Remember when it looked like that 2024 third-round pick coming to the Seattle Seahawks would arrive via the New Orleans Saints? The Denver Broncos were 1-5 and putting up historical stinkers on defense, while the Saints were trudging along but winning a turgid NFC South. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were comfortably above .500 and in good playoff position.
Well... yeah... about that...
The Seahawks are flailing and the playoffs look increasingly unlikely. New Orleans just lost the NFC South lead to the Atlanta Falcons and their postseason hopes are looking shaky. Then there’s Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos. Okay, the AFC West is probably not in the cards unless the Kansas City Chiefs really drop the ball more than their receivers already do, but the playoffs look very realistic at this point. Denver has won five straight, and that historically bad defense has played at a high level.
Their 29-12 Scorigami win over the Cleveland Browns was probably one of Wilson’s better games as a Bronco, even if the stats don’t indicate as such. The Russ Magic isn’t prime Russ, but it’s enough to put games away.
Wilson also had a rushing touchdown and the Broncos generally took advantage of a great Browns defense missing a couple of key starters, and now it looks like Myles Garrett could have a serious injury. Cleveland might be 7-4 but there are only so many injuries you can withstand, and if the Joe Flacco signal is being cast in 2023, it’s likely a descent to another early offseason for the Browns.
Denver has forced more turnovers in five weeks (16) than the Seahawks, a decent takeaway team, has managed for an entire season (15). Wilson’s 20 touchdown passes to 4 interceptions makes it sound like he’s having an All-Pro season, but his advanced stats hover at above-average. The sacks are still high, the passing success rate is lower than most of his Seahawks career, his average depth of target is the lowest of his career, and his yards per game is only higher than his rookie season. Hell, he has thrown for more than 200 yards only four times all year. But he has four 4th quarter comebacks, a trademark of his absolute best, and he’s generally playing within Sean Payton’s offense.
It sounds crazy, but Wilson is having a career revival by... being a game manager? Denver’s running backs have 78 catches for 551 yards, which is more than every Wilson Seahawks season except 2020. It’s not the Russell Wilson offense and it’s not a typical Sean Payton offense. It’s just... different. The Broncos are one of the most run-heavy teams on early downs in the NFL (compared to the pass-heavy nature of Pete Carroll), and they’re not even that great at running the ball, but they were good enough to get 170 on the ground vs. Cleveland.
And so the Broncos sit at 6-5, still not in a playoff position but perhaps three more wins from achieving what looked impossible. Personally? I’m glad Wilson isn’t so crashed that he risks people questioning his Hall of Fame legitimacy, but it’s also not lost on me that the Broncos are currently pulling off a run-based, defense-driven winning streak a little more befitting of the old Seahawks. The offense is just less about deep shots and more about not generating a bevy of negative, drive-killing plays that force more game-long Heroball than necessary.
You know what that also means? If this keeps up, Denver’s native third-round pick is going to the Seahawks. If the Broncos finish with a better record than the Saints, or they make a deeper playoff run than New Orleans, Denver gives up their own pick. The same applies to New Orleans if they turn it around and outperform Denver.
Reminder: This is the trade from this year’s draft, not the Russell Wilson trade. Seattle gave up pick No. 83 to the Broncos for a 2024 third-rounder and the fourth-rounder that eventually became Anthony Bradford.
Pick Status: As things stand, the Seahawks have picks No. 82 (Denver’s) and No. 84 (their own), but we’ve got a lot of ball left to be played.
After a full season of watching Denver collapse while the Seahawks exceeded expectations, the 2023 season looks like Seattle could collapse while Denver makes a serious push to be a playoff team. How’s it feel to have the tables turned and Broncos fans are likely laughing at the state of Seattle, even though both teams currently have the same record? Maybe it’s short-lived and Denver regresses, but it ain’t gonna be 2022 all over again.
I don’t believe I’d want 2023 Russell Wilson at his current contract, especially not if it entailed keeping the worn out Pete Carroll/Wilson tandem even longer. What I’m certain of is that all of the “franchise cornerstones” they’ve picked up via the Wilson trade (Boye Mafe, Devon Witherspoon, and Charles Cross) will mean very little if they don’t find their long-term franchise quarterback soon. Otherwise the trade ceases to be as lopsided as it looked on paper just a year ago.