Russell Wilson will be in a Denver Broncos uniform in 2022 and beyond. The five-time Pro Bowl quarterback became a part of a blockbuster trade package that will see the Seattle Seahawks send him and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for Drew Lock, Noah Fant, Shelby Harris, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick, a 2022 fifth-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick. It's quite the king's ransom, yes, but it's for one of the league's kings at the position -- a position the Broncos haven't been able to figure out since losing Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning to retirement six years ago.
In looking at the trade more closely, while it's easy to claim the Broncos gave up too much to acquire Wilson (having lost out on Aaron Rodgers not an hour prior to breaking news of this trade), it's really more complicated than the haul would indicate. So as we dive into the grade for what will go down as one of the biggest transactions in NFL history, it becomes more and more evident that the Seahawks, despite grabbing a pile of goodies, wound up losing this trade.
Seahawks grade: C
It's unfathomable that it all came to this in Seattle. To have a potential future Hall of Fame quarterback, still in his prime at age 33, who is not set to carry a massive cap hit over the next two seasons ($24 million in 2022 and $27 million in 2023), and wreck the relationship because you wouldn't let him have a say in what pieces were put around him to help the team win is basically organizational malpractice. By the time Wilson (and his agent) went public with his frustration in 2021, it had already been boiling behind the scenes for awhile prior, and that was plenty of time to avoid seeing it escalate into a mushroom cloud that, on Tuesday, sent the Seahawks back to the Dark Ages.
So yes, while they received a ransom in return for the nine-time Pro Bowler, an additional move to release another team legend in linebacker Bobby Wagner means they'll need every one of those picks acquired from Denver (with zero promise they'll pay off, considering the Seahawks mostly have a very poor track record at drafting/scouting prospects) because they've now effectively smashed the rebuild button in the Pacific Northwest.
And this isn't the end, because you can expect the shockwaves to shake the future of both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (the latter having signed a new deal largely due to the belief Wilson would stick around, as did running back Chris Carson).
Neither of those two will be ecstatic about seeing Wilson swapped for Drew Lock, and that's assuming either remains on the roster for the 2022 season, and though you have to like the added acquisition of a promising young tight end in Noah Fant and a solid pass rusher in Shelby Harris -- two added reasons Seattle didn't land a failing grade -- the decision to give up the house to acquire Jamal Adams via trade (and then to pay him blockbuster money) was ultimately the turning point that preceded the demolition everyone witnessed on March 8.
Maybe they flip the acquired picks into a trade package for Deshaun Watson, but that comes with its own set of question marks and controversy. No matter how you slice it, the Seahawks have made quite the mess of things but, hey, at least you got your safety.
Broncos grade: A
Kudos to the Broncos for having a contingency plan in place to land their next franchise quarterback, and executing it with military precision. It's a safe assumption they had a/the same gargantuan offer on the table to the Green Bay Packers for Aaron Rodgers, but once Rodgers re-committed to The Cheese on what's reportedly a record-setting deal (he disputes the latter), the Broncos immediately pivoted to calling the Seahawks and getting a deal done for Wilson. The planning and forethought alone was master class by general manager George Paton, and while it can be argued that the Broncos might've given up too much -- consider their situation.
They were in dire straits at the quarterback position after another failed go at Drew Lock that came after an unsuccessful go with Teddy Bridgewater (whom they traded a 2021 sixth-round pick for). It was clear Lock was not the man for the job and Denver presumably isn't too impressed with the current crop of quarterbacks in this year's draft, at least not to the point where they believe any would be better than Rodgers or Wilson. With a defense having shown it can be a force and probably hoping to woo Von Miller back after trading him away last season, all eyes were on Denver this offseason to see what they would or would not do at QB.
They answered by pushing all of their chips to the table on Wilson, reminiscent of landing Peyton Manning in 2012 (albeit as a free agent), a move that helped propel them to a championship parade following Super Bowl 50. Time will tell if the Wilson era in Denver goes as ceremoniously as Manning's, but the former now becomes the first real QB threat in Denver since the latter called it a career in March of 2016, and that's a long time for any NFL team to be stuck in QB purgatory.
It'll be easier to replace Harris and Fant than it would be to find a future Hall of Fame quarterback in this year's free agency or the draft, and we've seen how Denver drafts/scouts quarterback prospects (yuck), so it doesn't matter how many picks they gave up, because if they might've used them the wrong way anyway, they might as well roll the dice on a still-primed All-Pro at the most important position in football.