Broncos To Cut Russell Wilson: Denver Finally Moves On Two Years After Massive Trade

The Broncos officially released Russell Wilson on Monday, less than two years after acquiring him from the Seahawks. Here's what Wilson's exit means for Denver.

The Denver Broncos officially announced their intention to release quarterback Russell Wilson once the new NFL league year begins on March 13.

Wilson went to Denver in a 2022 trade that saw the Broncos a massive package that included two first-round picks and two second-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks. Denver quickly extended Wilson on a five-year deal, a contract the club will exit less than two years later.

Broncos Planning To Release Russell Wilson Next Week

Wilson’s 2024 base salary ($17 million) is already fully guaranteed. But if the 35-year-old is on Denver’s roster on the fifth day of the 2024 league year, his 2025 base salary ($37 million) will become guaranteed.

The Broncos couldn’t let that happen. Denver benched Wilson in favor of backup QB Jarrett Stidham in Week 17 to remove the risk of an injury. Had Wilson suffered an injury and been unable to pass a physical this offseason, the Broncos would’ve been on the hook for his 2025 cash.

“We spoke with Russell Wilson today to inform him of his release after the start of the league year,” Denver head coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton said in a statement.

“On behalf of the Broncos, we thank Russell for his contributions and dedication to our team and community while wishing him the best as he continues his career.”

Denver can release Wilson, but they can’t simply cut him without strings attached. Doing so would leave the Broncos with $85 million in 2024 dead money and a net loss of nearly $50 million in 2024 cap space.

Instead, Denver will likely use a post-June 1 designation when it releases Wilson. While the nine-time Pro Bowler will immediately depart the Broncos’ roster, the club can spread his dead money over the next two seasons: $35.4 million in 2024 and $49.6 million in 2025.

Denver will not realize any 2024 cap savings by cutting Wilson. He would have counted for $35.4 million if he’d been on the Broncos’ roster next season, and he’ll carry the same cap figure (in dead money) while playing elsewhere.

“Over these last two years, you have welcomed my family and me with open arms and embraced us as members of the Denver community,” Wilson said in a message posted on X (formerly Twitter).

“The city will always hold a special place in my heart. Our family grew here, we made countless memories and friendships, and formed relationships that will last a lifetime.”

The Broncos won’t have cap space to pursue another veteran quarterback addition, but they could select a franchise passer in the draft. While Denver holds the No. 12 pick in the first round, it could trade up to land a QB it prefers.

Wilson struggled in 2022 under former head coach Nathaniel Hackett, setting career lows in completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and QBR. Hackett was fired before the end of the season while the Broncos finished 4-11.

KEEP READING: Full List of Denver Broncos 2024 Draft Picks: What Picks Do The Broncos Have in the NFL Draft?

And while Wilson improved in Payton’s 2023 offense, he still ranked just 18th in EPA per play and 21st in QBR. Denver might’ve been willing to retain Wilson after that performance had he been willing to adjust his contract or alter his 2025 vesting date, but the 35-year-old had little reason to work with the Broncos on his deal.

Denver will receive a salary-cap credit when Wilson signs with a new team. However, because he’s already earning a guaranteed salary from the Broncos, Wilson will likely ink a league-minimum pact with his next club, depriving Denver of salary-cap relief.

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