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How the Denver Broncos can move on from the Russell Wilson mistake

When the Denver Broncos acquired future Hall of Fame quarterback Russell Wilson this past spring, the idea was that they’d compete for a conference title.

Why else would you give up two first-round picks, more draft compensation and three core players to acquire the Super Bowl-winning signal caller?

Fast forward several months, and the Broncos find themselves at 3-8 on the season following a humiliating 23-10 loss to the hapless Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Wilson, 33, has not even began to play under the five-year, $242.6 million contract extension he signed with the Broncos back in September. Said deal called for $124 million guaranteed at signing with a total of $161 million in guarantees.

Given what Denver paid to acquire Wilson and his contract status, one might think that they are stuck with him over the long-term. We’re not buying that.

New owner Rob Walton and his group have no built-in relationship with Wilson. Heck, it has no relationship with struggling first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett and general manager George Paton. There’s an out here. And while it might cost a pretty penny, Denver has options. Here’s how and why the Broncos can move on from the Wilson mistake this coming offseason.

Related: Russell Wilson and NFL’s highest-paid QBs of 2022

Denver Broncos ownership group has deep pockets

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
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Forbes estimates Walton’s net worth to be at a wopping $58.2 billion, making him the 22nd-richest person in the world and the NFL’s richest owner. Sure there’s salary cap reasons to keep Wilson (we will focus on that later), but the finances beyond that could enable Denver to simply cut ties with Wilson at some point soon.

After all, he’s not even performing like a starter-caliber quarterback right now. In Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, Wilson completed 19-of-35 passes for 142 yards. It’s just the continuation of what has been a disastrous first season in Mile High.

Through 11 games, Wilson is on pace to throw 13 touchdowns. He leads the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense. He’s been a net negative on the field. What’s to stopping the Broncos’ new ownership group from simply saying “enough is enough?”

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Denver Broncos could bite the financial bullet by releasing Russell Wilson

NFL: Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
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If Denver opted to designate Wilson a post-June 1 cut this coming offseason, the team would take on a $42 million dead cap hit while adding $25 million to its cap figure in 2023. That seems highly unlikely given the finances in today’s NFL.

Though, there’s an argument that suggests Denver needs to go into full-scale rebuild mode. If that’s the case, biting the bullet in 2023 while creating flexibility moving forward could make a ton of sense.

Related: Denver Broncos standing in Sportsnaut’s NFL power rankings

Denver Broncos pay team to acquire Russell Wilson

NFL: Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Denver could also pull a Brock Osweiler. That is to say, paying another team to acquire Wilson in a trade. Said scenario would require the future Hall of Fame quarterback opting to restructure his deal in order to lower the Broncos’ dead cap number. In the process, Wilson comes to the conclusion that he’s simply not a fit in Denver.

An irrelevant team such as the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints or Houston Texans might be willing to take a chance that Wilson can revive his career. Said team would then pick up multiple future early-round selections from a Denver Broncos team that might be ready to rid itself of the Wilson mistake.

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