Russell Wilson vs. Sean Payton has potential to be messiest breakup in NFL history

Russell Wilson vs. Sean Payton has potential to be messiest breakup in NFL history

The Russell Wilson-Denver Broncos partnership is pretty much over. Well, at least while Sean Payton is the head coach. When Payton was hired last year, it felt like a bad omen for Wilson, who would need to go from a free-wheeling, deep ball or no ball passer to a regimented timing passer underneath. While he improved from his disastrous 2022, he wasn’t good enough— and Payton along with the Broncos understood that.

However, what the Broncos did to try and get Wilson to come off his contract is where this story really gets grease thrown on the fire. Wilson was benched with two games left in the season, in order for the Broncos to try and avoid the injury guarantee that would come in his contract. Basically, Wilson was owed money if he got hurt, and the Broncos decided to not even risk the chance of him getting hurt. In addition, news broke during the season that Denver and the Wilson camp got into a dispute over a contract trigger that would’ve guaranteed his 2025 salary if he didn’t get benched. Wilson didn’t want to get benched … and now here we are.

Wilson spoke to Brandon Marshall on the I Am Athlete podcast, and whew boy this is gonna get MESSY.

This is going to be a saga filled with passive aggressive rumors and shots fired across the bow from both sides. In Wilson’s case, the Broncos withholding him from playing the game he loves and the game that he has objectively been good at for the last 10+ years, and Denver telling him that he’s being benched in order to save some money and ending his tenure there had to feel like an unnecessary slap to the face. Wilson has said that he wants to remain in Denver, but with the management seeming to want to go the other way, he might feel like he has no choice but to part ways.

Our Matt Warren did an excellent breakdown on why Wilson’s contract is so hard to move on from. Denver is looking a tough salary cap situation thanks to the extension they needlessly gave him.

On Denver/Payton’s side, this isn’t the first time that a quarterback has been held out of games in order to remove some contract guarantees. Before he was signed by the New Orleans Saints, Derek Carr was benched by the Raiders as they begun their search for the QB of the future. As Denver looks towards the future for their QB spot, they need all the money they can get. It’s a brutal, BRUTAL way to think about it, but the Broncos are running a business and see Wilson’s contract as a way to get off some of that money. They’re in the process of rebuilding and Wilson isn’t in their plans.

Despite both of these, we just know this is going to get messy. With Wilson’s appearance on the podcast dropping hours before Sean Payton and Broncos GM George Paton took the stage at the NFL Combine, the strategy is clear.

It doesn’t look like the Broncos are shy about letting people know about their intentions either:

#Broncos coach Sean Payton says he saw a meme recently with a guy wearing a jersey and a bunch of QB names crossed off: “Our job is to make sure this next one doesn’t have a line through it.”

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 27, 2024

Let it begin!

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