For the last handful of weeks, it has felt like Russell Wilson leaving the Denver Broncos in 2024 was a foregone conclusion. There have already been rumors of potential landing spots for Russ if the Broncos move on, and all signs point to the Broncos smashing reset at the QB position this offseason.
Well, the reality of the situation is that in order to move on from Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos ownership would have to sign off on basically footing the bill for nearly $40 million for Russell Wilson to play for another NFL team. Who really wants to do that? It would be rather unprecedented for the Denver Broncos to move on from Russ at this point, though it's not impossible. The Broncos owe Wilson $39 million this season and there is a $37 million trigger in his contract on the 5th day of the 2024 league year for 2025.
Ultimately, what that means is the Broncos have paid Wilson $85 million of a possible $124 million in practical guarantees at this point, and they have another $37 million in cash as basically an "option" for 2025.
But letting go of Russell Wilson will give the Broncos a boatload of dead cap space. I said earlier it would be rather unprecedented, and what I mean by that is, how often do you see teams back out of contracts before they "officially" kick into place? Although Wilson has received a boatload of his guaranteed money already, the contract he signed with the Broncos in 2022 doesn't even take effect until 2024.
And it's a five-year pact.
Although owner and CEO Greg Penner said that this decision with Wilson would ultimately come down to football, the financial aspect looms large and could motivate the people involved to figure out a way to make the football aspect work.
Not to bury the lede, but is that what Russell Wilson is doing here?
Although Wilson has gone on record as confirming he was essentially threatened by the team to give up his injury guarantee or be benched, he recently posted something on Twitter that might lead some conspiracy theorists out there to believe he could be back in Denver in 2024...
There were undoubtedly some incredible moments for the Denver Broncos in 2023. The team finally was back in playoff contention and was only a game out of 1st place in the AFC West late into the season. They didn't finish the job, the passing attack offensively wasn't good enough, and the whole operation offensively wasn't good enough, but could improvements be made?
Are we just spinning our wheels here? Are the emotions of the fan base being tugged in too many directions?
Did the Broncos' two-game evaluation of Jarrett Stidham lead them to believe that Russell Wilson wasn't so bad after all? Can the Broncos go into March committing fully to Stidham if all else fails?
There are some legitimate questions to be asked here, and one of the most important ones is simply this: Do the Broncos (specifically, ownership) want to pay Russell Wilson nearly $40 million this season to play for another team? What if it ends up being the Raiders?
That has a chance to end up being extremely embarrassing. And as wealthy as the ownership group is, I don't think many people would want to pay someone nearly $40 million to work for a rival organization.
Ultimately, reports or rumors of Wilson's demise in Denver may have been overstated. Both Sean Payton and George Paton said the door is open for Russ to return in 2024, although we all assume they meant on the team's terms. But Paton also said that he's spoken to Russ and believes the door is open on his end to return as well.
Could the two sides find common ground, even after Wilson was benched last season? Well, considering the Broncos are on the hook for $39 million this season anyway, I would guess the answer to that question is yes, even if it's not easy.
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