Breaking Down the Russell Wilson Trade

Breaking Down the Russell Wilson Trade

Despite much less speculation this offseason in comparison to last, the Seahawks traded QB Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, signaling the end to a fantastic 10 year relationship. We’ll discuss the details of the trade, what’s next for Wilson financially, & what’s left for Seattle going forward.


The Trade

Denver Receives

Russell Wilson (QB, 33)
As the key part of this cog, Russell Wilson brings along a 2 year, $51M contract, including cap & cash hits of $24M for 2022, $27M for 2023. Wilson is owed a $5M roster bonus on March 20th, so if a restructured extension is forthcoming, there’s some sense it may happen prior to that date.

2022 4th Round Pick (estimated #114)
The Broncos are now slated to pick back to back in Round 4. In total, they still maintain picks 64, 66, 75, 96, 113, 114, 137, 206, 222, 227 (exact picks estimated based on comps.)


Seattle Receives

Drew Lock (QB, 25)
Lock brings a 1 year, $1.45M, non-guaranteed, contract with him to Seattle. For now, he’s probably the odds on favorite to start Week 1, competing with Jacob Eason, and potentially Geno Smith (a pending free agent).

Noah Fant (TE, 24)
The talented tight end holds a $2.2M, non-guaranteed, salary for 2022, with a $6.85M option in 2023 that must be exercised by May 3rd (likely). He stands to thrive in a Seattle offense that has always held the position in high regard (when the right kind of playmaker exists). Gerald Everett & Will Dissly are pending free agents.

Shelby Harris (DT, 30)
Harris carries a 2 year, $17M contract with him to Seattle, including cash/cap hits of $8M for 2022, $9M for 2023. $5M of his 2022 salary is already fully guaranteed. He’ll replace pending free agent Al Woods on the defensive line.

2022 1st Round Pick (#9)
A draft deep with O-Tackles, Edge Rushers, & Cornerbacks should make this a very valuable pick for Seattle.

2023 1st Round Pick
This might be the big one. If the plan is to punt on taking or acquiring a new starting QB in 2022 in order to make a run at one of the major prospects in 2023, having capital to move up in that draft will be important.

2022 2nd Round Pick (#40)
Plenty of Day 1 starters are drafted here.

2023 2nd Round Pick
More ammo to move up?

2022 5th Round Pick (#144)


What’s Next for Seattle?

There are two immediate ways for this franchise to go:

  • Continue to rip-it down with more trades and releases in the coming days, loading up on draft picks in order to fully rebuild this thing.
  • Trim off some more fat, but hold on to the major pieces. Prepare for a tough 2022 season, with the intention of selecting the next immediate QB1 in the 2023 draft. Is starting Drew Lock the best way to secure a high 2023 pick?


Notable Financials

  • Trading Wilson freed up $11M of cap from his contract ($37M starting point, $26M stays). That $11M went directly into the salaries of the 3 newcomers (Fant, Harris, Lock), who account for $11.6M of 2022 salary cap.
  • The #9 pick should account for around $4.2M in cap, while the added #40 pick will tack on another $2M or so.
  • Despite ample cap space, Bobby Wagner likely still falls off of this roster. It’s perfectly possible his replacement comes with the #9 pick. There’s $16.6M of cap space to be freed up by moving on. (Wagner was released 3/9)
  • Speculation rose immediately after the Wilson move that Tyler Lockett could be next to move, but his contract makes this a difficult trade, as the deal holds $15.2M of signing bonus proration. Furthermore, a $13M option bonus that became fully guaranteed last month is set to be paid between March 16th - March 20th, meaning Seattle would need to get out from under this and trade Lockett immediately, taking on the $15.2M dead cap hit all in 2022. It's possible - but not likely.

What’s Next for Denver?

The Broncos have been preparing for a move like this for the past 18 months, with in-house extensions, a few notable releases/trade aways, and a new coaching staff. The offensive line is in pretty good shape, the secondary is exceptional, and the weapons have the potential to be as good as any in the league.

There are legitimate question marks on the defensive line and certainly on the edge, notably what the future holds for Bradley Chubb. With a projected $26M of cap space (and plenty more should Denver restructure Garrett Bolles, Justin Simmons, or even Wilson), there’s a reasonable expectation that the Broncos will be in the market for a major pass rusher this month. The likes of Chandler Jones, DeMarcus Lawrence, Frank Clark, or even the return of Von Miller could very much be on the table here.


What’s Next for Russell Wilson?

Will Wilson take a cue from Matthew Stafford and leave his contract alone for a year before re-upping with his new franchise? Generally speaking, it behooves the player to do so, as recency bias can work wonders in amplifying a negotiation. Stafford is likely days away from a $45M+ per year contract extension in Los Angeles, as the quarterback money continues to climb at a much higher rate than any other position.

From a valuation standpoint, Wilson currently projects to a 3 year, $128M extension in our system (tacked on to the remaining 2 years of his current contract. His production has suffered over the past two seasons, along with the Seahawks offense as a whole. With new weapons to play with in Denver, a rejuvenated Wilson easily finds himself in the $46M+ range, especially at just age 33.

Prediction: Wilson plays 2022 on his $24M salary, and signs a 4 year, $192M extension next offseason.