value” for Tier 1 QBs will be closer to 15%.
        If a team doesn’t want to pay that, there will be others who will gladly do so.

        I think 11.5% undervalues the new importance of QBs in this perdominantly passing era.

        • What’s that based off of? The highest paid SB QBs were 13.08%, 11.75%, and 11.13% of the cap and there will always be young quarterbacks doing very well on their rookie deals who will be able to edge out guys who are paid over that 13% area because those teams end up having huge holes.

          • McGeorge

            Brady is not a fair example because he has the luxury of taking far less than he’s worth.
            The game has changed in 20 years, it’s more of a passing game and less of a running game, so the QB position is worth more.
            Russel Wilson was on his rookie contract so clearly that wont fit the recommended cap percent.

            There is no possibility that a good QB (Tier 1) will take 13% of the cap (less than 20MM /year).

          • That’s the whole point though, Brady has in a sense showed us where the market should really be through his success over his career. He’s been earning far less than Manning his entire career and reaping the rewards of it with deeper playoff runs year after year. We can all agree that Brady and Manning are two of the best of all time, I think that Brady’s cap hits over the year has been one of the biggest x-factors for their success, if not the biggest depending how you look at it.

            No one’s denying the QB is worth more now than ever, but Steve Young’s 13.08% cap hit was also influenced by it being the first year of the cap and the 49ers re-signing 17 veterans in December 1993 to avoid the cap hits and it’s still the only championship QB over 11.75%. That 11.75% was Eli Manning’s in 2011 and by many metrics, the 2011 Giants were the worst statistical champion in NFL history, so they just barely snuck past that 11.75% that left them with holes elsewhere. Their Nicks, Cruz, Manningham trio only cost them like 3-4% of the cap, so that was a life saver for the team.

            Other than that, the next highest QB cap hits were Brady 11.13% in 2014, Peyton’s 10.36% in 2006 (with a really bad defense) Bledsoe’s 10.29% in 2001, then Brett Favre’s 10.25% in 1996. The Patriots were always helped immensely by a starting OL that cost less than 5% of the cap one year, along with cost savings at RB, TE and sometimes WR. With Bledsoe out in 2001, the Patriots starting offense cost less than 12% of the salary cap, which is about 12% lower than any other champion not named the Patriots. Brady at a manageable cap hit is what makes this all possible because they need to have a good defense to give them a chance to win every year like they do.

            As I write in this article, if Wilson makes 11% of the cap for the rest of his career after this contract, he makes over $400 million and that’s without signing bonuses included. That is about what Brady and Gisele are worth together, so every quarterback is going to have to start making these kinds of decisions because the salary cap will be in a place where 10% of the cap could be $20 million a year and the real off the field earnings can be through winning Super Bowls and building off the field income that will last after your career. With the growth of the NFL, Super Bowl champions like Peyton Manning and Brady will be making plenty of money in whatever they do and that’s in large part because of their Super Bowls and success. Phillip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Tony Romo are three of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now, but if they never win a Super Bowl, they aren’t going to get the kind of off the field opportunities that Brady will get. Wilson’s off the field earnings with $3 million just through NFLPA licensing shows that off the field opportunities are influenced heavily by Super Bowls.

            Just think of how Brady is thought of in New England and the steady stream of income that he’ll have for life in whatever he chooses as the Patriots faithful will always support him. Now, Tony Romo will be 10.45% of the cap in 2015, which is great, but he’s projected to be at 13.53% in 2016. With Jeremy Mincey already complaining about his lack of an extension and all the other problems that will arise between now and the 2016 offseason, how far could an extra 2-3% of the cap available to the Cowboys be? Now, his current salary of $20,835,000 is 13.53% of the projected 2016 cap, but a lower salary like $16,215,000 would be only 10.53% of the cap.

            Romo has made more than $100 million over his career, so if he had taken that contract with lower cap hits it’d be a lot like the way the Seahawks structured this Wilson contract. We just saw with the amount of money that the Seahawks gave Wilson in the signing bonus and the guarantees that teams are even starting to re-examine how they pay the quarterback. The data and the trends are showing that it’s going to move down. Even Manning lowered his cap hit and, while it might be in large part because of Gisele, Brady still heavily influenced the QB market and that influence will stick around past his retirement.

  • G.Noid

    I doubt the owners will allow the cap to grow as quickly as you would like. Using your previous ranges this contract is substantially more onerous. That’s the price of success. Obviously Seattle benefits from getting this done now when they had some leverage as few players want to accept the risk of playing without future guarantees. However a quality qb is still a scarce resource in the NFL and thus you see marginal players (like cutler) receiving huge deals.

    A better question than how these numbers compare to an optimistic cap growth projection is how this compares to Wilson’s peers. That would give you an idea of how Sea will be able to compete in free agency with their competitors as all teams have to deal with the same cap whatever that number is. In comparison to Wilson’s peers he’s towards the top of the market but he didn’t reset the market. Cam Newton’s cap hits are higher but Sea took advantage of Russel’s low 2015 number to move a bit of money forward. Honestly cam’s deal is pretty bad at least by my estimation of his ability.

    On the other hand unless Kaepernick hits his escalators SF is going to have a 2M dollar or more advantage for the next several seasons. At this point that’s completely justified but it’s nothing to scoff at. When Luck’s money comes I expect this deal will pale in comparison

    • McGeorge

      How can the owners control the cap number?
      Its terms are set my the CBA and some accounting.
      Unless the owners illegally adjust the numbers, how can they unilaterally change the terms of the CBA?

      Luck is going to be paid the GNP of a small country.

      • G.Noid

        The cap is pegged to revenue as per the 2011 cba. But the owners hold the books so it would be naive to suppose that they don’t manipulate the numbers. It’s to their advantage to hold the cap down as much as they can get away with…. And if there’s one thing we know about the NFL it’s that the owners get away with a lot. The nflpa is the weakest union in pro sports.

        The author of this post has written a number of articles on this topic and his most recent blogs are the most optimistic (from a player perspective) I’ve ever seen. The cap will grow, but go back a few months in zack’s posts and you’ll find significantly less projected growth.

        • McGeorge

          Are the owners allowed to manipulate the numbers?
          If that’s the case, why can’t the owners collude and say the cap remains flat for 5 years, then raise it a bit near the end.

          The CBA gives the players get 49% of the cap. How can that be subject to manipulation without breaking the CBA?

          I’m not trying to guess cap growth, just that it seems unlikely the owners can manipulate the cap so easily or else they would have already done so, with the cap having gone up so much recently. Maybe they can delay some revenue from one year to the next, but to flat out hide revenue long term? I’d think that breaks the CBA and would be grounds for a lawsuit.

        • I just used around 108% or so, which is the cap rate of increase from 1994 through 2015. So you’re saying that they’re going to cook the books now to go below what I projected? There’s nothing conspiratorial here, not sure why the owners would cook the books enough to make any real difference on the cap.

          Also, “the cap will grow, but go back a few months in zack’s posts and you’ll find significantly less projected growth.” Because I just created the metric for it and just even wrote the link for it on this article.


          • G.Noid

            Several issues here. Is 8% growth per year realistic? The cap hasn’t grown at a steady rate at any point since it was instituted. It’s growing now and it will continue to grow but I find your steady projection to be a poor reflection of the historic trend.

            Secondly I find it hilarious that you’re incredulous towards the suggestion that the NFL might not be entirely forthright with their accounting. Do you not remember the discussion during the lock out of 2011? During those negotiations the owners had the hutzpah to suggest that the league was losing money. If it was as simple as you are suggesting there would be no intrigue around what the salary cap number will be.

            Why is your new metric to be taken as gospel? I think it’s an interesting take but it’s a theory that hasn’t even passed through a single year to test it’s accuracy let alone 4-5 years. In the other article projecting hypothetical Wilson contracts you offered a range of different cap projections each of which was more gradual than your new model. Your new guess might prove correct but honestly I don’t understand where your confidence is coming from.

          • Did you even read the article I just sent you? I just sent you a complete explanation of the cap projections.

            “Secondly I find it hilarious that you’re incredulous towards the suggestion that the NFL might not be entirely forthright with their accounting.” Do you seriously expect me to get into the NFL’s accounting and them cooking the books on a serious football website?

            When did I ever say that anything that I’ve ever written on Over The Cap should be taken as gospel? You said, “The cap will grow, but go back a few months in zack’s posts and you’ll find significantly less projected growth.” So I responded with the link to why I projected less growth…

            Like you’re just saying a bunch of words that aren’t in regard to anything I’ve even written or challenging, but rather telling me how you feel about what I wrote essentially. Like if you don’t think 8% is feasible, then please tell me what you think it will be? If you think my theory is wrong, then you make a theory. Please have direct questions or ideas that we can use to further the conversation rather than having a series of kind of abrasive comments.

          • G.Noid

            I read the article. I think it’s interesting but looking at your data I don’t come to the same conclusions you do. Between 94 and 15 the cap has had years where it grew a lot and years it grew not at all. Just taking an average and assuming that from here on we’ll steadily follow that path is highly dubious IMHO.

            My feeling is that cap growth will continue and I appreciate the work you did digging up and presenting the historical data. However, I can’t accept your conclusions with any degree of confidence. In my opinion a more accurate projection allows for a healthy amount of uncertainty.

            Finally serious football websites (like grantlands’s NFL coverage for instance) acknowledge that the league isn’t a paragon of morality. What I’m insinuating isn’t nearly as nefarious as what’s in the public record involving player safety, domestic violence, etc. What I’m talking about is common business practice. Accounting for multi billion dollar industries isn’t a simple straightforward application of addition and subtraction. Furthermore there are perfectly legal ways to control your numbers. It’s not controversial to say that the owners would like to reduce the growth of the cap, while the nflpa would like it to grow faster. In my estimation the owners have done a better job of achieving their goals than the union.

          • Well tell me why it won’t grow at that pace then? That’s why I like McGeorge, he tells me why he thinks I’m wrong and then gives me some solid reasoning, which makes my writing better.

            In terms of the morality, the player safety is the only real issue I see. The domestic violence stuff is overblown and Goodell stupidly just stuck with a 2 game suspension w/Rice. The public went crazy when they saw the Ray Rice video, but what did people think happened in the elevator? I highly doubt any significant cooking of the books enough to deviate from the norm. And if they do, then my figures should be proof that they’re messing around because they’ve grown at 108% since 1994.

          • G.Noid

            I don’t think I have any concrete idea but I do have an appreciation for the substantial variations from year to year. You’re research is one of the best resources I’ve seen. In 98 and 06 the cap grew 26% and 19%. The CBA of 2011 reset the cap lower by 3 M and it was relatively flat in 2012 and 2013. 2014 and 2015 we’re coasting along near your predicted rate. The current CBA runs through 2020 and I don’t think they’ll be a substantial shake up like we saw in 2011. However, during the years of relative calm before the lock out there were substantial variations in cap growth (Again, as I keep saying the cap will continue to grow; what we’re debating is the rate).

            I think anything from 5% to 10% is a reasonable range and a good projection will allow for a range of results.

            This isn’t the forum to debate the morality of the NFL. What I’m saying is that its naive to ignore the fact that the league is a self interested group that will attempt to game the system to their favor in so far as they can get away with it.

            For instance, consider that the league is a not for profit organization. There’s nothing illegal about that but it prevents them from having to pay taxes at the cost of requiring them to have a modicum of financial transparency. I’ve read that they’re considering abandoning their not for profit status in order to effectively “close” their books. All this is perfectly legal but it gives you a glimpse into the machinations that this organization uses.

            Nobody should conclude that they’re attempting to defraud the players but whenever you’re projecting what will happen in this organization I think it makes sense to ask yourself what would be in the best interest of the owners. Stifling cap growth is in their interest. Getting caught breaking the CBA is obviously detrimental. There’s a give and take here.

  • Michael Terry

    Wilson doesn’t need to be protected by a strong running game and great defense. A strong running game and great defense would be better for any QB. Fact is, Wilson’s passing game has been hampered by an atrocious pass blocking offensive line and weak receivers, and he’s still showed out.

    Moreover, Wilson’s legs MAKE that running game. Aside from his own yards, he opens it up for the rest of the backs. Chris Johnson only ran for 2000 yards when VY was there, Denver took over the league lead in rushing as soon as Tebow started, and Atlanta was head and shoulders above every other team in rushing DVOA when Vick was there.

    Wilson’s talent travels well. He’s the NCAA major college record holder in passer rating. He’d be successful anywhere. Seattle isn’t the first team to let their QB use his feet, by the way.

    • I didn’t say that he couldn’t succeed anywhere else, I was just explaining the contract from my perspective and I am a huge Russell Wilson fan.