A brutal reality for Russell Wilson and Denver, plus an absurd hockey goal

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Good morning! Maybe don’t trade for a quarterback today.

Flops: A mile-high mistake

It was an outcome we all saw coming, yet it’s one I’m still having trouble processing: Yesterday, the Denver Broncos officially released Russell Wilson. The ramifications for both franchise and player remain astounding: 

  • Denver wasted so, so much money. Cutting Wilson now leaves the Broncos with an $85 million dead cap hit for 2024, the largest in NFL history. He won 11 games for a total of $124 million guaranteed; Denver paid three times more per win ($11.2 million) than San Francisco’s paying for Brock Purdy’s entire four-year contract ($3.7 million). In Denver’s near-decade of struggle, this is a new low.
  • Additionally, what does this do for Wilson’s legacy? He arrived in Denver hoping to emulate Peyton Manning’s career-ending stretch with the Broncos, which included one Super Bowl ring and another appearance (a loss to Wilson’s Seahawks, in fact). We thought this guy was on a Hall of Fame path. Now he’s jobless at 35. Mike Sando broke down the numbers and concluded Wilson still has a chance to earn a bust, but it’s far from certain.
  • Where do both sides go from here? Wilson will have options (Atlanta and New England are prime contenders), but he might have to accept a lesser role as a bridge quarterback or even a backup. And Denver? I guess it’s Jared Stidham time. 

Reminder: Just two years ago, Denver gave up five picks (two first-rounders) and three players for Wilson, then signed him to a five-year, $242 million contract. Mike Jones ranks it as the worst trade for a QB in NFL history. I guess I won’t stress about any of my big decisions today. 

Make sure to lock in with Scoop City later this morning for more coverage.

News to Know

Kelce makes it official
Everyone’s favorite offensive lineman, the Eagles’ Jason Kelce, officially announced his retirement yesterday after 13 seasons in the NFL, all of which he played in Philly. It’s funny to see how his personal life has made him an NFL darling, which actually distracts from how good of a player he was. Andrew Marchand reports the Kelce media romance will likely continue, with NBC, CBS and ESPN vying for his post-career services.

NCAA expected to cap tourney expansion talks
Men’s college basketball officials are discussing limiting any NCAA Tournament expansion to 76 teams, up from the current 68-team model. This comes amid a time of major strife at the NCAA. As Dana O’Neil highlighted, expanding to a 72- or 76-team model might be the only way to keep the tourney alive. See her full explanation here.

Devils can Ruff
Lindy Ruff is out as New Jersey Devils head coach, the team announced yesterday, after a subpar 30-27-4 start to the season. This team — which went to the second round of the playoffs last year — is far from contention this season with just 21 games left. A late rebound is certainly possible, but as Shayna Goldman pointed out in our story, it’s more likely this change sets a nice base for next year, a la the Canucks a year ago.

More news

  • Ex-NFL wideout Braylon Edwards saved a man’s life by breaking up an assault at a gym a few days ago, according to police.
  • Former AL MVP Josh Donaldson announced his retirement yesterday. The fact he made it to the big leagues at all was surprising.
  • FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is under investigation for allegedly interfering with the result of the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
  • No. 1 Houston lost big man JoJo Tugler to a season-ending injury. It could have a major impact on their title chances.

Tearjerkers: Steven Izzo’s search for his story

You probably remember the moment: Steven Izzo, son of legendary Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, scoring his first career points in garbage time against Rutgers a month ago. Izzo is a beloved fifth-year senior. The entire arena absolutely lost it

It was a fairy-tale ending for the player who joined the team because father and son wanted to spend time together. Turns out, as Brendan Quinn wrote today in a beautiful story, the younger Izzo’s story is much deeper. 

A few things that stood out to me: 

  • The Izzos adopted Steven shortly after he was born in 2000. The person who called the Izzo family to let them know Steven was up for adoption? Nick Saban.
  • Steven’s full name is Steven Thomas Mateen Izzo. He’s named after former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci (Tom’s best friend), Tom himself and legendary Spartan player Mateen Cleaves. Talk about royalty in a name.
  • For decades, Steven resisted learning about his biological family. Most interviewed in the story were surprised he was even talking about it publicly. But recently, as Steven says, he cracked.

Take the time to read the full story today. If you have kids — or just a heart — you’ll well up once or twice.

Things You Need to See: Can you juggle a puck?

Alexander Barkov recorded two assists in the Panthers’ 4-2 win over the Rangers in New York last night, none more impressive than this juggle-fest:

Florida has won five straight games and 15 of their last 17. They’re No. 1 in our Power Rankings for a reason and could still make a move for a winger this week. Keep tabs on Chris Johnston’s trade board before Friday’s deadline.

Watch This Game

Soccer: Lazio at Bayern Munich
3 p.m. ET on Paramount+
Things are still bad at Bayern, but a win on aggregate over Lazio in this Champions League second-leg match would provide a silver lining.

NCAAM: No. 3 Purdue at No. 11 Illinois
7 p.m. ET on Peacock
These are the best two teams in the Big Ten, playing each other with two games left in the regular season … and Illinois two games back in the conference standings. The Boilermakers own a close win over the Illini from earlier in the year, too. Expect a feisty atmosphere here.

Pulse Picks

Sound the alarm: Dane Brugler has a post-Combine NFL Mock Draft up this morning. We’ll have more on this tomorrow, too. 

Meanwhile, Ted Nguyen broke down the film and has an answer to a question plaguing multiple NFL front offices right now: Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels? 

Ben Pickman wrote an extremely cool story yesterday on Pete Maravich’s son, Jaeson, who sees some of his dad in Caitlin Clark’s game

Jayson Stark doing Jayson Stark things: Writing about how Zack Wheeler’s previous contract can seriously be considered the greatest starting pitcher contract ever

Herb Jones has been one of the best defenders since entering the NBA. But, as Will Guillory writes, the guy who refused to shoot 3-pointers in college is now a legitimate offensive threat — and an elite 3-point shooter. His development has had a massive impact on the entire Pelicans franchise.

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(Photo: Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

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