Russell Wilson won't play a single snap on the five-year extension the Broncos signed him to, with the team announcing his release on Monday afternoon. Acquiring Wilson will probably go down in NFL history as the worst trade of all time (Deshaun Watson pending), but Wilson's next stop actually offers a lot of intrigue and upside because of the Broncos mistake. 

Which, make no bones about it, was an abject disaster. At the time some people thought Denver actually won the deal, so it's not like this was a clearly idiotic move in the moment. The Broncos gave up a HAUL in the swap for Wilson, handing the Seahawks the ninth (left tackle Charles Cross), 40th (pass rusher Boye Mafe) and 145th picks (traded out for a pair of picks) in 2022 and the fifth (rookie Pro Bowl corner Devon Witherspoon) and 37th (defender Derick Hall) picks in the 2023 draft. Denver also gave up Drew Lock, Noah Fant and Shelby Harris as part of the trade and handed Russell more than $124 million in cash. 

Depending on whether or not they designate Wilson a post-June 1 cut, the Broncos may obliterate the NFL record for largest dead cap hit in 2024. If they decide to take Russ' hit in one lump sum, they would have an $85 million (!!) dead cap hit in 2024, more than the sum of the next two largest dead cap hits in NFL history. 

The only beneficial thing to emerge from the Wilson trade is the extremely public deterioration of the relationship with Broncos coach Sean Payton. Spite is a beautiful thing.

Trading for Wilson came on the heels of the Bucs acquiring Tom Brady (and winning the Super Bowl) and the Rams trading for Matthew Stafford (and winning the Super Bowl). The Broncos Super Bowl odds closed under 20-1 before the 2022 season and the offense was so lethargic Denver won five games and everyone got fired. 

Wilson did bounce back last year in Payton's offense, but it's clear the Broncos wanted to go in a different direction, particular with Wilson's 2025 salary becoming fully guaranteed four days into the new league year. That's what puts the Russ trade over the top from a historical perspective: the contract they blindly handed him was a jar of rotten cherries on top. Again ... he won't play a single snap for Denver for the entire length of the deal. He's going to make around $40 million this year from the Broncos. 

But here's the twist: Wilson's contract actually makes him a really intriguing option on the open market as a veteran quarterback. Remember, this is a quarterback who was once upon a time a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback. He may have moonwalked his way out of Canton, but there's no reason he can't surge his way back in with a resurgent second act of his career. 

So how does that second (third?) act happen? It's actually a lot more likely than it's being given credit. 

Devotees will recall how the NFL media looooooooves to talk about quarterbacks on cheap rookie deals and what an edge it gives you. Draft a young quarterback and let him eat up a tiny chunk of your salary cap, splurge on free agents, hit on some picks and make a Super Bowl run. Remember when and how that started? 

It was Russell Wilson who originated the theory, way back in 2012, when the Seahawks drafted him in the third round, paid him next to nothing (the new collective bargaining agreement locked in rookie contracts on a dirt-cheap scale), added a bunch of value free agents (the Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett contracts were hilarious steals, even in the moment) to a young, blossoming defense and nearly took down the Patriots dynasty while launching their own. 

Goal-line play-calling conspired against them, there was a Hawaii bonfire to fix internal issues, yada yada yada, the Seahawks won a single Super Bowl and rebuilt around Wilson with the key parts of the defense departing. His play deteriorated, Wilson wanted a big new contract and Pete Carroll wasn't having it. So they shipped him out for a pile of picks and promoted Geno Smith. Pete won't get a ton of credit for his offense, but that move and starting Wilson over Matt Flynn (huge free agent signing) were prescient. 

Plus, as we all know, time is a flat circle. Russ was the original dirt-cheap contract to build around. Maybe he can be the originator of a new trend -- the overpaid-by-his-old-team, salary-cap-relief veteran who takes a quarterback-needy team over the top with a willingness to take the absolute bare minimum. 

If gambling on a rookie with a $25 million contract over four years is good football economics, then rolling the dice on a borderline Hall of Fame vet for literally the lowest amount possible has to be a smart financial risk. 

There are rumblings Russ would be willing to play for the veteran's minimum and he intimated as much while appearing on Brandon Marshall's "I Am Athlete" podcast earlier this offseason while he and Payton were busy firing off passive-aggressive barbs at each other.

Every dollar Wilson gets from a new team is just a dollar he won't be getting from the Broncos. So if he plays for the vet min, the Broncos would line his pockets with close to the maximum amount of cash possible (sitting out the season would be the only thing that would cause his ex-employer greater financial harm). Russ doesn't act like a spiteful dude publicly, but he is keenly aware of who he believes has doubted and wronged him and he isn't afraid to extract some level of vengeance. 

Which brings us to his possible landing spots in 2024. I thought my colleague Jordan Dajani did a great job here and don't really disagree with any of them (except maybe the Titans, although with a new coach they could certainly be in play), but because I love being loquacious I'll toss my list out, ranked with thoughts. 

1. Falcons 

Atlanta should be the betting favorite to land Wilson. Zac Robinson and Raheem Morris repeatedly noted they don't need a playmaker at quarterback -- they want someone to get the ball to their playmakers. This should be a run-heavy offense that highlights Bijan Robinson with the quarterback operating off play action and delivering the ball down the field to Kyle Pitts and Drake London. The defense with Morris there should be strong. Russ is a great fit here if he's still got anything left in the tank.

2. Raiders

Just spite, baby! The Raiders probably aren't the best fit for someone looking to win multiple Super Bowls, at least as they're currently constructed. And I'm not sure Russ and Antonio Pierce are a great fit? The enthusiasm is there but it's hard to imagine Russ firing cigars in the locker room. It's also hard to imagine him in the silver and black, but maybe this is his Villain Era. The real benefit here is getting to play the Broncos twice a year and seeing Russ/Payton square off. That would not disappoint.

3. Steelers

Probably the second-best spot just in terms of football. The Steelers have Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator now and we know he's looking to pound the rock, feeding Najee Harris and limiting the quarterback to just making the occasional play. There's weapons available and a strong defense. If Wilson can't beat out Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph he should just hang it up. 

4. Vikings

Obviously this is contingent on Kirk Cousins signing elsewhere. Cousins is clearly the first domino falling in the quarterback class despite his age and coming off an injury. If Minnesota won't guarantee a massive deal for Captain Dad Bod, they could move on and Russ might make sense as an enthusiastic former Big 10 quarterback to run Kevin O'Connell's system who is willing to take a lot less money and isn't coming off an injury.