And you thought Aaron Rodgers remaining in Green Bay would be the biggest NFL news to come out of Tuesday.
Hours after Rodgers confirmed to Pat McAfee that he was sticking with the Packers, ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped the first true bombshell of this NFL offseason: Russell Wilson traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos for a package that includes multiple first-round draft picks.
The Broncos also are shipping quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant to Seattle as part of the franchise-shaking deal, according to multiple reports.
The ramifications of this trade — which cannot be finalized until the new league year opens next Wednesday — will be felt across the NFL, and especially in the AFC West, which now becomes the league’s most formidable division.
Here are three thoughts on how Wilson’s Mile High move will impact the New England Patriots — and one particular ex-Patriots assistant:
1. We wrote earlier Tuesday about how Rodgers’ contract extension was good news for the Patriots because it kept him away from the Broncos, whom he reportedly considered joining before re-committing to Green Bay. So much for that.
Wilson is a step down from Rodgers, the two-time defending NFL MVP, but he’s been one of the league’s top quarterbacks for the last decade, making nine Pro Bowls and helping keep Seattle in a near-constant state of contention (though his tenure produced just one championship and no Super Bowl appearances since 2014). His arrival instantly will morph the Broncos — who boast an impressive collection of skill-position players and a quietly dominant defense that allowed the third-fewest points in 2021 — into a legit threat in the AFC title chase.
It also adds yet another talented QB to a conference that already was flush with them, as Wilson joins fellow AFC signal-callers like Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson. That’s the gauntlet Mac Jones and the Patriots will need to navigate if they hope to contend for a Super Bowl in the coming years.
2. Speaking of gauntlets, congrats on the new head-coaching gig, Josh McDaniels. Have fun facing Mahomes, Herbert and now Wilson a combined six times each season.
McDaniels and his newly assembled Las Vegas Raiders coaching staff — which features a host of Patriots alums — can’t be thrilled with this latest development, as a Denver team with Lock, Teddy Bridgewater or some other “meh” quarterback would have had the longest division title odds entering the 2022 season. But with Wilson aboard, there will be no gimmes in the AFC West, as all four teams now have the look of legitimate playoff contenders.
Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs won the division at 12-5 last season, with the 10-7 Raiders earning a wild-card berth with a dramatic Week 18 win over Herbert and the 9-8 Los Angeles Chargers. The Broncos, despite their shaky QB play, finished 7-10.
McDaniels has committed to veteran quarterback Derek Carr, who has started all but two regular-season games for the Raiders over his eight pro seasons. Carr played well in 2021 and is entering the final year of his contract.
3. The Seahawks already took a step back this season, finishing below .500 (7-10) for the first time since 2011. Though 70-year-old head coach Pete Carroll likely isn’t itching to oversee a rebuild, will Seattle use this opportunity to sell any of their other veteran pieces, too?
From a Patriots perspective, one name to watch here is wide receiver Tyler Lockett, whom we spotlighted in our rundown of potential New England trade targets. The Seahawks have shown any indication that they’re looking to move Lockett — and wouldn’t have any financial incentive to do so — but could fetch a nice return from a receiver-needy Patriots team.
Lockett has been one of the league’s most productive pass-catchers with Wilson as his quarterback, averaging 1,063 yards and nine touchdowns per season over the last four years. He also possesses the inside-out versatility and durability the Patriots covet, having missed just one game in his seven-year career.