No, he hasn’t signed yet.
Days before the Seahawks report for training camp and the start of daily work for the 2015 season, the agent for quarterback Russell Wilson remains in negotiations with the only NFL team the quarterback’s ever known on an extension.
The sticking point is the same one it’s been since these talks between Mark Rodgers and Seattle’s negotiation team began in earnest back in February: guaranteed money. With a capital “G.”
The Seahawks have won consecutive NFC championships, won their first Super Bowl and kept their young core under contract over the last two years by using guarantees that have become customary in this salary-capped NFL. As they were in the extension cornerstone runner Marshawn Lynch signed in March, those guarantees have often been ones based on per-game participation or being on the roster in future years.
Wilson appears to be seeking the more strict — and baseball-like — guarantee of cash in pocket at signing. And it makes (dollars and) sense that Wilson is using the $31 million Carolina is paying QB Cam Newton this year in the deal he signed this offseason as the floor, not the ceiling, for the amount of guaranteed cash he wants in 2015.
That could be $10 million or more above what Seattle can offer. The Seahawks have just below $9.3 million available to apply to their salary cap for this year, with All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner also due for an extension of his rookie deal that could net him $10 million per season.
So it has gone. And so it goes, perhaps all the way up to and through Friday morning’s first practice of training camp in Renton.
Lost amid all — and we do mean all — the noise over when or if Wilson signs this year is a more fundamental concern: Who will be blocking for him?
Finding the five starters on the offensive line remains the Seahawks’ most important task in training camp, at least on the field. Line coach Tom Cable said he thinks that’s going to happen sooner rather than later as exhibition games begin Aug. 14 against Denver.
An advanced statistic from Pro Football Focus confirms what our eyes have told us the past two seasons: Wilson has “faced pressure” on 43.2 percent of his dropbacks in a pro career that began in 2012. That is more than any other quarterback in the league over that span.
Want to know why the Seahawks threw fewer times than anyone last season (454 passes)? Want to know why offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spent much of last season conducting bubble-screen-palooza, first to Percy Harvin and then to every other wide receiver as Seattle’s offense stayed inconsistent for much of the season? Start with the lack of even a hint of consistent pass protection.
Jimmy Graham, acquired in a trade with New Orleans that cost the Seahawks starting center Max Unger, is now in the offense as a potentially lethal receiving weapon down the middle of the field. But he might as well be Tony Moeaki if Wilson doesn’t get the time to let him run down the hash marks before the QB has to throw.
That is why the offensive line’s position battles will be a key to camp.
Russell Okung is locked in for now at left tackle, but the Seahawks seem likely to give second-year man Garry Gilliam more practice snaps there with the first team as the season goes on. Okung, who has battled injuries and penalties in recent seasons, is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $4.8 million this season with a salary-cap hit of $7,280,000. Alvin Bailey can also play left tackle.
Bailey got on the coaches’ good side by reporting to offseason OTAs and minicamps 20 pounds lighter. They rewarded him with the inside track to replacing James Carpenter as the starter at left guard; Seattle’s No. 1 draft choice in 2011 left in March on a free-agent contract with the New York Jets. Rookie Terry Poole, a left tackle at San Diego State, was the Seahawks’ No. 2 left guard this spring. And Lemuel Jeanpierre can play the position, as he did during the team’s minicamp last month.
Jeanpierre appeared to be the likely starter at center to replace two-time Pro Bowler Unger. Jeanpierre had been getting the early OTA and minicamp reps with the first team in a nod to his five years backing up Unger. But last month Cable explored what options he may have beyond him. Drew Nowak, a practice-squad guard in 2014, was the first-team center for much of the mandatory minicamp in June.
Cable hinted he may already have a starter in mind. Look for Jeanpierre to get the job at least initially because of his experience in Cable’s zone-blocking and protection-audible system.
Patrick Lewis, a part-time starter for the injured Unger after Seattle got him off Cleveland’s practice squad in October, is also an option at center.
So is longshot Kristjan Sokoli. The rookie sixth-round pick was a defensive tackle at the University of Buffalo until Cable approached Sokoli in April just before the draft and asked if him he’d be willing to try center in the NFL. What was the kid from Albania going to say? No?
Cable is investing a lot of time and effort into making the quick, athletic Sokoli a center and perhaps a guard.
At right guard, Mark Glowinski from West Virginia has impressed since the first day of rookie minicamp. He’s been very quick, one of Seattle’s fastest lineman getting outside on sweeps and screens. J.R. Sweezy remains the starter — at least for now. But Cable’s successful convert from college defensive tackle is entering the final season of his contract at a base pay of $1,542,000.
Right tackle remains Justin Britt’s job. He won it in August 2014 as a rookie and kept it throughout last season. He was slow at times against the top speed edge rushers, and Glowinski played the position for two years in junior college. But expect Britt to be at right tackle on Sept. 13 when the Seahawks open the season at St. Louis.
Options on starters for the O-LINE