NFL trade grades: Regrading the terrible Broncos-Seahawks Russell Wilson deal

With Russell Wilson getting benched by the Denver Broncos and likely on the way out after the season, let's re-grade the blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks from last year.

Sep 12, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles away
Sep 12, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles away / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos had finally hoped to solve their quarterback problem ever since Peyton Manning retired after the team's Super Bowl 50 win in 2016. The team pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Russell Wilson in exchange for multiple players and high draft picks. The Broncos were so confident in Wilson's ability to bring them back to relevancy in the AFC West that they signed him to a five-year, $242.58 million contract before he even played a down for them.

Less than two years later, his tenure with the Broncos is coming to an end. Wilson is being benched for Jarrett Stidham for the final two games of the season. With that, the expectation from Wilson is that he will be cut by the team this upcoming March.

With the Wilson era coming to an end, let's take a look back at the trade.

NFL trade grades: Re-grading the Broncos-Seahawks Russell Wilson trade

Let's now look back at the full trade between the Broncos and Seahawks back in 2022, courtesy of ESPN senior NFL insider Adam Schefter.

The Broncos acquired Wilson and a fourth-round pick in 2022, which turned into defensive lineman Eyiome Uwazurike. As for the Seahawks, they received quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, and five high draft picks in 2022 and 2023. In 2022, the Seahawks selected offensive tackle Charles Cross (first-round), linebacker Boye Mafe (second-round), and Tyreke Smith (fifth-round, no longer on the team). This past year, the team used Denver's first-round pick (No. 5 overall) on Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon and the No. 37 overall pick on linebacker Derick Hall.

Now, let's hand out new grades for the trade.

Broncos Trade Re-Grade: F

This may very well go down as one of the worst trades in recent NFL memory, and it can be attributed to the Broncos being desperate for a quarterback. In 2022, the team hired former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. The team watched as Aaron Rodgers stayed with the Packers that year, and the Broncos pivoted to acquiring Wilson, and gave up a fortune to get him. It was understandable, as Wilson was playing at a high level with the Seahawks.

But perhaps the biggest mistake that the Broncos made was giving Wilson a contract extension, despite the fact he never played a snap for the team and wasn't set to become a free agent until after the 2023 season. What was the hurry?

The decision backfired tremendously, as the Hackett-led Broncos were inept on offense, including Wilson. After 15 games, with the team drastically underperforming expectations, Hackett was fired. The Broncos' next big decision was to find a head coach who could get the most out of Wilson. Their answer was Sean Payton, who they acquired from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick.

For the most part, Wilson has played infinitely better this season than in 2022. In 15 games, Wilson threw for 3,075 yards, 26 touchdowns (tied for sixth-most in NFL), and eight interceptions while completing 66.4 percent of his passes.

But, based on Wilson's benching and subsequent reporting, the Broncos are ready to find another option at the quarterback position. NFL Network national insider Ian Rapoport reported that the team was considering benching Wilson for the final two games due in part to him being owed $37 million for the 2025 season that becomes fully guaranteed this upcoming March, and an injury would complicate matters for them. As in, they wouldn't be able to move on from him before the 2025 salary becomes fully guaranteed.

All in all, the Broncos tried their best to find a steady option at the quarterback position. But after less than two years and two different head coaches, Wilson's time in Denver is nearing its end after his benching.

Seahawks trade re-grade: A

It's hard for an NFL team to move on from their franchise quarterback that did help them win their first-ever Super Bowl title. But for the Seahawks, they decided it was time to move on from Wilson and the Broncos were interested in his services. The Broncos may have pulled off the heist of the century in the NFL.

In 2022, the Seahawks placed their trust in Geno Smith to succeed Wilson, and it paid off. The Seahawks exceeded fan and media expectations, going 9-8 and clinching a Wild Card spot, with Smith winning Comeback Player of the Year. The Seahawks watched the Broncos go 5-12 and that first-round pick acquired turn into No. 5 overall.

This year, the Seahawks are still in the middle of the playoff hunt. Oh, and Lock helped keep their playoff hopes alive as he helped lead the team to a 20-17 upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15.

Looking at the first-round picks the Seahawks acquired, they selected Cross in the first round in 2022, who has so far played better than Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu, both of whom were selected ahead of him. Then, in 2023, they used their first-rounder on Witherspoon, who was one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft and fit the mold for the Seahawks' desire to rebuild the "Legion of Boom" defense. Thus far, Witherspoon has played like a top contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The Seahawks are the easy winners of the trade, and get an A grade rather easily.

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