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Mile High Morning: Where does Denver's deal for Russell Wilson rank among top trades in Broncos history?


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The Broncos changed the NFL landscape last week as they traded for nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson.

ESPN's Adam Schefter labeled the deal as "one of the biggest trades in NFL history," as the Broncos received Wilson and a fourth-round pick in exchange for five draft picks and three players.

That got us thinking: Just how big is this trade?

As Broncos Country continues to adapt to its new reality with Wilson as the franchise's long-term quarterback, put together a ranking of the top five trades in team history.

5. Gary Zimmerman solidifies the Broncos' offensive line (1993)

The details: Denver acquired T Gary Zimmerman from Minnesota in exchange for 1994 first-and sixth-round picks and a 1995 second-round pick.

One of the Broncos' Hall of Famers may never have ended up in Denver, were it not for another player's misfortune. During the 1993 offseason, the Broncos shored up their offensive line by signing tackle Don Maggs from Houston. The team's first-ever free-agent signing, though, suffered an offseason injury that left the Broncos with a hole at left tackle ahead of the season. Denver turned to Minnesota, and the Vikings dealt four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro Gary Zimmerman to the Broncos in exchange for a solid set of picks. And with Zimmerman protecting John Elway's blindside, the Broncos were set for years to come. Zimmerman started 76 of a possible 80 regular-season games over the following five seasons as he earned three more Pro Bowl nods and another first-team All-Pro bid. Zimmerman, a member of the Hall of Fame's All-Decade Team in both the 1980s and 1990s, earned his gold jacket in 2008.

4. Denver's bet on Craig Morton pays off (1977)

The details: Denver acquired QB Craig Morton from the New York Giants in exchange for QB Steve Ramsey and a 1978 fifth-round pick (1977)

Morton arrived in Denver nearly a decade after his finest season in Dallas, where he led the Cowboys to a 10-2-1 record and threw a career-high 21 touchdowns in 1969. By the 1977 season, the former first-round pick was 34 years old and on the heels of a 2-10 campaign with the New York Giants in which he threw 20 interceptions. But in Denver, Morton found the turnaround he needed. He led the Broncos to a 12-2 record that season and helped guide the franchise to their first Super Bowl appearance. Morton was named the Sporting News Player of the Year that season and finished second in the AP MVP voting as the Broncos reached an unprecedented level of success.

3. Broncos add four-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey (2004)

The details: Denver acquired CB Champ Bailey and a 2004 second-round pick from Washington in exchange for running back Clinton Portis

Ring of Fame head coach Mike Shanahan and the Broncos executed one of the league's biggest player-for-player trades, as they sent their 22-year-old Pro Bowl running back — fresh off Rookie of the Year honors and back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons — to Washington. In exchange, the Broncos picked up one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history. Champ Bailey was a four-time Pro Bowler when he arrived in Denver, and he would only add to his accolades with the Broncos. Bailey made the Pro Bowl in eight of his next nine seasons and also earned three first-team All-Pro nods. Bailey's finest season came in 2006, when he picked off a career-high 10 passes. A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2019, Bailey is one of the finest defensive players in team history. Portis, meanwhile, made one more Pro Bowl over the course of his career.

2. Broncos swing big, land Russell Wilson (2022)

The details: Denver acquired QB Russell Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick in exchange for TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris, QB Drew Lock, 2022 first-, second- and fifth-round picks and 2023 first- and second-round picks.

It may seem a bit crazy to already put this trade ahead of one that gave the Broncos a Hall of Famer in Bailey, but the stakes are worthy of this spot. Wilson is destined for a gold jacket of his own in Canton, as he's earned nine Pro Bowl appearances, won the most games of any quarterback in history through his first 10 seasons and won a world championship. The Broncos have been searching for a franchise quarterback for the last six seasons, and they've finally found that player in Wilson. The magnitude of the trade also helps increase its importance, as the Broncos dealt five picks and three players — two of them starters — to Seattle in the deal. It's not quite Herschel Walker to the Vikings in terms of compensation, but it's not far off. The Broncos, of course, hope this trade works out better for them than it did for the Vikings. With the addition of Wilson, the Broncos are instant Super Bowl contenders and should be in the championship conversation for the foreseeable future. It speaks to the importance of our No. 1 trade that this deal is relegated to the second spot.

1. Denver makes franchise-altering trade for John Elway (1983)

The details: Denver acquired QB John Elway from Baltimore in exchange for G Chris Hinton, QB Mark Hermann and a 1984 first-round pick

How much even needs to be said here? During his illustrious career in Denver, Elway led the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances and a pair of world championships as he cemented his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play. The trade changed the trajectory of not just the franchise but also the city of Denver. The nine-time Pro Bowler is synonymous with the organization, and he became the first player in team history to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, as he was inducted in his first year of eligibility. Moments like "The Drive," "The Helicopter" and Elway twice lifting the Lombardi Trophy will forever be etched in the minds of Broncos fans.

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