The Broncos lost any realistic chance of making the playoffs by falling to the Patriots on Sunday, giving them a 7-8 record — and just a 1.4% chance of making the postseason — with 2023 over. Now they bench Russell Wilson at The last two matches.
The Broncos insist the decision to turn to backup Jarrett Stidham is intended to provide an offensive 'spark' after a 1-3 stretch – which is what happened. It has nothing to do with the QB's contract, per Josina Anderson, a senior NFL insider at CBS Sports HQ. But the writing is on the wall: Wilson has recently deflected questions about his future in Denver beyond 2023, while an injury the last two games would have prevented the Broncos from smoothly launching a QB after the season, if the team desired to move on.
Why did Sean Payton move from Wilson to Stidham?
“I can tell you, look, we're trying hard to win,” the head coach said. Via 9News Sports in Denver. “The No. 1 motivation behind this, and it's a decision I'm making, is to provide an offensive spark. Obviously it's difficult, and we all feel like, 'Man, we didn't do a good enough job', but one of the things we saw when we signed Stidham in the Off, not just from preseason games but from regular season games, but he's a guy I'm excited to see play.
“If I didn't feel like he gave us the opportunity to win, we wouldn't have made that move.”
For every athleteWilson expects it to be cut in March. He reportedly knew about his fate with the organization for nearly two months. The Broncos reached out to Wilson's representatives in late October if he did not postpone the effective date of the 2025 injury guarantee — $37 million guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year.
Wilson certainly improved in his offseason debut for the 2022 Broncos, leaving Week 16 with 26 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 98.0 passer rating — his best in three years. But Denver's offense struggled overall, ranking No. 16 in scoring and No. 25 in yards per game. Then there's the QB's lucrative contract, a whopping $245 million that's set to hit $35.4 million against the 2024 salary cap.
Would Payton and the relatively new Broncos ownership group prefer to hit the reset button down the middle? certainly. Again, while Wilson has improved this year, he is 35 years old and very expensive (No. 5 among annual QB owners). but Can Denver moving forward? Is it even possible that Payton and Co. could opt out of a Wilson deal after the 2023 season?
The answer is Yes, but it probably won't save Denver a lot of money in the short term.
Here are the details: Wilson is currently signed through 2028, but is only guaranteed money through 2024. However, his full 2025 salary ($37 million) will be guaranteed if he remains on the Broncos' roster at the start of the next league year. (March 17), For each above the maximum. So Denver will likely have to make a decision on their QB future before then.
Options: The Broncos could fully release Wilson by March 17, but doing so would actually result in a loss of $49.6 million in 2024. Denver is already expected to be at least $18 million over the cap in 2024, So cutting it directly will not cause a loss. It doesn't make sense. However, his release after June 1 is a distinct possibility. In this scenario, Denver would eat Wilson's 2024 salary ($35.4 million) but would actually avoid any financial hit to the 2024 cap. In other words, they would save nothing right away, but millions after 2024.
The other option, which is highly unlikely: trading Wilson. That doesn't mean the QB won't have any market; He probably returned some of his value to others NFL teams After bouncing back from 2022. But a trade before June 1 would result in an immediate loss of $32.6 million against the Broncos' 2024 cap. Denver could deal him after June 1 to save $17 million — the best financial scenario for parting with a QB — but that would require waiting until the summer, long after free agency begins, to find a trade partner.
The other factor in all of this: Wilson's health for the remainder of 2023. Injured players can't be fully released — without reaching a negotiated injury settlement, at least — which is why Denver sat Wilson for the final two games. The Raiders notably demoted former starter Derek Carr, who had a similar injury guarantee in his contract, at the end of 2022 before releasing him in the offseason. But Carr's place on the bench guarantees the final separation. Apparently this is happening in Denver.
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