When breaking down the quarterback competitions around the NFL, I once again pointed out why it makes no sense for a team that needs a quarterback to pass on intriguing players at that position in the middle rounds of the draft.
Well, then Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press unknowingly produced the blueprint for exactly why it's horrible business for those teams to pass on mid-round quarterbacks.
Birkett did a chart that has every starting quarterback's salary information. Go and take a look, it's interesting. And it showed that Seattle's Russell Wilson, one of the top dozen quarterbacks in the NFL right now, is making the least of every NFL starting quarterback, and in most cases less than 10 percent of his peers.
You want a reason why Seattle was able to load up for a Super Bowl run this offseason? You want to know why it was a grave error for hopeless Jacksonville to not even try to see if one of the four fourth-round quarterbacks could be an above-average NFL starter? It's in large part because of that salary chart.
Wilson, who played as well as almost any quarterback over the last half of last season, makes $749,193 annually over the course of his four-year deal that he got as a third-round pick, according to the Free Press' chart. He makes $526,217 in salary this year. That's it. There are 15 quarterbacks who make $10 million or more annually over their deal (we rounded up Jay Cutler and his $9.98 million). Three more make between $7.5 million and $10 million annually. So 18 starting quarterbacks in the NFL make more than 10 times what Wilson makes every year.
Now, let's look at Seattle's offseason.
Seattle, coming off a season in which it was arguably one of the two or three strongest squads in the entire NFL by the end of the season, loaded up. Receiver Percy Harvin, one of the most dangerous receivers in the league, got a six-year, $67 million deal. Ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were added. They combined for 18.5 sacks last year. Avril got two years and about $13 million. Bennett got one year and about $4.8 million. Seattle had $2 million left in the couch cushions to give Antoine Winfield to be its nickel cornerback.
How could already talented Seattle afford to add two huge impact players on each side of the ball like Harvin and Avril? Because they had Wilson making peanuts while guys like Carson Palmer are making $8 million per year on his deal (I rip Jacksonville, and rightfully so, but Arizona shouldn't get a pass for investing in Palmer, who is overpriced for a guy hasn't played at an above average level in six years, especially for a team that is obviously rebuilding). You think that the Ravens could have done more this offseason if they had an extra $19.35 million, which is roughly the difference in Joe Flacco's average income and what Wilson makes?
Let's go back to Jacksonville. The Jaguars made a franchise-crippling mistake taking punter Bryan Anger ahead of Wilson in the 2012 draft. They compounded that by passing on every quarterback available to them in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.
Perhaps the Jaguars didn't love Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib or Landry Jones. This is the same franchise that took Blaine Gabbert 10th overall once, so we should not blindly believe that their word is gospel on which quarterback will be good or not. At one point or another every one of those four guys was bandied about as a possible first-round pick.
The Raiders did it right. They took Wilson. If he isn't very good, they can move on quickly. If he's good – and about a year ago some people thought he was very, very good – it can change their entire franchise. Finding a franchise quarterback is the biggest key to winning in the modern NFL. The Seahawks found theirs, and he's cheap. Tony Romo gets paid 22.8 times more from the Cowboys per year than Wilson gets from Seattle (Wilson and Romo each have one career playoff win). Seattle can afford to take a run at a Super Bowl before the bill comes due for Wilson in his inevitable contract renegotiation. The same could be said for the 49ers, who added players like Anquan Boldin and Nnamdi Asomugha because Colin Kaepernick makes $1.28 million annually.
The Seahawks took a chance in the third round last year, and hit big. They should have legitimate hope of being a Super Bowl contender this year, and for many years to come now that they have a franchise quarterback in place. All of that was the result of risking one mid-round pick. Seems like a small price to pay.