Broncos Announce Pending Release of QB Russell Wilson

The Denver Broncos made it official today, announcing the decision to part ways with QB Russell Wilson just two years after making a highly publicized trade for him and subsequently signing him to a massive contract extension. The release comes as no surprise as we had speculated on this possibility just a few months after he signed the five year, $245 million contract extension with the Broncos and it was clear at the end of the 2023 season that they did not envision a future with Wilson.

The dead money associated with the contract is gigantic. The $85 million in dead money dwarfs the prior high of $40.525 million that came from Matt Ryan with the Falcons as well as Ryan’s NFL leading career total of $58.525 million. The Broncos still owe him $39 million in cash salary, far and away the most any team has ever owed a player they will cut. Cutting him does allow the team to avoid another $37 million from being guaranteed.

The Broncos will need to utilize a post June 1 salary cap designation for Wilson. By doing this the team will keep his cap number at $35.4 million until June 2nd but the cap treatment after that is based on whether or not they pick up his option prior to his release. I am murky on the rules of using a June 1 in the same year after picking up an option but assuming that is allowed he should count for $35.4 million on the cap in 2024 and then $49.6 million in 2025. If they renounce the option, his 2024 cap number I believe would be $53 million in 2024 and then $32 million in 2025.

This trade will likely go down in history as the worst trade since the Vikings trade for Herschel Walker and the contract will arguably be looked at as one of the worst, if not the worst, of all time. Had the Broncos followed the Rams model with Matt Stafford of “try before you buy” they would have paid Wilson $24 million in 2022 and moved on in 2023 with no other damage. Instead Wilson earned $124 million from the Broncos who rushed into an extension the summer of the trade..

Wilson’s $39 million salary does have offsets but there would be no incentive for any team to offer Wilson more than the league minimum of $1.21 million since all they would be doing is paying the Broncos. There are ways around the offsets on a longer term contract if a team was willing to do a two year deal with Wilson and tie future guaranteed escalators to 2024 performance.