Broncos seem to be stuck with Russell Wilson for at least one more year

Los Angeles Rams vs the Denver Broncos on Christmas Day
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The decision of the Broncos to fire coach Nathaniel Hackett and to keep, at least for now, G.M. George Paton suggests that the Broncos indeed will try to rectify the Russell Wilson debacle.

They really have no choice.

The contract that Paton gave to Wilson in late August makes the cap consequences for cutting him after the first year of the new deal untenable. Without a post-June 1 designation, the Broncos would take a $107 million cap charge by cutting Wilson this year. With a post-June 1 designation, the Broncos would carry $22 million in Wilson’s name this year, and $85 million in 2024.

It gets a little easier after the 2023 season. A post-June 1 designation in 2024 would result in a $35.4 million cap charge that year, with $49.6 million carried over to 2025.

Here’s another reason to do it in early 2024. If Wilson is on the roster on the fifth day of the 2024 league year, $37 million in 2025 salary becomes fully guaranteed.

Wilson already has received $57 million for 2022. He has another $67 million in fully-guaranteed payments over the next two years.

A trade would result in a lower cap charge, by foisting the remaining guarantees onto a new team. But who in their right mind would take on Wilson at $67 million over two years, and $104 million over three?

The best outcome, as suggested in spitball style during Tuesday’s PFT Live, would be to persuade Wilson to retire, perhaps with an offer that there would be no effort to recoup $40 million in paid but unearned signing bonus. That would reduce the cap charge for 2023 to $40 million. (If the retirement were processed after June 1, Wilson would cost only $10 million against the cap in 2023 and $30 million in 2024.)

Good luck getting Wilson to walk away. He’d likely need at least one more year of sluggish play, at a minimum, to begin to come to the conclusion that he’s no longer the player he used to be, and that he should consider packing it in and walking away. Even then, why give up guarantees that are fully vested?

Sure, it’s bad for the team to owe a bunch of money to a player who isn’t earning it. But it’s good for the player to ultimately cash every check of $124 million in full guarantees over three seasons.

Bottom line? Unless Wilson would indeed retire, the Broncos seem to be stuck with him for one more year. After 2023, it becomes more manageable to move on — and it arguably becomes imperative to avoid another $37 million in full guarantees that vest in March 2024.

Our assessment? The Broncos will try to fix Wilson in 2023. If they can’t make him the player he once was, he’ll be gone in 2024.

25 responses to “Broncos seem to be stuck with Russell Wilson for at least one more year

  1. Wow. Next year he is going to be a year older, slower, probably a little heavier and still short.

  2. And this is why NFL contracts are not usually fully-guaranteed. Can you imagine the fallout if Wilson had received the same guarantees as Deshaun Watson? A mistake like that could sink a franchise for a very long time.

  3. Broncos should just use their 1st pick next year on a QB and bench Wilson until … oh, snap … never mind!

  4. They can buy their way out. They paid 4.65 billion. thats 4,650-millions. Russell guarantee is for 165-million. It’s a manageable loss. Also, they would have paid another 161 million to buy the team if they needed to. In other words they can afford to walk away from Wilson and his drama. However, I don’t know if that money would still count agains their salary cap.

  5. I’m not a Broncos fan but I am rooting for Wilson to bounce back. People hate him more than DeShaun Watson for the crime of being “inauthentic” to strangers. Especially seahawks fans who loved his corny ways when he winning but turned their back on him the second he left just like they are doing to Geno Smith as soon as he started to slump. Fakest fans in the NFL and deserve to return to their pre Russell Wilson irrelevance. Can’t wait for Pete Carroll to trade the broncos pick for another oft-injured strong safety.

  6. You’re forgetting a third option: Bench him. After a year of riding the pine, retirement might look a lot better. Sure, he’ll be an expensive backup, but he’s already a worthless starter. Nothing to lose here.

  7. Question: Is one of the requirements of a candidate for a General Manager position proof that the person has no business experience at all?

  8. All I can think of is that meme of the politicians at a party laughing, thats the Seahawks front office after the trade

  9. It boggles my mind that Paton will still be the GM when he hired Hackett and traded for Wilson in addition to giving him that extension before he needed to. It’s amazing the leash these GMs get.

  10. Given how he totally dropped off a cliff this season it’s not impossible Hackett was a big part of the problem. A real coach and maybe he gets back to where he was the last few years in Seattle which still wouldn’t be worth what his contract is paying but they could definitely compete with him at that level. And unless he’s ready to retire he’ll have huge motivation next season or else the phone won’t be ringing if Denver does cut ties. He’s kind of an oddball and I don’t see him hanging on as a backup for years like some guys do. The locker room just doesn’t really take to him.

  11. Wilson has had ONE good game this season against the Chiefs. Everything else has been hot garbage. Even his teammates are over him. What a disaster of a signing.

  12. “But who in their right mind would take on Wilson at $67 million over two years, and $104 million over three?”

    I can name one owner who loves doing this.

  13. Bronco’s owner needs to make 1 more firing. GM George Paton. Paton orchestrated this entire debacle. He hired the head coach Hackett, he pursued Russell Wilson, He gave away 2 years of 1st and 2nd round picks, he extended Wilson to a mind blowing contract.
    It’s going to take 3 years to rectify the mess Paton has overseen.

  14. I gave up my season tickets right after Broncos trade for Russell. Hope Russ play last 2 games. This year I bet all Broncos games and winning over $12,000 so far from starting $50. Thx you Russ and you’re just a unwatchable QB.

  15. I wonder if they could package him with a high draft pick and trade him to a tanking team with cap space- like a much bigger version of the Brock Osweiler trade from a few years ago. Still probably too much of a hit for this year, but maybe next year (assuming he’s still awful then). Although Denver would still need a QB, so freeing up the cap space might not do them any good.

  16. Anyone else surprised to find out Wilson has only turned the ball over 10 times this season? Seems like it’s closer to 30 times the way he’s played.

  17. Paton’s job now is to find a coach who can do two things: 1) Hire an offensive coordinator who can design a scheme that plays to Wilson’s strengths and minimizes his weaknesses. 2) Have both the balls and the cred and the management backing to tell Wilson, “You’ll play within the system and support your teammates, or you’ll be carrying a clipboard.”

  18. I picked Wilson in 3 of my fantasy leagues,and thought that I had stolen the drafts. Wow, did that ever go wrong for me.

  19. The best way to approach it would be a wink nod agreement to have his entire contract voided via some type of off-field shenanigans – contract detrimental to the team or something similar.

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