DENVER, Colo. — Russell Wilson just broke the bank.
The Broncos’ star quarterback signed a five-year, $245 million contract extension with the Broncos, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Thursday morning. He has two seasons remaining on his current contract. He will make $296 million over the next seven years in Denver. The Broncos acquired Wilson this offseason in a blockbuster trade that sent three players to Seattle, plus two first- and two second-round picks.
Wilson is now under contract through the 2028 season. He will turn 40 in November of that year. The deal reportedly includes $165 million in guaranteed money. The Broncos will likely be able to get out of the contract ahead of the final season at a fairly minimal cost, if needed. Ending the deal two years early likely comes with a somewhat-hefty price tag, though it should be doable. Until the structure of the contract is released, we won’t know for sure.
Wilson will be the second-highest-paid player in the NFL by average annual value. Here’s what the top of the list looks like:
- $50.3m – Aaron Rodgers
- $49m – Russell Wilson
- $46.1m – Kyler Murray
- $46m – Deshaun Watson
- $45m – Patrick Mahomes
- $43m – Josh Allen
- $40.5m – Derek Carr
Paying big money to a quarterback can hamstring a team’s cap space. That’s part of the reason the Packers had to move on from Davante Adams and the Chiefs had to move on from Tyreek Hill this offseason. But the market price for quarterbacks goes up every year, and the $49 million per year price tag may not look so big by the time the deal is over.
Wilson’s contract runs seven years into the future, but seven years in the past the market was totally different. Only two quarterbacks made $20 million dollars per year or more, with Drew Brees leading the was at just under $24 million. Expecting the market to double over the next seven years like it did over the last seven years is probably unrealistic, but expecting Wilson’s deal to be outside the top-10 largest salaries probably isn’t.
Regardless, salary cap manipulation is easier than ever before. The Los Angeles Rams paved the path by adding void years to the end of contracts. Since the signing bonus attached to a contract is prorated over the life of the contract for salary cap accounting purposes, adding a void year to the end of a contract pushes a chunk of that signing bonus down the road even further. In order to make a tangible difference, the owner has to have deep enough pockets to pay large signing bonuses up front and to convert salaries to signing bonuses during the life of the contract. The new owner of the Broncos, the Walton-Penner Family Group, is the wealthiest ownership group in the NFL, with a net worth nearly four times as large as any other owner. This type of cap manipulation should be well within the Broncos’ reach. This contract is the first major move the owners have made since officially buying the Broncos in early August.
Wilson has earned just over $180 million through the first 10 seasons of his NFL career. That number will jump to $232 million by the time his current deal ends. His five-year extension will be worth more than the previous dozen years combined.
Wilson and outside linebacker Randy Gregory are the only Broncos signed past 2025. Wilson is the only Bronco under contract past 2026.
Nikola Jokic, the reigning two-time NBA MVP, signed a five-year extension with the Denver Nuggets this offseason. His contract was worth $264 million, edging out Wilson as the highest-paid athlete in town.