The Russell Wilson trade from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos rocked the NFL ahead of the 2022 NFL league year. With the deal set to become official at the start of the new league year at 4 PM ET on March 16, let’s examine the details of the swap and how the Wilson trade impacts the franchises in terms of draft picks, players, and salary cap.
Looking at the Russell Wilson trade details
The Broncos’ trade to acquire Wilson came about seemingly very suddenly. Just a matter of hours after Aaron Rodgers confirmed he was remaining with the Packers, Wilson was on the move. However, as Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported, this had been a deal that had been in the works since January and included secret meetings at the 2022 NFL Combine.
The result was a trade that saw a combined 10 picks and players moving between the two franchises. The final details of the trade were as follows:
- Broncos received:
- QB Russell Wilson
- 2022 fourth-round pick
- Seahawks received:
- QB Drew Lock
- TE Noah Fant
- DL Shelby Harris
- 2022 first-round pick
- 2022 second-round pick
- 2022 fifth-round pick
- 2023 first-round pick
- 2023 second-round pick
The only trade to have included more assets was the Herschel Walker trade between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings (18). With that historical context of the deal in mind, let’s take a look at the trade in terms of the assets and contract implications.
Including Wilson, a total of four players moved between the two franchises. Wilson grabs the headlines for obvious reasons, but the haul that the Seahawks received is not insignificant either.
In Harris, the Seahawks add a seven-year veteran DT who has 22.5 sacks and 46 QB hits. Of those, 14.5 sacks and 28 QB hits have come in the past three seasons, demonstrating that Harris is as good right now as he has ever been. He joins a Seattle defensive front that is loaded with talent. Since the trade, they brought back Al Woods to go with Poona Ford. That is a tremendous trio to rotate through.
Fant is also a highly thought-of player. He has 1,905 career receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 170 receptions. In 2021, he pulled in 75.6% of his targets. The hope will now be that he can kick on and become the next dominant tight end in the NFL.
The inclusion of Lock is intriguing. The Seahawks now have a chance to potentially look at Lock and see if he can be their QB of the future. They could easily have walked away with players at other positions to help them now. However, the inclusion of Lock would indicate there might be something there that they want to see more of.
Two first-round picks and two second-round picks is a considerable price that the Broncos paid for Wilson. However, Denver’s roster is such that they are arguably a QB away from challenging. Therefore, giving up four premium picks in the next two years is an interesting gamble. We have just seen a Rams team that has taken similar decisions with high-value draft picks in the past win a Super Bowl.
The irony from the Seahawks’ point of view is that the first-round selection in 2022 is one pick in front of the selection they sent to the Jets in the Jamal Adams trade. Yet, the key comes in the future, including back-to-back picks in the second round. The Seahawks now have three draft picks in the top 50 of the 2022 NFL Draft and four picks in the first two rounds in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The fourth-round pick the Seahawks sent back to Denver is one they received from the Jets. They still have their own fourth-round selection and have two selections in the first 10 picks of the fifth round. All told, the Seahawks have seven picks in the first five rounds.
The financials make the trade for Wilson look even better for the Broncos
The monetary part of the trade is not insignificant. The Seahawks are left with a $26 million dead money hit from Wilson’s contract. Meanwhile, the Broncos get a QB that will cost them just $51 million over the next two years. An AVV of just $25.5 million is an incredible price for a starting QB and gives the Broncos a huge financial advantage.
The other significant contract being moved was that of Harris. He was due to count $11 million and $12 million against the Broncos’ salary cap in the next two years. This deal sees them take on $6 million in dead money, but they save close to $5 million in 2022. Fant leaves $1.8 million in dead money and a savings of $2.2 million, while Lock leaves just $800,000 with a cap savings of $1.45 million.
Additionally, the Broncos will save an approximate $4.276 million they would have paid to their first-round pick in 2022 and $1.66 million for the second-round selection. Therefore, to add Wilson, the Broncos get a QB costing them just $24 million this year. Meanwhile, they save around $15 million in salaries for Harris, Fant, Lock, and the first- and second-round selections in 2022. That all adds up to a very good deal for Denver.
Of course, Harris and Fant are valuable players. Nevertheless, they are ultimately replaceable. The same cannot be said for a bona fide starting QB.