- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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On the field, Russell Wilson has had the edge on Cam Newton. His Seahawks have beaten Newton's Panthers three times (all in Carolina) in the past three years, and Wilson has six playoff wins in his career -- including a Super Bowl title -- to Newton's one.
And now that Newton has signed a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension, you can expect Wilson to this time gain the financial edge. The Newton pact should quicken the pace for extension talks between the Seahawks and Wilson, and give Wilson the chance to come out a few million dollars ahead than he would have prior to Newton signing this contract. The $20.76 million-per-year deal for Newton might have come out higher than the Seahawks expected, but it at least helps define what Wilson's average salary should be on a per-year basis.
The Seahawks are highly unlikely to pay Wilson the $22 million average that Aaron Rodgers received when he signed a five-year contract extension with the Packers in 2013. Rodgers' deal is, essentially, the market leader and likely to remain there, as it's the price for the best QB in the game. Wilson isn't on the same level as Rodgers from a performance standpoint, and it's simply higher than the franchise would be willing to go.
But in terms of overall success, Wilson isn't too far behind Rodgers, and the most likely scenario is that Wilson gets paid an annual salary somewhere in between what Newton and Rodgers received.
The key to these talks is the term "new money." The NFLPA evaluates contracts based on what is new to the contract. When the Panthers executed the fifth-year option on Newton, his salary jumped to $14.666 million this year. That salary, in addition to $103.8 million in new money, gives Newton a $118.466 million contract over six years, or approximately $19.74 million per season. But in terms of new money, he will be paid $103.8 million over five years, which is $20.76 million per year.
Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, might point out the huge gap between the pay of Newton and Wilson this season. Wilson is scheduled to make $1.542 million, a minuscule amount compared to Newton's $14.666 million.
Wilson is at a disadvantage here because he was drafted in the third round, while Newton went in the first round, creating a significant pay gap between the two on their rookie deals. As a first-round pick, Newton was able to get his $14.666 million option. With that option, Newton was able to earn a contract paying him almost $20 million per year. For Wilson to reach that annual salary, he would need a four-year extension at $98.45 million (a total of $100 million over five years, when factoring in Wilson's 2015 salary).
The problem: That deal would include $24.6 million per year in new money, much higher than Aaron Rodgers' deal. The Seahawks won't do that.
The conundrum here is that Wilson can't take less new money than Newton based on their track records. He's been to two Super Bowls and has one ring. Wilson's former agent, Bus Cook, negotiated Newton's deal, so it would be hard to see Mark Rodgers accepting something less than what Cook accepted for Newton, a player with an inferior record. Wilson might not have Newton's stats, but he has the wins.
Mark Rodgers said on the radio last week that Wilson would be willing to play out this year for his $1.542 million salary and expect the franchise tag (in the neighborhood of $20-25 million per year), but now that the Newton deal is done, it's less likely that will happen.
My prediction: Look for Wilson and the Seahawks to find a reasonable midpoint and for this deal to get done sooner than we previously expected. I think Wilson will get a deal close to what Newton has earned in new money, but not as much as Newton will be paid per year overall. In the end, Newton's deal provides a benchmark the Seahawks will need to meet.