Broncos to release Russell Wilson two years after blockbuster trade

Wilson's release will come two years after Denver acquired the nine-time Pro Bowl QB and signed him to a $245 million extension.

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The Russell Wilson era in Denver is coming to an end.

The Broncos have informed the Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback that they will release him after the new league year begins on March 13, the team announced Monday.

"We spoke with Russell Wilson today to inform him of his release after the start of the league year," a statement from general manager George Paton and head coach Sean Payton said. "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.

"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."

Wilson's release will come two years after Denver traded three players (quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive tackle Shelby Harris), two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a fifth-round pick to acquire Wilson, along with a fourth-rounder, from the Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos then signed Wilson to a five-year, $245 million extension before he took his first official snap with the team.

Cutting Wilson will leave the Broncos with an $85 million dead cap hit, the largest in NFL history. They will have the ability to spread that $85 million figure over the next two seasons.

Wilson, 35, posted a lengthy statement on social media where he thanked Broncos fans, teammates and team employees, among others.

"Broncos Country, Thank You! Over these last two years, you have welcomed my family and me with open arms and have embraced us as members of the Denver community," Wilson's statement read. "This city will always hold a special place in my heart. Our family grew here, we made countless memories and friendships, and formed relationships that will last a lifetime.

"To my teammates, thank you for going to battle together and for being there through it all. There are so many moments I cherish because of you and I am blessed for the impact you have made on my life. I am beyond grateful for all of you and to have been able to run out as your teammate was an honor."

To close out the statement, Wilson said: "Tough times don't last, but tough people do. God's got me. I am excited for what's next."

The Broncos had visions of competing for a Super Bowl when they traded for Wilson in March 2022. But Denver failed to even reach the playoffs over the last two seasons, going 11-19 with Wilson under center and 13-21 overall.

Following a disastrous 2022 campaign that saw first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett fired mid-season, the Broncos traded a first-round pick and second-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton, along with a third-rounder. And while Wilson's numbers improved last season (26 TDs, eight interceptions, 66.4 completion percentage) compared 2022, the Broncos had a roller-coaster year that ended with some drama.

The team started 1-5 before reeling off six straight wins to get above .500 and right into the thick of the playoff race. But Denver then dropped two straight before Wilson was benched for the final two games of the season.

Wilson contended the Broncos had threatened to bench him for the final nine games if he didn't push back his $37 million injury guarantee in his contract. He declined to adjust his contract and started seven more games before getting benched in what Payton insisted was a football move, not a financial one.

Wilson's $37 million salary for 2025 would have become guaranteed if he were still on Denver's roster on March 17.

Wilson is now set to join a free-agent quarterback class that's projected to include Baker Mayfield, Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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