The Denver Broncos are at a Crossroads with Russell Wilson

Broncos face tough choices in season's tumultuous aftermath.

by Zain ul Abedin
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The Denver Broncos are at a Crossroads with Russell Wilson
© Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

As the Denver Broncos reflect on their season, the spotlight intensifies on Russell Wilson's future with the team. This follows the surprising decision by first-year head coach Sean Payton to bench Wilson for the final two games of the season, a move that came after a disheartening Christmas Eve loss to the underperforming New England Patriots.

This shift in strategy saw the Broncos notch a win under quarterback Jarrett Stidham, raising questions about the franchise's direction. At the heart of the matter is a significant financial decision. The Broncos face the possibility of retaining Wilson, a move that would entail managing a staggering $85 million in dead cap over the next two years.

This dilemma arises after Denver's substantial investment in Wilson, evidenced by a five-year, $242.5 million contract extension signed in September 2022. This deal was struck following a major trade with Seattle, which cost Denver three players and four draft picks.

Wilson's Rocky Tenure

Wilson's tenure in Denver has, so far, not lived up to expectations. The team finished 5-12 in his first season under then-head coach Nathaniel Hackett and has struggled to find consistent form this year.

Despite a mid-season resurgence, the Broncos, with an 8-8 record, have been ousted from playoff contention and have fallen short of challenging the Kansas City Chiefs for dominance in the AFC West. The dynamics within the team have also come under scrutiny.

Coach Payton's confrontational style, including publicly criticizing Wilson and his predecessor Hackett, has sparked debate. Former NFL player Ryan Clark, in a recent NFL on ESPN segment, described Payton's approach as "bush league" and argued that it undercut Wilson's chances of success.

Meanwhile, Jarrett Stidham, who stepped in as quarterback, insists he's focused on winning rather than viewing the end-of-season games as a trial for the starting role. However, his performance may position him as a potential candidate for the lead role next season.

With the 2024 NFL Draft approaching, the Broncos hold the 14th pick, which they might use to scout a new quarterback. Though top prospects like USC's Caleb Williams and UNC's Drake Maye seem out of reach, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy and Washington's Michael Penix Jr.

could be on Denver's radar. The crux of the situation lies in Wilson's future. According to NFL Network, the financial implications of retaining or releasing him are roughly equivalent. Denver may also explore trading options, with teams like the Atlanta Falcons potentially in the market for a seasoned quarterback.

As the Broncos navigate this pivotal juncture, the decision they make regarding Russell Wilson will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for the franchise's trajectory.

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