Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Denver Broncos’ announcement Monday that they would release Russell Wilson next week was an official admission of the disastrous decision they made in 2022 to trade for the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

After giving up five draft picks and three players to acquire Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks, the Broncos awarded the quarterback a massive five-year, $242.6 million contract extension before he had even taken so much as a practice snap. In two seasons, Wilson appeared in 30 games and went 11-19, never reaching the playoffs. He was benched in late December in part because of poor performance, but also because of the financial implications and the fear Wilson would get injured and trigger 2024 guarantees.

The Wilson acquisition and ensuing extension will forever rank as one of the worst trades for a veteran quarterback in NFL history. The Broncos, in releasing Wilson, will suffer a dead-cap hit of $85 million split between this year and next year.

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But NFL history is full of cautionary tales of historically bad quarterback moves.

The Dolphins’ failed Daunte Culpepper experiment in 2006 always comes to mind. That error in judgement was exacerbated by Miami’s decision to acquire Culpepper from Minnesota for a second-round pick, banking on the quarterback recovering from knee surgery more effectively than free agent Drew Brees would from shoulder surgery. Culpepper played only four games before clashing with head coach Nick Saban and succumbing to injury. Brees signed with the Saints and became a future Hall of Famer.

Venturing dangerously close to regrettable territory are the Browns, who enter Year 3 with Deshaun Watson. They’re still waiting for him to deliver a return on their investment of three first-round picks, two seconds, a fourth-rounder and an unprecedented $230 million fully guaranteed contract. Can Watson change the narrative? The 2024 season could determine that answer.

But with the book now closed on Wilson and the Broncos, let’s rank the 10 worst trades for a veteran quarterback in the last 35 years. (We’ll save draft-day deals for college stars-turned-NFL busts for another day.)

  1. Carson Palmer to Raiders for a first- and second-round pick (2011)
  2. Brad Johnson to Washington for a first, second, and third (1999)
  3. Carson Wentz to Colts for a conditional second, third (2021)
  4. Drew Bledsoe to Bills for a first (2002)
  5. Rob Johnson to Bills for a first and fourth (1998)
  6. Brett Favre to Packers for a first (1992)
  7. Rick Mirer to Bears for a first (1997)
  8. Chris Chandler to Buccaneers for a first (1990)
  9. Jeff George to Falcons for two firsts and a third (1994)
  10. Russell Wilson to Denver for two firsts, two seconds, a fifth and three players (including QB Drew Lock) (2022)

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