Russell Wilson, the face of the Seattle Seahawks for the past decade, is expected to head to Denver as part of a multi-player trade with the Broncos.
According to several reports, Seattle would send Wilson and a fourth-round draft pick to Denver in exchange for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive end Shelby Harris.
The deal cannot proceed until Wilson waives his no-trade clause and cannot be finalized until every player in the deal passes a physical. No formal announcement will be made by the teams involved until the new league year begins on March 16.
Those speed bumps aside, Wilson, who was voted to nine Pro Bowls and led Seattle to its only Super Bowl title after the 2013 season, will instantly make the Broncos a contender in the already competitive A.F.C. West division. The Broncos finished last in the division the past two years and have not played in the postseason since the 2015 season, when they won the Super Bowl.
The team has cycled through numerous quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired in 2016. Last season, the Broncos started Teddy Bridgewater, whose head injury in a December 2021 game kept him out for the remainder of the schedule, and Lock, his backup.
Wilson will join forces with running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams and receivers Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy. Denver’s offensive line was ranked in the bottom half of the league last season.
The trade brings to a close one of the most successful coach-quarterback tandems in recent years. Two years after hiring Pete Carroll in 2010 for his second N.F.L. head coaching job, the Seahawks took a chance by using a third-round pick on Wilson, a two-sport athlete at North Carolina State before exclusively playing football at Wisconsin.
Under Carroll’s relentlessly upbeat style, Wilson and the Seahawks instantly blossomed, making the first of eight postseason appearances together in Wilson’s rookie year. Wilson’s strong arm and accuracy, alongside a rushing game led by Marshawn Lynch and one of the league’s best defenses, helped the team reach two Super Bowls and win one.
But as players from those Super Bowl teams started departing, the team’s fortunes began to turn. Wilson’s contract, once one of the largest in the league, was eclipsed by those of other quarterbacks. Before the 2021 season, he said in interviews that he wanted to have a greater say in personnel decisions in Seattle, but never outright demanded a trade, though the team’s offensive line was so porous he was consistently one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league. Carroll said as recently as last week that the team had no plans to move Wilson.
Seattle finished 7-10 last season, the team’s first losing campaign since 2011, the year before Wilson arrived. Heaveraged 222.3 yards per game in 14 starts and threw for 25 touchdown scores in the 2021 season. He missed three games because of a hand injury.
The trade for Wilson was engineered by Broncos General Manager George Paton, and comes as the Denver franchise is set to be sold for the first time in nearly 40 years following the death of Pat Bowlen, the longtime team owner. Wilson will be led by Coach Nathaniel Hackett, who was hired by the Broncos in January after working as an offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers for the past three seasons. Hackett takes over a Broncos offense that was ranked in the bottom third of the league for the last five years.
The Broncos were said to be in market for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has expressed some displeasure playing in Green Bay. Less than an hour before NFL Network first reported on the Broncos-Seahawks trade, other reports surfaced suggesting that Rodgers had reached a deal to stay with the Packers.
Rodgers said on Twitter that he would return to Packers next year, but had yet to formally sign a new contract.
With Wilson and his hefty contract heading to Denver, the Seahawks will now work on rebuilding what was one of the oldest rosters in the league last year. Before they traded Wilson, Seattle had a roster that was $34 million below the salary cap, giving the team a lot of flexibility to sign free agents. Wilson, who signed a four-year, $140 million contract extension in 2019, will earn $37 million this season in salary and bonuses.
Despite the Seahawks’ dismal 2021 showing, Carroll and General Manager John Schneider will remain with the club. A new era will being in Seattle, where Carroll and Wilson have been inextricably linked for the past decade.
Midway through last season, as the Seahawks struggled while Wilson was injured, Carroll said he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he has as head coach if it wasn’t for Wilson, who led 24 fourth-quarterback comebacks and 32 game-winning drives during his time in Seattle.
“Let’s say it this way: I’ve been here a long time, and if we didn’t have Russell, I probably wouldn’t have been here a long time,” Carroll said. “We owe a tremendous amount.”