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Russell Wilson leaving Seattle in 2016 is a real possibility

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson


Russell Wilson surely wants to be the highest paid player in the NFL. And he almost surely will be, at least until Andrew Luck or someone else sets the ever-rising bar even higher.

The real question becomes whether he’ll get that record-setting-until-the-next-record-setting deal from the Seahawks or someone else.

The Seahawks currently face the three options set forth earlier today: (1) sign Wilson to a long-term deal; (2) apply the non-exclusive franchise tag; or (3) apply the exclusive franchise tag. (There’s technically a fourth option that will be addressed in a later post -- that’s called a tease, Jimmy.)

Those are the choices the Ravens faced in February 2013 with quarterback Joe Flacco, and the Ravens opted to make Flacco the highest-paid player in the league, a title he held for barely two months. The Ravens gave Flacco a contract $120.6 million over six years (which included $62 million over the first three) because the exclusive tag would have cost more than $19 million for 2013 (and nearly $75 million over three), and because the non-exclusive tag would have opened the door for the Browns or someone else to swoop in and offer the market-value deal the Ravens wouldn’t.

The possibility of the Seahawks opting not to pay a market-value deal and also opting not to use the exclusive franchise tag (which likely would result in a three-year payout to Wilson of more than $98 million) would leave the Seahawks with one choice: Apply the non-exclusive tag, assume the risk that someone else will sign him to an offer sheet reflecting a market-value deal, and either match the offer or accept two first-round picks as compensation from Wilson’s new team.

Apparently, Wilson already has accepted the possibility that he’ll eventually be moving from Seattle to a new NFL city, in the same way he moved from North Carolina State to Wisconsin. Per a league source, the Seahawks for now remain intent on working out a long-term deal with Wilson.

At some point, though, the possibility of using the non-exclusive tag and harvesting a pair of first-round picks will become more distinct -- especially if the two sides can’t make real progress toward a long-term agreement.

There’s still plenty of time before the drop-dead point arrives. In a deadline-driven business, the real deadline for the Seahawks comes just as the annual window for applying the franchise tag arrives in 2016. But Seattle can create a practical deadline for Wilson by making a very large offer short of his market value before training camp opens, or at the latest before the season begins.

Although Wilson seems to be content to play in 2015 at a mere $1.5 million, there’s a number less than what he could get after his rookie deal expires that would change his mind now. In the coming days and weeks, an effort undoubtedly will be made to craft such an offer.

But if a long-term deal can’t be reached before the regular season begins, the wheels will be in motion on a train that could result in Wilson rolling to another NFL city for 2016.