Russell Wilson Gets Paid

Denver QB Russell Wilson
Denver QB Russell Wilson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Preseason Week 3 - Russell Wilson has a new five-year, $245-million extension that includes $165 million guaranteed. This is the No. 3 contract in NFL history for guaranteed money behind Deshaun Watson ($230 million) and Kyler Murray ($189.5 million). Wilson is 33 and this extension takes him through his late thirties.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, despite initial negotiations beginning five months ago, the deal was delayed until new Broncos ownership could assess the situation. Now, with the team sold and the Walter-Penner ownership group in the building, they now have their franchise quarterback for the next seven years.  

Wilson was still very good last year according to Football Outsiders metrics. He came back too early from a finger injury but check out his performance at the start and the end of the season:

  • Weeks 1-5: 32.5% DVOA, 8.00 NetY/P
  • Weeks 10-13: -28.4% DVOA, 4.95 NetY/P
  • Weeks 14-18: 20.3% DVOA, 6.86 NetY/P

Wilson finished the season just 15th in passing DYAR but 12th passing DVOA despite that dip in the middle where he struggled coming back from the injury. Wilson was 11th in passing DYAR in 2020 and fourth in 2019. He's probably not the quarterback he was a couple of years ago, but he's still very good.

While Russell Wilson played in Seattle, the Seahawks finished outside the top ten in offensive DVOA rank just twice in 2016 and 2017. Without seeing material evidence of that in Denver, the Broncos hope to cash in on that decade-long track record.

 

View Full Article

Comments

70 comments, Last at 02 Sep 2022, 5:37pm

1 Guaranteed

I’m really fascinated to see where the recent run of guaranteed contracts goes as a trend. 

If you’ve followed professional sports (NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL + top flight European soccer, ahem, football) for as long as this one old business man has, the most striking business aspect of the NFL has always been that the players did not get themselves guaranteed contracts, either through collective bargaining (as did the other major US sports) or through market competition (ironically, that’s the driver behind all contracts being guaranteed in Euro soccer).

Insert here all the observations of how weak the NFLPA is relative to MLB/NBA/NHL. And then try explaining to a European that NFL contracts are only binding on the player not on the team. 

Of course, big and often deferred NFL signing bonuses were the first work around to the lack of guaranteed contracts. So this is an evolution. In the short run, we’re seeing more teams commit themselves — intentionally or not — to “stars and scrubs” via these guarantees… 

Anyway, I confess to having the stronger “pro-player bias” of anyone you’re likely to meet (who is not himself a player or agent), and I pull for the players in all of these labor disputes against the cartel of owners who are trying to suppress wages via monopsony. Hence, I’m just very curious to see where this goes in the long run! 

2 Insert here all the…

In reply to by carlosla

Insert here all the observations of how weak the NFLPA is relative to MLB/NBA/NHL. And then try explaining to a European that NFL contracts are only binding on the player not on the team. 

That used to be the case in UEFA, until a major legal ruling went against ownership. That basically led to statutory free agency.

You still have the weird phenomenon of transfer fees in soccer, which are held as accusations against the players even though none of that money ever passed through their hands. It's entirely a financial fiction between owners.

6 Idk about all those leagues

In reply to by carlosla

But the NBA CBA doesn't guarantee contracts. There's a lot of non/partially guaranteed contracts. But so many get full guarantees because there's a max they can get (Mahomes got $180m more than Jokic). Along with other (amnesty) clauses to spread it out in the future as well as the lower injury risk due to being a less contact sport.

Like the NFL, it's up to the agents. Sometimes you have to go through multiple tags or sit out a year and for many, understandably, it just isn't worth it for a few (relatively) more bucks. Kirk and Watson were essentially free agents. Russ, Kyler, Rodgers, etc still were under contract...for years.

I hope Lamar gets paid but I'm not sure what he's exactly looking for. Hopefully he can get a bag before something bad happens. I can't remember what I predicted for him, must've been in the Kyler thread. 

47 Not to turn this into an NBA…

Not to turn this into an NBA site… but nearly all multiyear NBA contracts are fully guaranteed. If you can find examples of multiyear non-guaranteed NBA contracts, I’d be genuinely curious to see them.

it’s up to the agents

It’s up the ‘market’ more like. Mega agencies represent athletes across sports, and it’s not like the agents who solely cover the NFL aren’t smart enough to know the value of a guaranteed contract. The NFL is singular in not having guaranteed multiyear contracts. It’s weird, and decidedly not to the players advantage.

50 Most are

But teams agreeing to guarantee them in writing for the CBA isn't how they come to it. 

A lot of 2nd rounders don't get fully guaranteed contracts. Agents can listen to their players but football is just a more contact sport where things can, and do, go wrong. And at that point, they already set for life. Guaranteeing a small portion isn't gonna do much when the deal will be reworked before the end anyway (and then given big signing bonuses which the NBA doesn't really use). 

Quibbling over a few million when you just spent a few million on breakfast isn't worth the fight for most. The "market" (agents/players) don't dictate guarantees in a sport that's really team orientated. And leagues definitely won't be like, "yeah, lets mandate giving everyone every penny regardless of how good they are." Much easier to give Jokic all the money because we're more certain of his value due to the way the game is played and how individual success carries more weight. If you're good enough, you can just iso almost every time, regardless of how good the rest of your team is. Not really a thing in football where one legal tackle can knock you out as you try to pass the ball to your teammate or wait for a block. Some teams would rather just go cheap (Seattle) and think they can make it up elsewhere.

IDK what league has such a clause in their CBA, even if most are guaranteed. Baseball is also pretty individualistic, but as we see with Murray, there's other reasons not to choose it as well despite <% guaranteed, and more dangerous (it takes forever to get to that money notably). It's been 2 years and yet Mahomes still has the largest total value NA sports contract. And it's on less years (10) than Mike Trout (12 years) and Shea Weber (14).

If players want more guaranteed contracts, they'll have to play a high value position and wait til their current teams give em up. Football is dangerous. That's why Murray wanted to be paid ASAP despite still being under contract for 2, maybe even 5 years. Can't have you cake and eat it too. 

52 Escrow

The NFL is unique across sports leagues in that it requires all guaranteed money to be placed in escrow the moment that money becomes guaranteed. This combined with the time-value of money creates a weird value imbalance on guarantees that have to be paid by teams immediately but aren't received by players for several years.

Deshaun Watson's contract specifies a $46m guaranteed salary in 2026. The present value of that sum is $37.5m (this is how Watson should value that money today), but the Browns have to pay $46m today in order for Deshaun to receive it in 2026.

54 It simply isn't true that…

In reply to by carlosla

It simply isn't true that collective bargaining mandates guaranteed contracts in the other major US team sports. Team options are rare, but they do exist. The reason why they are much more common in the NFL is market driven, due to football's high injury rate, and there being so many players who get significant playing time.

3 Explain?

financial fiction between owners

Curious what you mean by that? I’ve understood transfer fees as clubs monetizing the value of the player + player’s contract. Essentially European clubs sell that package for cash + IOUs vs. trading for another player + contract. But maybe I’m missing something?

7 Teams play games with…

In reply to by carlosla

Teams play games with transfer fee value for tax purposes and manipulating profit/loss timing.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobbymcmahon/2020/07/02/pjani-and-arthur-the-latest-in-a-series-of-terrible-barcelona-deals/?sh=282d87777a1a

This resembles salary cap restructuring, and is similarly silly-season, with an added dollop of tax fraud and zero-sum game nonsense. Really only net matters, and even that barely matters in the Big Four.

\I would say Big Five, but the rest of the Bundesliga exists only to serve as Bayern Munich's farm team

17 If you disregard the…

If you disregard the Bundesliga, you must definitely disregard Ligue 1. That league also only has PSG as a real threat, and far less depth (Eintracht Frankfurt just won the Europa League). Just look at the UEFA country coefficients:  https://www.uefa.com/nationalassociations/uefarankings/country/#/yr/2022

That said, Bayern has definitely dominated the last decade and I really wish someone, anyone, else can finally break this curse...

38 The UEFA League isn't a…

The UEFA League isn't a measure of strength, though. It might as well be called the 17th Best Team in Europe Trophy. The real quality teams never come close to participating.

PSG lost the league just two seasons ago. It's been a decade since that happened to Bayern.

4 Deserved.

Thought it'd happen next year but I guess they too wanted to get out in front of the Lamar deal and are (rightfully) not afraid of being Wentzd. 

The downfall of Russ (same age as Stafford mind you recently biased folks) was always greatly exaggerated. He played pretty much like he always does. Takes too many sacks but above average in everything else except Cmp%+ (which still wasn't as low as 2017s 93). Whatever decline you saw was easily explained by his (FIRST) injury that caused him to miss time. I see no reason why he can't last as long as Brees. 

Looks like their backup this year is Rypien. I would suggest they stream the cheapest backups in the coming years. Spend all the draft capital on other (non ST!) positions to help a title run. Don't even think about drafting a backup/potential future starter until like 2026. That gives them a terrific 4 year window or so!

Go Badgers!

5 It takes him to age 40, not…

It takes him to age 40, not late 30s. This is his age 34 year (turns 34 in November), he has 2 years on his current contract, adding 5 takes him to his age 40 year.

This means it's a 7-year $296M contract, or $35.26M/yr flat cap for the Broncos. Way below Watson/Prescott/Rodgers (40.8/38.7/37.9M). Depending on how you calculate it, a smidge above Cousins (whose full time with the Vikings is 33.6M) although because of the way the contract worked Cousins is a higher average cap hit in his remaining years. Above the rookie contracts, of course, which top out at like $32.2M/yr or something.

The complication of course is that Wilson was traded, so unlike, say, Rodgers, the Broncos aren't carrying an extra $26M related to his prior contract. Adding that on (so from Wilson's point of view, I guess) it'd be right around Prescott's contract. But basically from a cap standpoint, the Broncos are at a bit of a disadvantage relative to the rookie teams, but not as constrained as the Browns/Cowboys/Packers are. You could say "benefits of trading for a high end QB" but of course that's what the draft picks given up are for. Still amazed how much better of a situation the Broncos put themselves in over the Browns.

8 A QB with about the…

A QB with about the performance of Cousins on a contract basically a wash with Cousins', also on a team whose defensive performance is slipping from their defensive reputation... frankly sounds a lot like the Cousins Vikings.

9 No, the difference is that…

No, the difference is that this is a long-term commitment to Wilson, which allows them to shove cap costs way down the road and effectively build around Wilson while he's still on the team and at a high level. The Vikings aren't doing that: they're basically paying as they go for Cousins.

That being said the draft pick lost opportunity cost is real, obviously, so in some sense I'd say it's a wash as to which team's in a better position. If the Vikings would've just committed hard to Cousins previously they'd way be in a better position.

edit: said another way, the Vikings are currently borrowing from Cousins's age 36 year, whereas the Broncos are borrowing from Wilson's age 41 year. Cousins's age 36 year is likely to be far more valuable than Wilson's age 41 year.

18 The worst thing about the…

The worst thing about the Browns is that the individual decisions they make aren't bad. You can be like, well, what were the Browns supposed to do? They needed to upgrade at QB, so that's what they had to do!

Yeah, sure, they needed to upgrade their offense. Great. They also literally released a WR that went on to lead the team in receiving in the NFC championship game because of, I dunno, teh feels. They're spending friggin' $11M+/yr in cap space on running backs for the next two years when golly gee, if you're looking for a place to save money by bringing in draft picks, that's a great place for them to contribute, right? Oh no, instead, we have to draft a kicker in the 4th round.

It's just impatient, impulsive decision after decision. Just crazy predictable. Just amazed that people think that the Browns and Watson are going to be all kumbaya and totally best friends. What happens if Watson puts up a Cousins-like year, like he did in '18 or '19? Do people really think Haslam's going to be all super-supportive and stick by the team?

19 Forgetting the other…

Forgetting the other decisions, I don't truly see the difference between Watsons contract and Wilsons contract other than Watsons are all guaranteed and Wilson's aren't. Assuming you expect both to be there, Watson carries a lower annual salary figure. If the guarantees are immaterial to you, then really the only difference is the fact that Watson required an extra first rounder while Wilson required sending out Shelby Harris and some other filler.

On top of that, Watson is younger and thus super unlikely to decline due to age than Wilson, who again will see his 39th and 40th birthdays on his contract. And of course, Watson, by virtue of his age, carries a more credible promise of improvement than Wilson, who could improve too but is less likely to. That said, Wilson is more certain than Watson and depending on your flavor of supporting casts/organizational assumptions; is better than Watson. SO basically its a wash. 

As for their likelihood to ask for a trade, again I don't see much of a difference there either. Both players have asked for trades; they just did it in different ways and honestly, Watson's felt more justifiable than Wilson's. 

26 I am the one arguing that…

I am the one arguing that when deciding which contract is "better", guaranteed dollars to me make more sense in most cases than the full contract. 

This is better for the player. Better for the team involves looking at the money the team expects to pay assuming the player's career tracks.

 

58 Better for the team involves…

Better for the team involves looking at the money the team expects to pay assuming the player's career tracks.

 

 And there is the minor matter of how much money the player will bring in due to merch, butts in seats, and playoff appearances.

59 Well, from the team's cap…

Well, from the team's cap perspective that doesn't matter, but you're totally right that from the player's perspective it should. That's totally why I think Mahomes's contract makes total and complete sense for him: it's very cheap from the team's perspective, so the Chiefs are likely to stay competitive... pretty much indefinitely, which means Mahomes stays in the public eye, which means his brand just gets bigger and bigger.

Totally get that there are guys who aren't "public figure" types but, I mean... as I've said elsewhere, Brady will likely earn more outside of football than he did on the field. And that's nuts.

62 ... as I've said elsewhere,…

... as I've said elsewhere, Brady will likely earn more outside of football than he did on the field. And that's nuts.

Not wholly unprecedented. Michael Jordan and LeBron James were both principally employed by Nike and moonlighted on the side with some basketball teams.

What's a real aberration is that Brady is not even his household's chief earner.

63 Oh yeah, sorry, didn't mean…

Oh yeah, sorry, didn't mean to suggest it was unprecedented. It's just nuts to me that you can earn more money because you played a sport than you earned playing the sport. This is also the reason why Rodgers is such an oddball to me: literally anything that hurts your brand image is a huge economic mistake.

67 That was probably reasonably…

That was probably reasonably common in the old days, when players made peanuts actually playing the sport, but could make a decent amount from their fame because of it.

I wonder if Marino made more from Isotoner than he did from the Dolphins.

34 Watson? Hello???

You are lost as to the main difference between signing Russell Wilson and signing Deshaun Watson. Which makes the one contract much worse than the other.

Jeepers.

36 I'd be less lost if you were…

In reply to by BigRichie

I'd be less lost if you were direct with your points instead of merrily indulging in an obvious attempt to be glib, dismissive, and officious all at the same time. 

Are you looking for some intellectual validation via the internet? Or this just a weird fantasy of yours? Either way, if you are older than 25, I'm seriously feeling sorry for you.
 

Oh well, yet another person I can just happily ignore from now on. 

43 In short

One of us sees a problem in signing Deshaun Watson as if nothing in the world ever happened. One of us sees no problem there at all. So lets examine his contract just like everyone else's.

I am quite happy being the one seeing a problem. Very, very happy.

45 Congrats!

In reply to by BigRichie

Member number 2 of "slothooks no talk list for being called out for not caring about human atrocities and other biases!"

Make sure to pay your monthly dues in the form of having your freedom of speech limited because Gruden was fired. 

23 Assuming you expect both to…

Assuming you expect both to be there, Watson carries a lower annual salary figure.

Watson will be paid $230M through 2026. Wilson will be paid $296M through 2028. Do you think a high-end quarterback would not earn $66M for 2 years of play in 2027-2028?

27 I have no idea how you can…

I have no idea how you can think that Watson hitting free agency 2 years earlier than Wilson is a similar contract. Wilson's extension occurs literally 2 years in the future. When the cap will be 23% higher.

15 Again the guarantees are…

Again the guarantees are important from the player's point of view, not the team's. What I'm saying is "assuming Wilson continues playing at his current level, this is how much of the cap they're going to dedicate to that." The guarantee fraction in some sense covers risk if the player does not continue performing at this level.

Sometimes contracts include Agent Theater (tm) that you have to slice off (i.e. the team has no intention whatsoever of ever paying it - like Tyreek Hill's final year, or years that extend well past when a player is even remotely likely to be viable and contain no guarantees and easy cut years). When I calculate flat cap stuff, I slice those years off as "functional void" years. However I highly doubt Russell Wilson's contract contains any years like that: age 40 is completely reasonable for a QB, so it doesn't "strain credulity" to believe that the Broncos have every intention of paying out close to every year.

I will admit I have no idea if this is the right thing to do with Rodgers because I highly doubt he'll play for the Packers for the next 5 years, but again, from the team's point of view I'm betting they would be totally comfortable with it.

16 To be honest, I don't think…

To be honest, I don't think it should be reasonable to expect Wilson to be playing at this level at 39 and 40. 

Sure, he certainly could. But it's as if everybody expects Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to be the new normal and are conveniently forgetting Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben roethlisberger who all declined from their typical levels. They were still OK but hardly worth peak value contracts. Same with Ryan and the Cap hit the Falcons are eating this year is sort of what I'm talking about. Now granted, you could argue much like with the Eagles that the cap hit on a potential lost year is irrelevant, but to me that is the downside risk we are talking about. 

Really, the downside risk is there for players who look and are expected to be really good but aren't there yet at the moment and then for players who's tail end starts to brush up against the typical declining age.

For someone like Mahomes, you are correct. The guaranteed dollars are practically irrelevant unless there's a catastrophic injury, but you don't plan around that.

 

20 To be honest, I don't think…

To be honest, I don't think it should be reasonable to expect Wilson to be playing at this level at 39 and 40. 

That's why the guarantee fraction is low. That's just risk management by the team. It doesn't change the fact that I absolutely believe the Broncos are totally hoping to pay out this contract and probably hoping for another, one too.

The guarantee fraction for QBs is how much risk they think is embedded in the player. The total is how much cap space they're willing to dedicate to a person performing at his level. Do you think the Broncos are need Wilson to improve to not cut him?

I'm saying that the Broncos value a player of Wilson's current performance level at around $35M/yr flat (16.8% of the cap). That's what they believe that performance is worth. I also do not believe the Broncos are folding in an expectation of decline from Wilson: that's covered in the low guarantee fraction. 

If the back end of the contract accelerates hard (a la Tyreek Hill or AJ Brown) then yes, you slice those years off because they're Agent Theater. But I doubt that's the case.

24 The thing is, they can…

The thing is, they can always restructure the non guaranteed money to soften the per annum blow of the contract. Or even get him to trade some of that as bonus to lower it. Effectively, the guaranteed part stays constant at least at the time of signing so it never goes away. That's kind of what I am getting at. People will point to the backend of Mahomes' contract and say that's when the figures become huge, but by that point it will get renegotiated; trading a lot of that into future bonus money as he signs an extension. 

30 The thing is, they can…

The thing is, they can always restructure the non guaranteed money to soften the per annum blow of the contract. Or even get him to trade some of that as bonus to lower it. 

I seriously have no idea what you're trying to say. You think there's a chance that Wilson will play for the Broncos through 2028 and earn less than that contract says?

33 Not to get in the middle of…

Not to get in the middle of this argument, but it is true that 99% of these contracts are restructured in the future, so the specifics beyond the first 2-3 years are maybe not that important. Especially for the QB position, future non-guaranteed money tends to get converted into guarantees, as they are very difficult to replace.

37 This is basically what I was…

This is basically what I was trying to argue but work got in the way. On top of that, its devolved into needless pendantry. Frankly, this thread along with others have shown why its better to avoid debating with certain personalities on this forum. 

40 Sigh. They don't get…

Sigh. They don't get replaced. They get *extended*. The old year values are included in the contract but only new money values are reported because agents are weird.

That's what's going on here. His last contract is not being replaced. Additional years are being added on.

Very rarely, a player at the end of their career will drop down their salary a bit. But it's pretty trivial: Roethlisberger did this, for instance, for like $5M out of 85M total. Which is why for shorter contracts I'm more iffy about including them.

Again, this isn't about the player. It's about where the team thinks the market is.

46 Nobody said the contract was…

Nobody said the contract was "replaced", and we understand how it works. I'm beginning to agree that you love to pedantically argue with the voices in your own head, rather than the words on the screen. 

If anything, I'm in agreement that for Wilson the guarantees do *not* matter that much. Because he is almost certainly going to get Top QB money until the day he retires. (As you point out even the ghost of Big Ben got a final year restructure.)

edit: just to make it clear, I said quarterbacks are difficult to replace. 

51 What I'm trying to say is…

What I'm trying to say is that to the team, those extra years matter because if they want to keep the player, they're basically going to have to pay them the total amount, one way or another (modulo some small discount at the end). If you get to 2 years left and there's $80M left to pay out and you want to keep the player longer, you can extend it but you're definitely going to be paying the player more than $80M.

Again I think the difficulty here is just a point of view problem. I absolutely agree that from the player's perspective, either the guaranteed money or the 3-year total would be what they care about, and the total is less important. But from the team's perspective, it's not just the guarantee: the guarantee manages your risk, but the total tells you how much you have to pay to retain that player's rights.

To give an example: Deshaun Watson has a 5-year, $230M fully guaranteed contract. If that contract was 6 years, $300M, first 5 years $230M fully guaranteed would it be better, worse, or no change for the team? Significantly worse: yes, they don't have to pay that 6th year, yes of course they can try to renegotiate to keep it down. But with that final year at $70M they're giving up big leverage in negotiation. Likewise, if the contract is 230M guaranteed on first 5 years, 260M total, that's a super good contract for the team, because Watson is then giving up a ton of leverage in the final year. Again, yes, the team knows they probably wouldn't be able to keep him with that cheap of a contract at the end, and they'd have to negotiate, but it's higher leverage.

Somewhere in the middle is a balance where if everything stays the same, everyone's happy with the contract and it represents expected performance relative to market. I, for instance, believe that Mahomes's contract is right around the low end of that, where both the team and the player have little incentive to complain.

Just to stress this: I am not looking at these contracts from the player's point of view. It's just to figure out where the quarterback market is and how teams value it. Places like OTC, PFT, and ESPN talking heads focus on things from the player's point of view, which is why sometimes what I'm saying is directly opposite.

OTC, for instance, compares Russell Wilson's contract to Dak Prescott's contract by pretending Prescott's was signed this year. Which is crazy. It'd be like comparing this new contract to Peyton Manning's. Prescott's contract ends in 2024! 

32 Soooo, heck of a game coming up yeah

Broncos - Seahawks. MNF. In Seattle.

Couldn't have written a better script.

Seahawk fans have to look at that contract and wonder which would have been wiser: to pay Wilson and fire Pete or go the route they did.

41 It's worth noting this is…

It's worth noting this is quite a bit more affordable for the Broncos than the Seahawks, since Seattle's carrying $24M dead cap. If they had paid Wilson this contract they'd be carrying one of the highest QB charges in the league. With Denver it's much closer to the rookies.

35 Hmm

Seems like a lot of money to pay just to have the third-best quarterback in your division. I like the narrative and am interested to see whether the Broncos can duplicate the success they had with Manning, but I don't think this is going to be a great deal for them.

60 It's not really clear to me…

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

It's not really clear to me what the other QBs in the division have to do with anything. Wilson is somewhere around 5-10th best QB in the league. He's worth two first round picks and $40m/y, whether Herbert and Mahomes are in your division or not.

61 You could actually make the…

You could actually make the argument that with Mahomes/Herbert (under the assumption they're better) in the division you really have to make a big (read: long) commitment to Wilson because you're just going to have to borrow hard in order to compete with them. It'll suck when you need to move on, but that's life when you're working at a talent/cost disadvantage.

 

70 Not just the playoffs! https…

Not just the playoffs!

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/team-efficiency/2005/regular
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/team-efficiency/2010/regular
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/team-efficiency/2017/regular

The 2010 was the Missed Playoffs Due to Special Teams season. 2017 was part 2.
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2010/fo-mailbag-best-dvoa-miss-playoffs

39 Happy for Wilson! But... I…

Happy for Wilson!

But...

I also predict Denver's passing DVOA in 2022 will be lower than it was in 2021 with Bridgewater.

I've doubted him before to my grand embarrassment, so I'm prepared to eat these words, but he's clearly declined the last couple of years, and that finger injury scares the hell out of me.

The money isn't terrible for the team given what QBs make these days, even if he's more like the ~10th best QB going forward than the top-5ish he was.

But 1) is the ~10th best QB someone you really want to build around? He might actually be the worst QB in the division for the forseeable future (a high bar, obviously, but that's their competitive environment).

And 2) if he starts to miss time more regularly - which he will if he doesn't get his sack rate down pronto - the deal could become a millstone quickly (not only necessitating a good/higher-paid backup QB, eating into the ostensible value of the extension, but also hamstringing their decision-making around the position with the constant "Well, if he stays healthy this year..." dilemma).

42 I think the poster above who…

I think the poster above who compared it to the Vikings is pretty accurate. They're definitely overpaying for Wilson, but it's not insane, and unlike the Vikings they're set for a long time so they can maximize the team and get maybe a few year window. The draft picks hurt. Better position than Browns/Watson though.

44 having watched Wilson the last 10 years

Russ does an excellent job of avoiding hits. I'm not concerned about his health.

I do think, particularly at this point in his career, Russ's efficiency is going to take a big hit if the Broncos use him as it sounds they want to use him.

53 Contract details came out,…

Contract details came out, and I'm still confident there are no "funny" years in it. The 3 totally unguaranteed years (26/27/28) are 40M/45M/50M, which are extremely reasonable cash flows, and if Wilson's approaching the end of his career I'd imagine everyone would be fine with those totals given the escalating QB market.

If I had to make a guess as to what will happen in terms of his career arc (which is not what I was talking about before) I'd guess that they'll probably be talking about trading or letting him go probably around '26-'27, because I don't have a strong belief that Wilson will stay high-end through 40. But it totally could happen.

56 I think the team is hedging…

I think the team is hedging pretty clearly.  If Russ is good, they can keep him through the end of the contract or renegotiate an extension, if he declines they have an out. Aging (and injuries) are hard to predict (Ben dropping comes to mind), so it seems pretty reasonable honestly. 

 

57 Yup: and the last year's…

Yup: and the last year's salary ('28, $50M) is exactly the same as you'd expect if it was just a $35M/yr contract with 6% annual growth. Obviously unless he talks to the team and is like "yeah, I'm retiring after this" there will likely be some kind of restructure/rework/extension/etc. at the end, but it's always possible that it's just a smooth exit like Philip Rivers did.

This is the thing that always confuses me when people are like "there's no way they'll be paying him $50M at the end, they'll rework that." Why would they? Paying a QB $35M now (16.8% of the cap) is totally normal.

It's a totally solid contract for both the team and for Wilson, although like I said that's partly because the Broncos basically got gifted $24M by the Seahawks (and paid handsomely in draft picks for it, mind you).

64 Contract details

As usual with big, long contracts like this the cap hit vs actual cash paid by year is very different, and the cap hits start lower than cash and ends higher.

2022: $50M signing bonus, $5M roster bonus, $2M base salary, all fully guaranteed, $17M cap hit.

2023: $20M option bonus, $8M base salary, all fully guaranteed, $22M cap hit. (note, option bonus is fully guaranteed in this case so amortizes from 2023 to end of of contract like signing bonus)

2024: $22M option bonus, $17M salary, all fully guaranteed, $35.4M cap hit. (again, fully guaranteed option bonus amortized from 2024 to end of contract)

2025: $37M base salary, fully guaranteed on fifth day of the 2024 league year, $55.4M cap hit. (first serious "decision point" in contract as cap hit spikes and guaranteed cash ends; that said, in 3 years I'm not sure a $55M cap hit for a QB will be unusual, plus there are enough years that moving on will cause an even bigger cap hit as signing and option bonuses would accelerate into the cap; expect Denver to keep him)

2026: $40M base salary with reported injury protection, $58.4M cap hit. (see 2025 comments, though somewhat more feasible for Denver to move on as accelerated cap not nearly as bad)

2027: $45M base salary, not guaranteed, $53.4M cap hit. (first point it's really feasible for Denver to move on without salary cap issues worse than the cap hit here)

2028: $50M base salary, not guaranteed, $54.4M cap hit. (last year, easy for Denver to get out off; will be extended if still good and both sides want to)

As this Broncos fan sees it they have 3 years of a very cap-friendly deal for a QB of Wilson's caliber.  After that he stays good and things are still reasonable for a couple more years, or he's bad and everyone from team to player to fans has heartburn.  By 2027 he's still good and renegotiations to extend are going on, or he's bad and Denver's escaping without serious cap issues.

66 The best part of Wilson's…

The best part of Wilson's contract from the Broncos point of view (in my opinion) is the contract length, in my opinion: unlike Rodgers/Watson/Prescott who will all be either gone (Rodgers) or on new, even more accelerated contracts (Prescott, Watson), Wilson's under contract to the Broncos for more like the rookies' contracts.

The specifics of the contract will obviously change, since there isn't even any cap hits extending into '29 at this point. Even if he ends up being lower talent-wise than say Mahomes/Herbert/Allen/etc., it's still not crazy for them to push money hard late in the years and then just accept that you'll get a Russell Wilson Retirement Tour year (a la Roethlisberger).

Save 10%
& Support Aaron
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and . Use promo code SCHATZ to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Aaron.