The Seahawks followed their formula when it came to rewarding Russell Wilson, it just took a bit more time than other deals have in the past.
As was the case with Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin before him, Wilson signed a lucrative, multi-year extension prior to finishing out his rookie deal, agreeing to a four-year extension Friday. Given the position Wilson plays, and therefore the dollars involved, the deal was a bit more complicated, so unlike those other deals, Wilson's didn't get done early in the offseason, but rather on the eve of training camp before Wilson's self-imposed deadline to reach an agreement or cut off talks.
Wilson's agent Mark Rodgers spent much of the week meeting with Seahawks general manager John Schneider and vice president of football administration Matt Thomas, and late Thursday night the sides were close enough for Rodgers to call Wilson with good news.
"That was the most important thing, I wanted to be here," Wilson said following the Seahawks' first practice of training camp. "I was excited to hopefully sign, and at 11 o'clock when I get a call from Mark Rodgers and he told me, 'hey, I'm walking out the door, we just figured it out,' I had a huge smile on my face."
Teams have incentive to extend players prior to the last year of a deal in order keep those players from hitting free agency, but Pete Carroll and Schneider have also noted time and time again how important it is in their view to reward those players who deserve it as soon as the league's collective bargaining agreement allows, particularly those mid-to-late round picks who weren't highly paid early in their careers.
"There's a philosophy, there's an approach and there's a commitment to it that I hope you can see," Carroll said. "And here we are again, we were able to get the quarterback done and we're still working. That's based on a big plan and a really good foundation and understanding, and John really leads the charge on that, and I'm thrilled that he gets to do his thing."
Still working, in this case means middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, another 2012 draft pick heading into the last year of his rookie deal. Both Carroll and Wagner made it clear that the two sides want to get a deal done sooner than later, and Carroll made a point to say that Wilson's extension didn't mean a Wagner deal can't or won't happen as well.
Despite the deal coming down to the wire, Wilson said he was relaxed heading into camp, while Carroll said the deal "was imminent, it was coming the whole time. We wanted to do it, it was his turn, you know how we've done it, you've watched this."
For Wilson, this is another life-changing event in a career that has been full of them. Wilson entered the league as a third-round pick, a player who most people figured was going to compete for a backup job, and in a three-year span he became a Super Bowl champion, a three-time Pro Bowler and one of his sports' biggest stars. Off the field, he has interacted with President Barack Obama, befriended some of the sports' biggest stars like New York Yankee great Derek Jeter, and he is now dating pop star Ciara—in fact he was on the phone with her Thursday night when Rodgers called with the good news. But even if Wilson talked about his contract this offseason with the likes of Obama and Jeter, and even if he is going from one of the NFL's most underpaid players to one of the highest-paid, he says nothing will change on the field.
"At the end of the day I'm happy to be a Seahawk, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," he said. "It's a blessing, a championship type team, and the goal is to win the Super Bowl this year, Super Bowl 50 is on our minds. No matter what I was going to be focused on the season, I was going to be ready to play no matter what the circumstances.
"My focus the whole time has pretty much been on getting ready for the season. I've been excited about that, to just be able to play football again. Ultimately, no matter how much I make, down the road or in the past, or whatever, it's always been about the game and trying to get ready. It is business, it is my job, and all of that matters, but at the end of the day you just want to get ready for the season, so I was excited about it. I'm always an optimist. I was always believing that it would work out, and I always believe that I want to play here obviously, so it's exciting."
Photos of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signing a four-year contract extension ahead of the team's first training camp practice of 2015.