Russell Wilson's bargain contract with the Steelers will end

Why Russell Wilson’s bargain contract with the Steelers will end up financially hurting the Broncos

Russell Wilson isn’t renowned for being ready to accept a discount, but that’s precisely what occurred on Sunday night when he agreed to a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

According to, Wilson’s new deal will pay him the league minimum of $1.21 million for the 2024 season, which is a bargain for an NFL backup quarterback, much alone someone who may wind up starting for your club.

To put Wilson’s pay into context, consider this: Backup quarterbacks such as Nick Mullens ($1.72 million), Cooper Rush ($2.25 million), and Mike White ($3.5 million) are expected to earn more than Wilson in 2024.

Kenny Pickett, who will now compete with Wilson for the starting quarterback job in Pittsburgh, will also earn more, owing to his $1.98 million contract.

Although Wilson failed during his two seasons with the Broncos, he remains a nine-time Pro Bowler who could have earned a higher salary in free agency but instead went for the league minimum.

Why, therefore, did he do it? The solution revolves around a concept known as “offsets.”

If a club still owes you money after cutting you, it must reimburse you for that amount; however, if you sign a contract with a different team, the price of that contract is deducted from the amount your previous teams owed you.

In Wilson’s situation, the Broncos knew they would have to pay him $39 million in 2024 even though he would not be playing for the club, so when they decided to terminate him on March 4, they knew that no matter what Wilson did, he would receive almost $40 million for the next season. The Broncos would still have owed the entire $39 million if he had chosen to miss the 2024 campaign.

Denver’s responsibilities to Wilson are reduced by the Steelers’ $1.21 million payment to him; as a result, the Broncos will only be responsible for $37.79 million towards Wilson’s salary for the following season. Wilson would only have needed $14 million from the Broncos if he had agreed to a $25 million contract with the Steelers.

Wilson should sign a low-cost contract for the following two reasons: His pay cut makes him a far more appealing free agent. The Steelers most likely would not have been interested in signing Wilson if he had been seeking a $25 million contract, but at $1.21 million, it suddenly becomes a possible steal. For Pittsburgh, it’s a low-risk move with big potential rewards.

Wilson now has an opportunity to start quarterback for a club that qualified for the postseason the previous year, and if he can lead the Steelers back there, he may receive a massive contract extension in 2025.

Wilson sees this as a prove-it deal, but unlike most prove-it agreements, he will receive $37.79 million in addition to his Steelers pay, which serves as a useful safety net if he suffers in Pittsburgh.

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Wilson could have simply wanted to get even with the Broncos. The Broncos will now have to pay him $37.79 million in cash on top of the $85 million dead cap they’ll take over the following two seasons since he signed for the league minimum, even though he obviously had a rough time in Denver.

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