DENVER — Russell Wilson has wanted to play on the big sports stage in Denver for nearly a dozen years.
He'll get his wish as the Broncos — not the baseball Rockies — have brought Wilson back to Denver as a quarterback.
Sources confirmed to 9NEWS that the Seattle Seahawks have traded Wilson, a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback and one-time Super Bowl champion, to the Denver Broncos.
- Quarterback Russell Wilson
- 2022 4th-round draft pick
- Quarterback Drew Lock
- Tight end Noah Fant
- Defensive lineman Shelby Harris
- 2022 1st-round draft pick (No. 9 overall)
- 2022 2nd-round draft pick (No. 40 overall)
- 2023 1st-round draft pick
- 2023 2nd-round draft pick
- 2022 5th-round draft pick
Per Oddschecker, the Broncos' Super Bowl odds tumbled after Aaron Rodgers announced through his friend Pat McAfee he was returning to Green Bay, then soared with the Russell Wilson pick up. The Broncos now have the fourth-best Super Bowl odds, tied with the defending-champs Rams, and behind only the Packers, Chiefs and Bills.
The Chiefs have ruled the AFC West for six consecutive seasons thanks to 13 consecutive wins over 6 1/2 years against the Broncos. The biggest difference between the teams the past four years has been Kansas City had quarterback Patrick Mahomes II and the Broncos' didn't. In Russell Wilson, the Broncos now have a fair fight.
Per Combine sources from Indianapolis last week, Broncos general manager George Paton went into this offseason determined to acquire either Rodgers or Wilson for his quarterback position. No one else available was a top 10 quarterback except for maybe Deshaun Watson, but he is virtually untradeable unless his legal issues can be resolved.
A turning point came last Wednesday when word came that the Packers were going all in with a $50 million a year to deal to retain Rodgers. On Thursday, trade talks between Paton and Seahawks general manager John Schneider heated up.
The Broncos are putting out word Wilson was their first choice all along. And maybe it was pure coincidence the Wilson trade was finalized two hours after it was announced Rodgers was returning to the Packers.
All is well now. Wilson has nine Pro Bowl selections in his 10 seasons and had 165 consecutive starts, including the postseason, through the first nine-plus seasons of his career, until suffering a finger injury this season.
Lock declined comment when reached by 9NEWS, saying he wanted to talk to family members and friends to process the trade before issuing comments publicly.
The hurt was palpable in Shelby Harris' voice a couple of hours after learning of the trade.
"It's tough. I loved Denver,'' Harris told 9NEWS. "Denver really gave me a chance. It's tough -- really, really tough -- but you have to stay positive. Things happen for a reason, so you have to stay positive. I'm excited for what's to come. But it's tough right now.''
On the bright side, had Harris not been such a good player the past five years for Denver, he wouldn't have been part of the Wilson trade.
"It's a respect thing,'' Harris said. "They obviously thought enough of me to put me in this trade. So it makes you feel good going to Seattle knowing you're wanted. That part definitely feels good."
Wilson had a complete no-trade clause in his contract, so he had to approve the deal. Other teams made offers to Seattle, but Wilson made it clear he wanted to play for the Broncos.
His affinity for Denver goes back a ways. Wilson was selected by then-Rockies farm director Bill Schmidt in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft. In two low-level minor-league seasons, the second baseman Wilson hit a combined .229 with five homers and 26 RBIs with 19 stolen bases.
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"He could throw," Schmidt said to a Denver Post-turned-9NEWS reporter on the Broncos beat in 2013. "He used to pitch, so he had arm strength. The question was his hitting. What I told him, I told his agent: 'We're not going to know what we have until he gets 1,500 minor-league at-bats. Most likely it's three, four years down the road when he's in Double-A that we're going to know.'"
Wilson didn't get that far. He decided to focus on his final season of playing quarterback for Wisconsin in 2011, a smart move as he was the third-round pick of the Seahawks in the 2012 draft. Wilson visited Broncos headquarters prior to the draft, but the Broncos took quarterback Brock Osweiler in the second round of that same draft.
“I was gifted to play two sports,” Wilson told the same Denver Post-turned-9NEWS reporter prior to Super Bowl 48. “I was a high draft pick in baseball. I feel, and certainly the Colorado Rockies felt, I could play in the major leagues. But I had this urge to play in the National Football League. I was 5-11 and everybody was telling me I couldn’t. But I knew from seeing guys like Drew Brees, Doug Flutie, Fran Tarkenton from the past, and knowing the talent that God gave me, I knew I could do it. I just needed an opportunity. There’s nothing like having the ball in your hands with two minutes remaining and you have 80,000 people rooting against you.”
Yes, but is it easier than hitting a curveball in front of 50,000 at Coors Field?
“It’s a little easier than hitting a curveball,” Wilson said. “Some of the fastballs are hard to hit, too.”
The trade for Wilson came hours after a possible Broncos quarterback target, Aaron Rodgers, decided to return to Green Bay.
At 33, Wilson is five years younger than Rodgers, although he's not quite as accomplished. Wilson has posted an extraordinary 101.8 career passer rating, and even after suffering his first losing season (6-8 as a starter) in 2021, has a 104-53-1 record overall.
Russell Wilson traded to Broncos
But Wilson has never been the league’s MVP, while Rodgers is a four-time winner, including each of the past two seasons. Like Rodgers, Wilson has one Super Bowl title – at the Broncos’ expense to finish the 2013 season – and narrowly missed a second Super Bowl championship the next year when he was victimized by the worst play call in the history of the NFL. Instead of handing the ball off to powerhouse running back Marshawn Lynch from the 1-yard line on second down, Seattle called for a slant pass and Wilson was intercepted in the closing seconds by New England’s Malcolm Butler.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said during his NFL Combine press conference last week in Indianapolis that his team has “no intention” of trading Wilson -- even though clearly the deal with the Broncos was in the works. Wilson has two more years and $51 million ($77 million in cap salary) left on his contract.
The Broncos gave up plenty to get Wilson. Lock was their second-round pick from the 2019 draft and started 21 games over three seasons for the Broncos, posting an 8-13 record while throwing 25 touchdowns against 20 interceptions. He will make an affordable $1.45 million in the final year of his contract.
Fant was the Broncos' first-round pick in that same 2019 draft and had seasons of 40, 62 and 68 catches. Seattle now is certain to pick up his $6.85 million option for the 2023 season.
Harris has been the Broncos' most productive defensive lineman the past five years, recording 21.5 sacks and 25 of his signature pass deflections at the line. Harris will draw $8 million in 2022 with $5 million fully guaranteed.
Wilson is to make $24 million in 2022 and $27 million in 2023 -- extremely team-friendly if his contract holds. For now, a new contract is not part of the trade, although with Wilson once saying he wants to play until he's 45, a reworked deal is coming.
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