Seahawks Preview 2015: Quarterback

The only question surrounding the Seattle Seahawks quarterback group currently is when and/or if starter Russell Wilson will get his contract situation completed. It is important to note that Seahawks fans can rest easily as there is absolutely no chance that Wilson will not be manning Seattle’s offense for years to come. Whether he gets a contract signed before this season (and he is due to make $1.5 million this season), the fact remains that Wilson is under contract for 2015. If a contract does not get completed before 2016 – hint, it most definitely will – he will simply be franchise-tagged for that year (when he would make around $20 million). And the year after that, if needed (when Wilson would be due around $25 million). And so on, until the end of time. There has been a lot of speculation about what the delay is in Wilson signing a contract extension. Is it 1) he wants a higher dollar amount guaranteed than the Seahawks have offered so far?, or 2) he wants to start being paid with extension money this season instead of waiting until when the extension would truly begin in 2016, or 3) something else? The simple fact is we do not know what the Seahawks and Wilson and Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, are discussing and why there is a delay. We do know that there has been a deadline set for a contract to be signed by the beginning of training camp on July 31st. If no contract is signed by that date, no negotiations will take place on an extension until after the season. The risk of all this falls on Wilson. If he were to suffer an injury that affected his career in some terminal way, he would be out millions of dollars. The Seahawks, because of their ability to franchise Wilson, are under no obligations to hurry negotiations. This is the way the National Football League, for better or worse, works today. There is no doubt, though, that a contract will eventually be worked out, Wilson will make north of $20 million a season (but not all guaranteed) and all will be right in the world. The question is whether Wilson is worth closer to what he asks for in money versus what the Seahawks offer.

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Is Wilson one of the top five quarterbacks in the game, and, if so, will he be paid like one?

Let us take the initial part of that sentence first. Is Wilson one of the top five quarterbacks in the game? These are some facts from his first three years in the NFL:

  1. He is the first QB in NFL history with a passer rating of over 95.0 in each of his first three seasons.
  2. He is the first and only QB in the Super Bowl era to have average yards per attempt of 7.6 or better in each of his first three seasons.
  3. His career yards per passing attempt of 7.9 is fourth-best of all QB’s since 1951.
  4. He is ranked second in all-time career passer rating (min. 1200 attempts) with a 98.6.
  5. He is ranked second all-time with a career TD to INT ratio of 2.77 (min. 1200 attempts) behind Aaron Rodgers.
  6. He is ranked third all-time with a career interception rate of only 2.1%, behind only Rodgers and Tom Brady.
  7. And most importantly, he is the only quarterback to go to the Super Bowl in two of his first three years as a starter.

Wilson wins games. Of course, he has a best-ever quality defense and Marshawn Lynch at running back, but it is difficult to imagine anyone else playing today being as successful in the Seahawks system as Wilson has been. Also, one could argue that coming into the NFL and starting one’s first three years is still a relatively new phenomenon, but one must be extremely talented to do that. With Wilson it is not the amount of yards and touchdowns he passes for, but how efficient he is when he is asked to pass. There is no doubt he is much more than a game manager; he has shown he can win a game by himself offensively. For example, Wilson is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300+ yards and run for 100+ yards in the same game, which he did in a game against the St. Louis Rams last season. Another quality Wilson has that many others do not is his capacity for sacrificing individual stats for team goals. He has toed the company line. He sometimes could be mistaken for repeating verbatim Pete Carroll’s answers in interviews, except that Wilson has answered questions the same way since before joining Seattle. He is a good teammate. He takes ownership of negative plays, like his final pass in last season’s Super Bowl. Wilson is an absolutely perfect fit for Seattle. It could be stated he has just enjoyed the best first-three seasons on any quarterback in NFL history. Is he one of the best five quarterbacks in the League today? The facts above seem to answer “yes.”

But will he be paid like one? Simply, it may be too early to answer this question. Currently, the top six highest paid quarterbacks all make $20 million a season or more, and Andrew Luck has yet to sign a contract extension which most definitely will pay him well north of that number. The feeling is once Luck signs his contract, Wilson will end up being the fourth highest paid quarterback. When that contract gets signed, though, is anyone’s guess.

The Depth

Now that Tarvaris Jackson has re-signed for a one year deal with Seattle, he is cemented as the backup to Wilson. Jackson has been in Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell’s system since he began his career in Minnesota. Jackson is the ideal backup to Wilson. He is content to play behind Wilson, could teach the Seahawks system, and if forced into playing could do well enough to put Seattle in a position to win most games.

Beyond Jackson, the third stringer appears to be newcomer R.J. Archer. Archer is a four year Arena Football League who put up huge numbers in his first year as a starter for the Jacksonville Sharks. He is, however, a far cry from leading an NFL team and will need a lot of practice before leading the Seahawks onto the field.

NFL: Super Bowl XLVIII-Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks

All Seahawks fans should hope that Wilson, who takes a lot of punishment as he runs the ball quite a bit (for over 800 yards last season) and holds on to the ball longer than most quarterbacks due to the system he runs and (thus far) lack of truly big play receivers, stays healthy. The team may still be good enough to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot if Wilson gets hurt and Jackson comes in, but anything beyond second-string (just ask the Arizona Cardinals of 2014 if that possibility could come true) is a big problem. In 2015, though, Wilson should have his best year yet as he welcomes a new proven weapon in Tight End Jimmy Graham. A better Wilson could mean only one thing for Seattle: three Super Bowls in three years, and their second Super Bowl win. Is that worth any money the Seahawks could pay Wilson with a contract extension? Yes, absolutely. And wins are all that truly matter to the Seahawks fan base.