The Broncos did what they had to do. They parted with enough assets to land Russell Wilson. They finally have a big-time quarterback, at a time when a good quarter of the NFL, at least, is still searching for one or in need of one.
Sure, their package of players and picks headed to Seattle was significant, but two days ago Denver was a meandering franchise likely primed for the basement of what stands to be an uber-competitive AFC West, and today they have a future Hall of Fame quarterback who immediately puts them deep in playoff contention and who has been a dominant postseason performer throughout his career. Suddenly, the Broncos have hope, and the Seahawks are rebuilding, but at least doing so with sufficient assets to kickstart the movement.
We told youthat this day was coming, far sooner than later. You can written that day. It's all right there; unless the Seahawks greatly altered their roster and coaching philosophies and re-recruited Wilson in a holistic manner and checked a lot of boxes, then he wasn't going to do any extensions with them and it was going to be very clear by early 2022 that he was leaving in two years when his contract expired, and the draft-pick barren Seahawks were going to face the ultimate crossroads. A trade in March of this year was a very likely outcome a year ago to anyone who really understood what was going on between franchise QB and the only organization he had ever known, and the Seahawks did as best they could under the circumstances.
This was inevitable, unless Seattle was resigned to being shortsighted and obstinate about it. And they were not. Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider were pragmatic and reasoned. This relationship has run its course, the timing wasn't in their favor. And now they have two core players, four high draft picks and developmental QB option to show for it. And now the Broncos have a real chance to be a formidable franchise for the first time since Peyton Manning's body began to fail him.
"Denver definitely gave up a lot, no one should be pretend they didn't," said a top executive of one QB-needy team. "But I get it. They had to do what it takes. It wasn't too steep of a price to me."
The general manager of a team on the prowl for a potential QB upgrade told me: "I think Denver made out very well. In that division they weren't going anywhere without a top quarterback. And now they have one. That's a trade I think you have to make."
Numerous league sources indicated that Seattle was fairly hellbent on getting Wilson out of the NFC, and Denver resonated strongly with Wilson. I'm told the Broncos had a strong package on the table for Aaron Rodgers as well (the Titans were the other team I heard was most strongly connected to pursuing Rodgers), and when Rodgers made his call to stay in Green Bay, the Broncos dove in deep with the Seahawks. Washington made a strong pitch, and league sources said the Eagles and Panthers were closely monitoring this situation, too, but Denver's package had unique appeal.
"(Wilson) liked Denver more than some other options," said an executive from one team that was interested in the quarterback, "and with a no-trade clause, that's a big deal. There had to be other players on your roster Pete really liked, because he wanted veterans he could count on now. And they wanted to get a quarterback, and they preferred (Drew) Lock to what we could give them there.
"Pete's 70 years old, so throwing more first round picks at them wasn't going to get it done. You think Pete cares about a 2025 first round pick? He's gone by then. We were in it, but frankly I don't think we ever had a chance. It got going pretty quickly (Tuesday) between them and Denver."
Several executives from teams who reached out to the Seahawks are convinced the Seahawks will package much of what they just landed for Wilson to make a strong bid for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson if the outcome of the sexual assault and misconduct inquires he is facing leave him in okay standing with the NFL. Sure, Seattle could use one of these picks this year or next on a QB, but rival GMs would be stunned if they don't add a serious upgrade to Lock at some point this offseason.
And now the Broncos will turn their attention to add talent around Wilson – they already have potential breakout players at receiver – and go about extending his contract to keep him bound to the team for the duration of his career, or close to it.
Trade buzz: Vikings could move several big names
Trade conversations are heating up around the league, and while no other team will match the bombshell between the Seahawks and Broncos, there will be more action this week.
Several executives intimated they expect the Vikings to make multiple transactions. Much of the chatter has focused on quarterback Kirk Cousins and his huge contract and massive cap hit. But in general, league sources said the new regime in Minnesota is open to dealing several of their more high-priced veterans to try to reset the cap situation, add more draft picks and prepare for the future.
And the sense among some of the execs I spoke to is that the Vikings seem to understand that they aren't in position by and large to hit home runs with these trades (which are more like salary cap dumps). Receiver Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive tackle Michael Pierce, even running back Dalvin Cook are names making the rounds. I'd be surprised if a few were not moved.
The Texans are another team who could continue their recent purge if there is a market for left tackle Laremy Tunsil (they may take eating some salary to consummate it), while obviously Watson's legal situation has put a pause on his departure. I reported midseason that that Panthers were willing to include Christian McCaffrey in a Watson trade package, and McCaffrey's name is being whispered around the NFL now, with two GMs telling me they believe there is a real chance he is moved – Buffalo is one team that tends to come up – although it may require eating some salary to do so, too.
The Bills are hopeful that they will be able to deal slot receiver Cole Beasley, I'm told. And the Eagles, with a bounty of draft picks and a general manager, Howie Roseman, who loves to wheel and deal, would not surprise anyone in the NFL if they swung a move or two by this time next week on the trade market. Plenty more to come.
More insider notes on free agent moves
- At this point in the offseason, so close to the start of the league year, most pending free agents are bound for new teams. But not always. The Titans were able to keep Harold Landry and the Chargers extended Mike Williams before the franchise tag deadline, and sources said the Browns continue to push to bring back Jadeveon Clowney. If that doesn't happen they will be in on other pass rushers. The Broncos are also making inquires for pass rush; a reunion with Von Miller is not out of the question, but Chandler Jones and Randy Gregory are other options that interest them. The Bills are another team that comes up often as you make calls on pass rushers …
- Getting a strong sense the Bengals are end up with at least one proven veteran upgrade for their offensive line, and maybe two. They are interested in some tackles and interior linemen and have oodles of cap space …
- The Bucs tend to get their guy when they lock in on him, and center Ryan Jensen is not someone they want to let go …
- The Steelers seem primed to be more active in free agency than we have seen in quite some time, and they have been acutely focused on offensive line as well: centers and tackles …
- It will be a fascinating first offseason for Bears rookie GM Ryan Poles, with some agents and executives starting to believe they might be among the most stung by free-agent losses with receiver Allen Robinson, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and offensive lineman James Daniels looking primed to depart.