JOE FANN

Fann: Seahawks set to reap rewards of Broncos’ nightmare season

Dec 27, 2022, 1:30 PM
Former Seahawks QB Russell Wilson...
Broncos QB Russell Wilson reacts during a game against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Seahawks have been one of the worst teams in football over the last month and a half. Seattle is 1-5 over its last six games, and no aspect of the roster has been immune from considerable regression. That includes Geno Smith, who spent most of the season on par with the NFL’s elite quarterbacks before falling off some of late.

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Now sitting at 7-8 with two games left to play, Seattle will face another vital offseason ahead in its rebuild. The good news is that the Seahawks have considerable assets and draft capital in order to make the improvements necessary for a return to contention. Not every team shares that opportunity.

In fact, it’s a team Seattle is directly linked to that is currently trudging through a nightmare that could last well beyond these final two weeks of the regular season. That’s the Denver Broncos, of course, whose first- and second-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft – the first of which is currently slated for No. 3 overall – belong to the Seahawks.

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It’s hard to fathom how bad things have gotten for the Broncos. The blockbuster deal that sent Russell Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick to Denver, netting Seattle a pair of firsts, a pair of seconds, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive lineman Shelby Harris, seems destined to become this era’s equivalent of the 1989 Herschel Walker trade.

Minnesota sent four players and six draft picks to Dallas in that infamous trade for Walker. Two of those selections resulted in superstars Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson. It was a deal that propelled the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories in the early 1990s (1992, 1993 and 1995), while Minnesota never even reached a conference championship with Walker and moved on from the running back after just three seasons.

Who knows if the Seahawks are destined for multiple Super Bowls, but they’re certainly the Cowboys in this comparison. The Broncos are the Vikings here, only Minnesota didn’t sign Walker to a $242.5 million extension upon arrival. In Wilson, Denver is now saddled with a 34-year-old, rapidly depreciating quarterback with an albatross of a contract that includes $165 million guaranteed.

Wilson has genuinely been one of the worst quarterbacks in football this season while leading an offense that ranks dead last in scoring. The nine-time Pro Bowler looks nothing like his vintage self and has thrown just 12 touchdowns in 2022 with nine interceptions. He reaches new lows by the week, and on Sunday, he was outperformed by Baker Mayfield in a blowout loss against the Rams. To make matters worse, Wilson was sacked six times, and his own offensive linemen appeared to have little interest in helping him up off the SoFi Stadium turf. That led to a scuffle on Denver’s sideline between backup QB Brett Rypien and left guard Dalton Risner.

Denver fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday, and Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner expressed optimism on Tuesday that Wilson is fixable. That hope is essential, though it will be hard to sell to a fan base given all that has transpired in 2022. The alternative would be to cut or trade Wilson after June 1, 2023 and eat $39 million in dead cap space.

Avenues for offseason improvement will be difficult as well due to Seattle owning Denver’s top two draft picks in the draft, though the Broncos did receive a 2023 first-rounder at the trade deadline from Miami in exchange for Bradley Chubb.

Going from expected contender to embracing a rebuild without assets is a brutal pill to swallow for the Broncos. It will be fascinating to see who ends up taking that head coach job and how things unfold in Denver over the coming months.

That is none of the Seahawks concern, though, as Seattle must focus on addressing its own voids on the roster. The organization can be grateful that thanks to Denver, it has the means and avenues to do so.

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