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ben volin | on football

Breaking down the Russell Wilson trade, and Aaron Rodgers’s new contract with the Packers

Russell Wilson is still in his prime at 33 and is coming off a season with 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.Ralph Freso/Associated Press

Two major dominoes fell in the NFL’s quarterback market on Tuesday. One cashed in with a record contract with his original team. The other was surprisingly traded for a boatload of players and draft picks, signaling the end of an era in Seattle and making an instant contender out of Denver.

Let’s break down Aaron Rodgers’s contract extension with the Packers and Russell Wilson’s trade from the Seahawks to the Broncos:

▪ The Packers were supposed to be turning to Jordan Love in 2022 after trading up, into the back of the first round, to draft him two years ago. But Rodgers, 38, has been the NFL MVP in back-to-back seasons, and Love clearly isn’t ready to play after struggling in his one start in 2021.


The result is a new deal for Rodgers that, while not complete, is reportedly going to come in at around four years and $200 million, with $153 million fully guaranteed. This contract will surpass Patrick Mahomes ($45 million per year) as the richest in the NFL, and despite the eye-popping number is richly deserved for Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers reportedly landed a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $200 million.Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

He may be coming off a playoff failure, and he has not been back to a Super Bowl in 11 seasons. But Rodgers is the reason the Packers are 13-3 and competing for the NFC championship every year, and the Packers have no Plan B without him. Ergo, they repaired the fractured relationship with Rodgers, let him bring back his former quarterbacks coach in Tom Clements, and rewarded Rodgers with a massive contract that keeps him in a Packers uniform for the rest of his career.

▪ There is talk about the Packers now trading Love, but there is no need. He is a cheap backup, owed just $4 million total over the next two years, and he has spent two years developing in the system. That is worth much more to the Packers than whatever mid-round pick they could get in a trade.


▪ Now for the shocker, the Seahawks trading Wilson to the Broncos for Everything But The Kitchen Sink. The Broncos got Wilson and a fourth-round pick, and the Seahawks got quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive end Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022 and ‘23), two second-round picks (2022 and ‘23), and a fifth-round pick.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made headlines last week when he said he “had no intention” of trading Wilson, but that phrasing noticeably left the door cracked. In retrospect, Carroll was clearly choosing his words carefully and purposely.

Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson worked together for 10 years in Seattle.Ralph Freso/Associated Press

Wilson had an incredible 10-year run in Seattle, with nine Pro Bowls, eight playoff appearances, two trips to the Super Bowl, and one championship. But signs have been present for a couple of years that Wilson was ready for a divorce.

While the Seahawks made the playoffs almost every year, they haven’t been able to rebuild the defense after the Legion of Boom era, and have struggled in the postseason. Wilson hasn’t clicked with his offensive coordinators, leading fans to adopt the phrase, “Let Russ cook.” Last offseason, Wilson’s agent released a list of four teams that Wilson would accept a trade to (the Broncos weren’t on the list). They decided to run it back in 2021, but Wilson missed three games with a broken thumb and the season ended 7-10.


It seems Wilson’s relationship with Carroll and the Seahawks had simply run its course.

▪ As for Carroll, he’s under contract through 2025, but does he want to undergo a full rebuild at age 70? The Seahawks’ next move will likely tell us how much longer he will be coaching in Seattle. They have picks 9, 40, and 41 this year, plus extra picks in the first and second rounds next year. If the Seahawks turn around and trade those picks for Deshaun Watson, then Carroll probably has a few years left. If they use those picks this year and play this season with Lock and a rookie, then Carroll may not be around much longer.

Could Tuesday's moves have an impact on the future of Deshaun Watson?Justin Rex/Associated Press

▪ This trade was a no-brainer from the Broncos’ perspective, even in trading basically their 2022 and ’23 drafts. The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs in the six seasons since Peyton Manning retired, the franchise’s worst drought in 40 years.

And it all points to the quarterback position, where the Broncos have failed time and again with Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Lock, and Teddy Bridgewater. The Broncos have used 10 starting quarterbacks since Manning retired, most in the NFL, and their inability to find one cost John Elway his job running the front office.

▪ The Broncos went 7-10 last season and finished 23rd in points with Bridgewater going 7-7 and Lock 0-3 as the starter. Now all their problems get solved with Wilson, who is still in his prime at 33 and is coming off a season with 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.


Broncos receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and Albert Okwuegbunam should see an instant bump in production, much like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders did when Manning arrived in 2012.

▪ This move was a must for the Broncos because Wilson was the only real and safe option available. Rodgers returned to the Packers. Kyler Murray isn’t leaving Arizona. Watson’s status is in limbo while a grand jury determines his fate. Jimmy Garoppolo just had surgery on his throwing shoulder. And the draft class is supposed to be the worst in a decade. If no Wilson, the Broncos were looking at another year of quarterback purgatory.

▪ Wilson joins a murderers’ row of quarterbacks in the AFC West, with Mahomes (Chiefs), Justin Herbert (Chargers), and Derek Carr (Raiders). That’s arguably four of the top 12 quarterbacks in the NFL. Carr just threw for 4,804 yards and completed over 68 percent of his passes last season, and may be the worst quarterback in the division. Good luck, Josh McDaniels.

▪ While Mahomes and the Chiefs are still the top dogs, there’s no reason the Broncos can’t be instant contenders with Wilson. Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford proved the last two years how one quarterback can make all the difference. Wilson is that kind of difference-maker, and the Broncos are officially back after a six-year lull.

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.