Connect with us

Steelers Commentary

Saunders: Steelers’ Prove-It Deal Shows Soft Market for Russell Wilson



Pittsburgh Steelers FA QB Target Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson arrives before an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

You don’t often get an NFL player that has already won a Super Bowl, played in another and been to nine Pro Bowl on a prove-it contract, but that’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers got in signing former Broncos and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

As of Sunday night, there were a half-dozen NFL teams in need of a starting quarterback for the 2024 season, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New York Giants and Washington Commanders all have shown interest in adding a starting quarterback this offseason, and none of them are likely to land sure-fire No. 1 pick Caleb Williams of USC.

That was the potential market for Wilson, and he did some due diligence, meeting with at least the Giants and Steelers last week before inking a one-year, veteran minimum contract with the Steelers early on Monday morning.

Wilson playing for cheap in 2024 was nearly assured, because of the details of his contract with the Denver Broncos. Wilson has been guaranteed $39.1 million for 2024 by Denver, and any amount that he is paid by his new club comes off the total the Broncos owe. So there’s no reason for his 2024 salary to be any more than the minimum.

That meant the offer from every potential Wilson suitor, at least for 2024, was going to be the same. If there was going to be a bidding war for his services among the teams quarterback shopping, it was going to come in the form of a commitment to the 35-year-old beyond the upcoming season.

It turns out the maximum offer in that area was zero. The Steelers signing Wilson to a one-year deal, with no commitment beyond the veteran minimum contract in 2024, basically means that there was no real competition for Wilson’s services. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Wilson won’t be good for the Steelers. But it certainly means that if he wants to play in 2025, he’ll have to prove it with a strong season this year. The rest of the NFL is betting that he wasn’t worth any future investment at all.

It also means that the Steelers aren’t necessarily locked in to starting Wilson. They likely gave the veteran some kind of assurance that he’ll be the starter in order to get him to sign here. But that will last only as long as his play stays strong. The Steelers have almost no skin in signing Wilson, and it won’t take much for them to move away from him if he doesn’t look like he’s the guy.

The conversation surrounding Wilson over the last few years has been of a player that was self-important, unwilling to adjust and something of a diva. That will have to be out the window, too. Important players don’t get signed to veteran minimum contracts. Players that the team is building around don’t get one year deals.

The message the league sent Wilson is that the NFL with its lack of offers is that it doesn’t think much of his play at this stage in his career. All the Steelers are committing to him is a chance to prove them all wrong.