Russell Wilson describes why he wanted to stay in Seattle after signing record-setting Seahawks contract
To hear Russell Wilson tell it, his NFL-record $140 million contract, with a record $107 million guaranteed, is more than the four-year deal the Seahawks created and he signed just before midnight Monday night.
The winningest quarterback over the first seven years of a career in league history says he sees this third contract as his way to play for Seattle for at least another decade.
To be a Seahawk forever.
“I wanted to be in Seattle. It’s just because really from the beginning of my professional career, it started here. And my goal was to end it here,” Wilson, 30, said during a press conference at team headquarters Wednesday.
“My goal is to have a lasting impression on this city, to be able to make a lot of people’s lives (better), (for them) to cheer at the top of their lungs at football games and hopefully win a lot of Super Bowls. And I can’t do it without you two guys next to me.”
Wilson turned thankfully to his right, to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and to his left, and general manager John Schneider.
They drafted Wilson in the third round in 2012, when many others in the league said the 5-foot-10 Wilson was too small to make it big.
“Couldn’t do it without you guys believing in me,” Wilson said to Carroll and Schneider.
“Couldn’t do it without my teammates making the difference,” he said to Bobby Wagner, Duane Brown and others seated in the back of the Seahawks’ main auditorium. “And so I’m just grateful for this opportunity. When it came down to it, it was a no-brainer for me to want to be in Seattle.
“And I want to be a Seahawk for life.”
He’s contracted to the team through 2023, when he is 35 years old. That’s at $35 million per year.
Wilson said he gave these instructions to his agent, Mark Rodgers, as negotiations intensified Friday, ahead of the quarterback’s deadline of midnight Monday night to get a deal done.
“I told him what was most important was, I just turned 30 years old. I think the next 10 years of my life, the next deal was going to be the place where ‘Hey, if we’re going to be in Seattle, wherever it’s going to be, I want to make sure that’s where I’m going to be for the next 10-12 years hopefully,” Wilson said.
“That was kind of my mindset, from (age) 30 to 40. And then you reassess, you add on, and everything else... but the reality was for the next 10 years. That was kind of my mentality. I have experience an amazing seven (years) so far. It’s just the beginning.
“Like I said. Seattle is home for us. We do everything out of here. We get to work with some amazing people. We get to win a lot of football games. The fans, the 12’s in general. Everywhere we go and just the energy we get to share in CenturyLink (Field). It’s a special place. I wanted to be here, so that was our first priority: make sure we do everything we can to be in Seattle. Make sure it’s right, but also we do something where it takes us the distance.”
How far out is that distance?
Asked how much longer he envisions playing, Wilson went Tom Brady on his future as an NFL quarterback.
“I want to play until... my goal is to play 20 years,” Wilson, a veteran of seven in the NFL, said. “So that would be 43ish, around then.”
The 67-year-old Carroll smiled to Wilson’s left and said: “Me, too.”
Wilson was so Seattle he put on a way-throwback—as in, pre-1970s—jacket of the NBA SuperSonics for a family photo op with his wife Ciara and their young children.
Wilson and Schneider described how they ultimately got the deal done late Monday night.
“The funny thing is, I called Mark at like 11:15. I’m like, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to go to sleep. I got practice in the morning,” Wilson said, referring to the Seahawks’ first week of official offseason workouts.
“But,” Wilson told his agent, “if you call me, hopefully my phone is on loud enough to wake me.”
Let’s hear it for max volume on Wilson’s mobile.
“Anyways, I get a call around 11:50 and it’s Mark. He’s like, ‘Hey, we got a deal done.,’” Wilson said.
The breakthrough came after Rodgers and Wilson dropped their insistence on an unprecedented contract structure that would have set Wilson’s annual salary as an escalating percentage of Seattle’s future salary caps, instead of traditionally at a predetermined, exact figure.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider was asked how much the team considered setting that precedent — not just for future players such as All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, whose contract ends after this year — for the entire NFL.
How much did the Seahawks consider giving Wilson such a non-traditional escalator clause in his new deal?
“Great question. Appreciate it,” Schneider said. “But that’s not something that we are going to discuss. Today, we are celebrating Russ’ situation. I know there is a lot of discussion about that. And I would have asked the same question. But I’m not going to get into it. I hope you can appreciate that.”
The Seahawks’ concession in exchange for Wilson backing off the escalator clause? Accepting Wilson’s demand for a no-trade clause in the contract. If the Seahawks were going to commit to $140 million with $107 million guaranteed, Wilson and his agent wanted to make sure the team was going to pay him that money throughout the life of the deal.
On that, Schneider consulted with his vice president for football administration Matt Thomas. Then Schneider called Jody Allen, the team’s chair since her brother and Seahawks owner Paul Allen died in October.
Jody Allen approved including a no-trade clause, underlining what he become obvious post-Paul Allen that “she’s our boss,” as Schneider said. “She was super-involved. She was great.”
And the Seahawks reached their agreement with Wilson minutes before the midnight deadline.
“What it really came down to--we really talked about it: Mark, Pete, Matt, Jody, everybody--we talked about the idea of a no-trade clause, just because we really wanted to be here,” Wilson said. “That was the thing we were really excited about and that’s kind of what sealed the deal for us.
“I was really fired up about it. That’s how it all happened.”
Asked if the no-trade clause was a problem issue, Schneider said: “No.
“I mean, we wanted him to be here for life, right? So, it’s something that I needed to discuss with Jody and it’s something that’s part of the negotiation. There’s a lot of different components in negotiations, and that was just one of them.”
Wilson said he set his April 15 deadline to get the deal done so he could focus on the football part of his 2019. That began Monday with the start of conditioning and weight training with his teammates at Seahawks headquarters.
Wilson signed his second Seahawks contract in 2015, which was worth $87.6 million and ends after this year, on the first day of the team’s training camp in late July.
“The reality was, we were coming back to play football,” Wilson said of his April 15 deadline this time. “I have an obsession with football. I just want to play the game. I just want to be able to focus on that. I remember the first time, (with) the other contract, it was one of those things that took us all away to the summertime, right before training camp.”
Schneider said he and the Seahawks liked Wilson’s deadline.
“The April 15th deal for us was a good idea,” the GM said. “The last one, quite frankly, took too long and took a lot of energy away from what we’re supposed to be doing.
“We thought it was a good idea on their part and worked out for both sides because we had to know what was going on, be able to clear our minds and be right. Our guys are all upstairs right now. We’re in the middle of draft meetings, draft preparations (the draft begins April 25). We were doing that all weekend. Mark was here. He came Friday. We spent time with him there Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and we’re just jumping in and out of meetings.
“But yeah, I think the clarity part was the biggest deal for everybody.”
Just not as big as the deal Wilson just got to stay with Seattle.
For what he wants to be forever.