After he helped lead Seattle to their first Super Bowl title in franchise history, the Seahawks are set to reward cornerback Richard Sherman with a contract that will reportedly make him the NFL's highest-paid player at the position.
It may well be a deal that Sherman has earned, but that doesn't change the fact that this deal is the first domino to fall in a series of huge decisions that will shape the future of the team.
As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeted Tuesday, the Seahawks and Sherman are nearing agreement on a deal that will make the 26-year-old the league's highest-paid cornerback:
That would mean a deal north of the $12 million Darrelle Revis is getting from the New England Patriots this season, and it's a safe bet it will be for more than one year.
On some levels, it's something of a non-story.
After all, Sherman is arguably the league's best player at one of its most valuable positions. His play at the end of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers sealed the win that sent Seattle to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Throw in that he's firmly in the prime of his career, and of course the Seahawks want to lock him up. If they don't pay Sherman now, teams will be lined up around the block to do it next year.
The problem is that Sherman is far from the only monstrous contract facing the Seahawks, and there's only so much money to go around.
Free safety Earl Thomas, who like Sherman is widely viewed as the NFL's best player at his position, is also entering the last year of his rookie deal. It's not hard at all to imagine that Thomas will receive more than the $9 million a season Jairus Byrd just got from the New Orleans Saints.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects Thomas to be the next man at the cashier's window:
Of course, if Thomas gets $10-plus million a year, that will create a whole other problem.
Because we haven't gotten to the elephant in the room yet.
Just let that sink in for a second, because soon enough Wilson will be getting a raise.
A fat one.
After Wilson's third season in 2014, he'll be eligible to renegotiate his contract. If he leads the Seahawks to another deep playoff run this season, that contract is going to make Wilson one of the NFL's highest-paid players...period.
We're talking $20 million a season, maybe more.
That money is going to have to come from somewhere.
And those are just the biggest names. The bill comes due on a number of other players next year who made significant contributions during the team's Super Bowl run.
|Seattle Seahawks' Expiring Contracts in 2015|
Make no mistake. Wilson isn't going anywhere, and it's doubtful the team would risk a potential holdout in 2015 by trying to milk the last, cheap year from Wilson's third-round rookie contract.
Assuming all goes well this season, Wilson is going to break the bank a year from now.
And at that point, things are going to get tight. After all, if the team re-ups Sherman, then Thomas, and then Wilson, we'll be talking about over $40 million in annual salaries tied up in three players.
Yes, creative structuring can help defray some of the short-term cap implications, but no matter how good your accountant is, that's a lot of cheese to tie up in three players.
It's going to make it very difficult for the Seahawks to keep those complementary players, and the team's depth is going to suffer as a result.
The impact could go even deeper than that. ESPN's John Clayton recently speculated that Marshawn Lynch's $7 million base salary in 2015 and the presence of cheaper options in Robert Turbin and Christine Michael could lead to Beast Mode being shown the door in 2015.
Granted, general manager John Schneider is as good as anyone in the business, and the Seahawks will be able to save a few bucks by virtue of being able to offer these players a chance to stick with a winner.
But Richard Sherman's contract is something of a mixed blessing. Yes, it keeps Sherman in the fold, but it also officially signals that the bill is coming due on the Seahawks' young stars.
And that bill is a whopper.
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