Broncos Bet Cutting Russell Wilson Will Cure 8-Year Super Bowl Hangover

Denver hasn't been back to the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50 with Peyton Manning

Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos watches his team warm up. Will cutting him help the Broncos cure their eight-year Super Bowl hangover?
Russell Wilson is on the market for a new team after getting cut.
Justin Edmonds/Getty

Stumbling through a hung-over haze of quarterbacks, coaches and postseason-less seasons since defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 with Peyton Manning at quarterback, the Broncos may have experienced a moment of clarity yesterday by releasing quarterback Russell Wilson, a move that will leave a record $85 million in dead money on Denver’s salary cap over the next two seasons.

Inked to a five-year, $242.6 million deal that included $124 million in guaranteed cash after he was traded to the Broncos from Seattle for a haul of assets including two first-round picks (2022, ’23), two second-round picks (’22, ’23), as well as tight end Noah Fant and QB Drew Lock, Wilson will be paid $39 million this season by Denver in addition to whatever he gets from his new team. Wilson’s release will be costly, but coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton apparently felt the hefty price was worth paying in order to get the one-time Super Bowl winner out of Broncos Country.

“On behalf of the Broncos, we thank Russell for his contributions and dedication to our team and community while wishing him the best as he continues his career,” Payton and Paton said in a joint statement. “As we move forward, we are focused on building the strongest team possible for the 2024 season and beyond. We are excited to improve this offseason and will have the flexibility to get better through the draft and free agency.”

It Appears the Seahawks Fleeced the Broncos in the Russell Wilson Trade
Seattle has gone 3-3 with Geno Smith at QB since trading Wilson as the Broncos have limped to a 2-4 record with him

Wilson, 35, went 11-19 as a starter over two seasons in Denver before being benched with two games remaining in the 2023 season, a move that in effect marked the end of his career with the Broncos. He departs Denver as a scapegoat, as he actually put up decent numbers in ’23, completing 66.4% of his passes for 3,070 yards with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Now rid of Wilson, Payton — whom the Broncos surrendered a first- and second-round pick to acquire from the Saints prior to last season — has the opportunity to bring in a quarterback of his choosing and give Denver the franchise QB the organization has been searching for since Manning retired following SB 50. The search has been a fruitless one as the Broncos have used 13 quarterbacks including Wilson in the eight seasons since Manning’s retirement: Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Phillip Lindsay, Teddy Bridgewater and Jarrett Stidham.

Denver’s list of coaches (none of whom had a winning record) since Super Bowl-winner Gary Kubiak retired the year after Manning is also somewhat of a hot mess: Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio, Nathaniel Hackett and Jerry Rosburg. Payton, who was a game below .500 at 8-9 in his first year in Denver, is the next name on that list.

It’s an interesting place to be as the Broncos, who are generally regarded as a solid franchise, are closer to being one of the dregs of the NFL than they are a contender and have the second-longest playoff drought (eight seasons) in the league, behind only the Jets (13 seasons) and just ahead of the Panthers (six seasons) and Atlanta Falcons (six seasons). Wilson was brought in to fix Denver’s postseason problem and he didn’t, but he also didn’t create it. Perhaps Wilson’s departure will finally be the Super Bowl hangover cure the Broncos have needed for almost a decade. If not, don’t be surprised if Payton follows him out the door. After all, a coach’s dead money doesn’t count against the cap.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!