Fantasy Impact: Russell Wilson’s Contract Year
It’s rare in today’s NFL that a young, proven franchise quarterback in the prime of his career, hits the open market as a free agent. Although we are not quite there yet, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks have hit snags in the negotiation process to re-sign the quarterback to a long-term deal. As it stands now, Wilson will enter the final year of his rookie contract (four-year, $2.99 million), which will pay the quarterback $1.54 million for the upcoming 2015 season. On his current deal, Wilson has been one of the best bargains in the league the last three seasons, allowing Seattle to be aggressive in free agency and build one of the best rosters in the NFL. To drive home the point of Wilson being a bargain, the $1.54 million he is set to make is less than 40 other quarterbacks around the NFL.
Ideally, Seattle would love to lock in Wilson to a long-term contract at a reasonable price. However, Wilson and his agent, Mark Rodgers, are seeking a deal to make the Seahawks QB the highest-paid player in the league (currently Aaron Rodgers and his five-year, $110 million deal he signed in 2013). This is where the negotiations currently sit; with Wilson viewing himself as an elite quarterback worthy of huge money while others consider him simply a good, young quarterback on a loaded roster. Let’s take a deeper look at this debate and determine how this contract situation may affect Wilson’s fantasy value.
Several executives around the league hesitate to put the “elite quarterback” label on Wilson, especially with the 2015 season being only his fourth in the league. These same people believe Wilson’s new contract should be more in line with the five-year, $103.8 million deal Cam Newton just signed versus a Rodgers’ contract. Nonetheless, Wilson is a proven winner (he has as many Super Bowl rings as Rodgers) and his record speaks for itself. Wilson has been a starter since his rookie year in 2012, has a career record of 42-12 (including the playoffs) and has led his team to, at least, the Divisional round of the playoffs in every season (including trips to the Super Bowl in 2013 and 2014; winning in 2013). Plus, Wilson’s passing stats have been solid and consistent, and he’s become one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the league (849 yards, 6 TD in 2014). Those stats are hard to argue when debating whether to pay one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.
Besides developing into one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, Wilson has also been one of the best fantasy quarterbacks as well. The Seahawks QB finished each of his first three seasons ranked in the top 10 for fantasy QBs (including ranking third in 2014) and is currently projected as the third-best QB for 2015 in many fantasy mock drafts. On top of that, Wilson will have something he’s never had before heading into this season; a true No. 1 receiving option. During the offseason, the Seahawks traded for TE Jimmy Graham, and his presence in the lineup should provide a boost to Wilson’s passing numbers. Even in a 2014 season that was bogged down by injuries, Graham finished the year with 85 catches, 889 yards and 10 TD. He was also the third-ranked tight end in fantasy last year and is projected to be the second tight end off the board in mock drafts for 2015. The addition of Graham is a huge upgrade to the Seattle passing game and should help out his new QB considerably, especially since Wilson has never had a 1,000 yard receiver or any receiver catch more than 7 TD in a season.
Realistically, the Seahawks will likely re-sign Wilson and give him the money he wants (and most probably deserves). It’s difficult to see a situation where the Seahawks let their young, proven QB walk away for nothing. Plus, Wilson himself has stated several times that he wants to stay in Seattle for a long time and he doesn’t seem too concerned about the current situation. As for the fantasy side of things, Wilson will likely have another highly productive season, especially with the addition of Graham. Overall, and similar to many of the preseason mock drafts, I like Wilson as the third QB off the board (behind Rodgers and Andrew Luck) in 2015.