Broncos need a math lesson before moving on from Russell Wilson

Jan 3, 2024, 1:00 PM | Updated: 1:18 pm

The debate surrounding Russell Wilson and the Broncos always seems to come down to what most things in life eventually are all about – money. The quarterback is scheduled to make a boatload of it in the coming years, with his five-year, $245-million contract set to kick in with the 2024 season.

Given how Wilson has performed during his two seasons in Denver, as well as the fact that the Broncos have struggled to an 11-19 record during his 30 starts in the Mile High City, there’s understandable frustration with those numbers. The QB doesn’t seem worth the money.

That’s hard to debate. Even the most-ardent Wilson supporter would have a difficult time suggesting that he’s played at a level worthy of roughly $50 million per season.

Thus, it’s easy for the anti-Wilson crowd to make a simple argument when it comes to the debate about whether or not the Broncos should move on from the quarterback. He simply isn’t worth the money.

Oh, if it was only that simple.

If the Broncos could move on from Wilson’s contract, turn the page and move in another direction, the decision would be a no-brainer. They should cut their losses and move on. But that’s not the case.

Even if Denver parts ways with the quarterback this offseason, they’re still going to have to pay him; a large portion of his contract was guaranteed. He’ll also count a ton towards the teams salary cap, whether he’s playing in Denver or not.

Thus, the equation isn’t that simple. In fact, the math is pretty staggering.

If the Broncos cut Wilson, here’s how things shape up:

2024 = $39 million
TOTAL = $39 million

2024 = $35.4 million
2025 = $49.7 million
TOTAL = $85 million

Currently, the largest single dead cap number in NFL history is $40.525 million. That’s what the Falcons absorbed in order to move on from Matt Ryan prior to the 2022 season.

Wilson’s figure is more than double that amount. It’s staggering.

The Broncos are set to pay the QB a ton of money, and have two huge cap hits, for Wilson to NOT play for them. It’s insane.

Conversely, here’s how the numbers look if Wilson stays in Denver for the next two seasons:

2024 = $39 million
2025 = $37 million
TOTAL = $76 million

2024 = $35.4 million
2025 = $55.4 million
TOTAL = $90.8 million

During that stretch, it’s slightly more cap space for Wilson. It’s also more money out the door in terms of an actual expense. But at least they’d get 34 games from the player. The Broncos would be getting something in exchange for their outlay of dough and tied up salary cap room.

If they decided to part ways after the 2025 season, the Broncos would have one more hit. They’d have $31.2 million in dead cap for the ’26 campaign.

So here’s the question. Would the Broncos rather pay a little more for something or a little less than nothing?

They can shell out $39 million for zero games or $76 million for 34. They can absorb an $85 million cap hit over two years ($42.5 per year) for a player not on their roster or $121 million over three years ($40.33 per year) for a quarterback who is on their roster for 66.67% of that time.

How is this a difficult question?

In order to justify eating that kind of cash and cap space for nothing in return, the argument would have to be that Wilson is such a distraction, such a detriment to the locker room, that he has to be sent packing. The addition-by-subtraction argument is the only thing that would make sense.

Given Wilson’s personality, as well as his reputation around the league and with his Broncos teammates, that seems hard to believe. For all his faults, the quarterback is a good guy and teammate.

Thus, it makes no sense to move on from him. It’s not as though the Broncos will be able to use the money and salary cap space currently allotted to Wilson on anyone else. It’s not a question or putting the dollars to better use.

From a financial standpoint, it makes way more sense to have Wilson in Denver than elsewhere in 2024 and ’25. From a business perspective, it’s much more prudent to make it work with quarterback who has completed 66.4% of his passes this season, thrown 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 98.0 in 2023.

The math sends a very clear message to Greg Penner, Sean Payton, George Paton and anyone else involved in the Russell Wilson decision: Make it work.


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