Huard: How Seahawks can still benefit from Russell Wilson trade

Mar 5, 2024, 8:42 AM | Updated: 10:19 am

Seattle Seahawks D.J. Jones Russell Wilson...

D.J. Jones of the Denver Broncos reacts after a play on Oct. 23, 2022. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

When the Seattle Seahawks traded star quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver ahead of the 2022 season, the Broncos thought they had the missing piece for a championship team – and they paid accordingly to make that happen.

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Denver sent two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a fifth-round pick as well as three players to Seattle for Wilson and a fourth-round selection. And even though he had two years remaining on his contract once he joined Denver, the Broncos immediately inked Wilson to a five-year, $242 million extension before he ever played a down with the team.

But Wilson didn’t get the Broncos over the top. Wilson had his worst NFL season in 2022, and Denver’s finish that year gifted the Seahawks the No. 5 overall pick. And then in an 8-9 season last year under new head coach Sean Payton, Wilson was benched in part because of a dispute over injury guarantees with his contract.

On Monday, the Broncos announced Wilson will be released when the new league year starts next week, which means he’s out in Denver after two years and before he ever played on the new contract he signed.

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The Seahawks won that trade handily as they went 9-8 in each of the past two seasons, and using that trade to add young, impact players such as left tackle Charles Cross and cornerback Devon Witherspoon in the first round as well as edge rushers Boye Mafe and Derick Hall in the second.

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The Seahawks no longer have any draft picks from Denver as a result of that trade, but former NFL quarterback Brock Huard says the Seahawks can continue to benefit from that deal now that Wilson has been released.

“Would you be willing to pick at some of the carcasses that Denver is going to have to throw out of their locker room?” Huard said during Tuesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. “They’re gonna have to make some moves. When you have that kind of dead cap, you are going to have to shed some salaries.”

The Broncos cutting Wilson isn’t as straightforward as just meaning he’s no longer with the team. Because of that contract extension and the massive signing bonus and guarantees he received, Denver is on the hook for roughly $85 million of dead salary cap space over the next two years, an NFL record. Even with the salary cap increasing quite a bit this offseason, that’s still a large chunk of money that Denver will not be able to utilize.

Huard thinks that will result in the Broncos making some tough salary-shedding decisions.

“Listening to some of the people that follow the Broncos team, they’re talking about four, five, six (notable) guys. Maybe some can be restructured … but there’s gonna be players that they’re going to have to move on from,” Huard said.

Maybe the most notable, Huard said, is All-Pro safety Justin Simmons. His position is not a clear need for the Seahawks right now given the Hawks have a lot invested in the safety room between three-time Pro Bowler Quandre Diggs, 2023 Pro Bowler Julian Love and former All-Pro Jamal Adams, but Seattle could potentially move on from at least one of those players this offseason, especially when it comes to Adams. If that were to happen, Huard thinks there could be interest there from the Seahawks.

Simmons isn’t the only impact player the Broncos may have to part ways with. Ben Powers, an offensive guard, is another name Huard noted, and both of Seattle’s Week 1 starting guards are pending free agents.

Someone who Huard plans to keep a very close eye on is D.J. Jones, a 305-pound defensive tackle who’d fill an area of need for Seattle as he’s a run stuffer and the Seahawks have had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL over the last two seasons.

“D.J. Jones, a defensive tackle there, is that going to be a guy (to watch because) he’s got about $12 million on the books there as a cap number (in 2024)?” Huard said. “… Keep an eye on D.J. Jones, big ole defensive tackle. Run stuffer, big body guy in there, pretty darn active. So that’s an area if not for Seattle, others around this league will absolutely benefit from just the cost of this trade that they’re going to have to get rid of some good players because of the $85 million in dead cap.”

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