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After weeks of negotiations, in one of the biggest trades in NFL history, the Denver Broncos have agreed to send a significant package of players and draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.
The Broncos have agreed to trade quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022 — No. 9 overall — and 2023), two second-round picks (2022 — No. 40 overall — and 2023) and a 2022 fifth-round selection to the Seahawks for Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick, sources said.The trade gives Denver the quarterback it has sought since Peyton Manning retired, and it gives Seattle a foundation on which to rebuild without the quarterback who led the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl title.
Wilson agreed to waive his no-trade provision and passed his Broncos’ physical on Tuesday night, sources told ESPN. These moves clear the way for the Seahawks to send him to Denver, ending his historic 10-season run in Seattle that included nine Pro Bowl selections, one Super Bowl title and more wins than any quarterback ever has posted during his first 10 seasons in the league.
The Broncos were Wilson’s preference, if he was traded, sources told ESPN’s Brady Henderson.
The other players involved in the trade still have to pass their physicals. But the teams now will start the process with the NFL to confirm the trade, which can’t be officially announced until March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, the start of the 2022 league year.
Denver acquiring Wilson has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers’ decision to return to Green Bay. Denver general manager George Paton initiated trade talks with Seattle for Wilson at least two weeks ago, sources said. But in recent days, as trade talks with Seattle heated up, it became clear that Wilson was the Broncos’ Plan A. The Broncos and Packers had not discussed a Rodgers trade this offseason.
The Seahawks quietly were listening to offers for Wilson and got calls from multiple teams. One league source estimated the total to be over a dozen teams. Wilson sensed he was going to have to move on, and if he did, he wanted to be going to a winning program. Denver, with all its offensive talent and its tough defense, is in “win-now” mode.
Denver has been trying to find a suitable quarterback since Manning retired, just as the organization tried for years to find a suitable quarterback after John Elway retired. Enter the 33-year-old Wilson.
Wilson will join a Broncos team lead by new head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The team’s offense includes wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and running back Javonte Williams.
The Broncos’ odds to win the Super Bowl improved from 25-1 to 12-1 Tuesday at Caesars Sportsbook. Only three teams — the Buffalo Bills (15-2), Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) and Packers (10-1) have better odds to win the Super Bowl than the Broncos at Caesars Sportsbook. The Seahawks, meanwhile, saw their odds to win the Super Bowl fall from 40-1 to 75-1 at Caesars.
Wilson beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and will become the first quarterback to start for a team he beat in the Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Wilson was set to count $37 million against Seattle’s salary cap this coming season. His trade will save the Seahawks $11 million in 2022 cap space. They could create more cap space before next week’s start of free agency depending on what they do with All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, another franchise cornerstone who was drafted on the same day as Wilson in 2012.
The Seahawks take on $26 million in dead money by trading Wilson. Per ESPN Stats & Information research, that’s the second-most dead money a team has ever incurred, trailing the $33.8 million the Philadelphia Eagles ate in the Carson Wentz trade.
Coach Pete Carroll told reporters at the scouting combine last week that the Seahawks had “no intention” of trading Wilson, but Carroll again stopped short of shooting down the possibility entirely. Carroll said general manager John Schneider’s standard response to teams inquiring about Wilson is that the Seahawks aren’t shopping their quarterback, according to The (Tacoma) News Tribune.
Wilson’s trade comes 13 months after his frustrations with the organization bubbled to the surface. He publicly complained in February 2021 about all the hits and sacks he had taken over his career — lobbying for the team to improve his pass protection — and about his perceived lack of say in personnel matters relative to other top quarterbacks.
Wilson’s comments rankled some in the organization, sources told ESPN. But those tensions seem to have subsided during a drama-free 2021 season.
It’s not clear whether Wilson requested a trade.
Wilson, according to a source, always planned on revisiting his concerns after the 2021 season. He spoke on multiple occasions about his desire to remain in Seattle long-term, saying he wanted to win more Super Bowls with the Seahawks. But Wilson stopped short of declaring he would stay, even though his no-trade clause could guarantee that.
Wilson has two years and $51 million left on the four-year, $140 million extension he signed in April 2019. That includes base salaries of $19 and $22 million, with $5 million March roster bonuses in each year making up the remainder. Had Wilson remained on Seattle’s roster as of March 20, the Seahawks would have owed him his $5 million bonus.
Wilson leaves Seattle as the franchise’s career leader in most relevant passing categories and the only quarterback to win a Lombardi Trophy for the Seahawks.
The Seahawks are scheduled to play a home game against the Broncos next season.
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