Russell Wilson has been the best quarterback bargain in the National Football League this season, his $390,000 salary breaking down to $32,500 for each of the Seattle Seahawks’ 12 wins.
Wilson, 24, has led the Seahawks to one playoff victory, outlasting fellow rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, last year’s top two draft picks. As Seattle visits the Atlanta Falcons on Jan. 13, Wilson is seeking to join Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez as the only first-year quarterbacks in league history with multiple postseason wins.
Wilson’s rookie base salary is about 2 percent of the $18 million Peyton Manning is getting from the Denver Broncos this season, and the same as Manning’s backup, Brock Osweiler, who was taken 18 spots higher in the 2012 NFL draft. Manning cost the Broncos $1.2 million per win.
“This wasn’t Andrew Luck, this wasn’t Robert Griffin, this was a third-round pick who overcame tremendous odds to even be afforded the opportunity to play in the first game of the season,” Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, now an NFL analyst for Fox, said by telephone. “This guy is the real deal. That’s a pretty good bargain.”
The Seahawks this season opted to start Wilson, who got a four-year, $2.99 million contract after being taken with the 75th pick in the 2012 draft, even though they had signed free agent Matt Flynn to a three-year, $24 million deal. Wilson threw 26 touchdown passes this season to tie Manning’s rookie record while rushing for 489 yards and four scores.
“The easy thing to do for them would have been to say we’re going to go with Matt Flynn and if he struggles we’ll put Russell Wilson in,” Aikman said. “You can see where there may be some arguments because they brought Matt Flynn in.”
Wilson is making significantly less than the four-year, $22.1 million rookie contract Luck got from the Colts or Griffin’s four-year, $21.1 million deal with Washington. Both quarterbacks lost in the first round of the playoffs last week, with the Redskins ousted by Wilson and the Seahawks.
And Wilson’s salary for this season, which is set by the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, is a pittance compared with most of his peers in the playoffs.
Wilson’s counterpart for the Falcons, Matt Ryan, is in the fifth season of a six-year, $66 million contract and making $11.5 million this season. The Seahawks are 2 1/2-point underdogs against the Falcons, with the winner earning a spot in the National Football Conference championship game. Ryan cost the Falcons $885,000 a win.
Manning, 36, is the NFL’s highest paid quarterback, getting a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos after being acquired in the offseason from the Indianapolis Colts.
The Broncos have won 11 straight games and tomorrow host the Baltimore Ravens and Flacco, who is making $6.8 million this season, according to NFL Players Association records.
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, in the third season of a five-year, $78.5 million contract, is getting $950,000 in base salary this season along with more than $7 million in bonuses. The Patriots on Jan. 13 are home to the Houston Texans and quarterback Matt Schaub, who is making $4.4 million in the first year of his five-year, $66.2 million deal.
Among the playoff quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers may be the second-best bargain behind Wilson. The 49ers’ second-year signal-caller, who replaced Alex Smith as the starter midway through the season, received a four-year, $5.12 million deal after the 2011 draft and has a $608,000 base salary this season.
Wilson will make $526,217 next season and $662,434 in 2014, as rookie contracts can’t be renegotiated. After that, he may get a bigger raise. Wilson’s agent, Bus Cook, didn’t immediately return messages about what Wilson’s play this season might mean for future contract negotiations.
“There’s compelling stories all over the playoffs at the quarterback spot, which is fun to talk about and makes for much better football,” Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Steve Young said on a conference call. “Everybody has kind of capitulated to the fact that it’s a quarterback-driven league.”
What Wilson has working against him is that no rookie quarterback has taken his team to the NFL title game, and he’s in a playoff field that includes three Super Bowl MVPs at the position.
Rodgers won the award two years ago and takes a 5-2 playoff record into San Francisco, where the Packers are 3-point underdogs, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book. The Broncos are favored by 9 1/2 points against the Ravens in their American Football Conference matchup, as Manning seeks to even his postseason record at 10-10.
Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion, this weekend can surpass Joe Montana for the most playoff victories by a quarterback in NFL history. Brady, 35, has 16 postseason wins and his Patriots are 9 1/2-point favorites against the Texans.
Wilson and Brady are the only starting quarterbacks remaining in the playoffs who weren’t first- or second-round draft picks. Brady, 35, was drafted in the sixth round in 2000 and led the Patriots to a Super Bowl title in his first year as a starter the following season.
“I played games early in my career when I had no experience and we did pretty well,” Brady said on a conference call. “It’s all a matter of how well you play. It always comes down to who is executing the best and not so much the experience.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com