The Broncos lost any realistic shot at making the playoffs by falling to the Patriots on Sunday, giving them a 7-8 record — and just a 1.4% chance of reaching the postseason when 2023 ends. Now they bench quarterback Russell Wilson for the final two games.
Broncos insist decision to return Jared Stid to backup after 1-3 stretch provides offensive “spark” — Nothing to do with the QB's contract, CBS Sports HQ veteran NFL insider Josina Anderson. But the writing is on the wall: Wilson recently dodged questions about his future in Denver beyond 2023, while an injury in the final two games would have prevented the Broncos from releasing the QB indefinitely after the season, should the team want to move on.
Why did Sean Payton switch from Wilson to Stidham?
“I can tell you, look, we're trying hard to win,” the head coach said. via 9 News Sports in Denver. “The No. 1 motivation behind this, which is my decision, is to provide the spark. Obviously it's hard and we all feel like, 'Man, we didn't do it right,' but one of the things we saw in the offseason when we signed Stidham, not just the preseason games, but the regular season games. , but he's a guy I'm excited to see play.
“If I didn't think he gave us a chance to win, we wouldn't have made that move.”
For athleticsWilson is expected to be cut in March. He had known his fate in the organization for nearly two months. The Broncos reached out to Wilson's representatives in late October if he doesn't extend Wilson's injury guarantee date to 2025 — a $37 million guarantee on the fifth day of the league year.
Wilson certainly improved in his uneventful 2022 Broncos debut, leaving Week 16 with 26 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 98.0 passer rating — his best rating in three years. But Denver's offense struggled overall, ranking 16th in scoring and 25th in yards per game. Then there's the QB's lucrative contract, which counts $245 million against the 2024 salary cap of $35.4M.
Are Payton and the Broncos' relatively new ownership group already looking to hit the reset button under center? Surely. Again, even if Wilson is an improvement this year, he's 35 years old and very expensive (No. 5 among annual QB earners). But still can Going to Denver? Could Payton and Co. opt out of Wilson's contract following the 2023 season?
The answer is Yes, but it won't save Denver much money in the short term.
Here are the details: Wilson is currently signed through 2028, but he's only guaranteed money through 2024. His entire 2025 salary ($37M) is guaranteed if he is on the Broncos' roster at the start of the next league year. (March 17), Over the cap. So Denver will make a decision on the QB's future before then.
Options: The Broncos can release Wilson by March 17, but doing so would cost them $49.6M in 2024. Denver is already projected to be at least $18M over the 2024 cap, so cutting him outright isn't logical. However, listing him post-June 1 release is a distinct possibility. In that scenario, Denver would eat Wilson's 2024 salary ($35.4M) but actually avoid any financial blow to the 2024 cap. In other words, they won't save anything immediately, but millions beyond 2024.
The other option, which is highly unlikely: trade Wilson. It's not that there won't be any market for QB; Odds are, he's given some of his value back to others NFL teams After recovery from 2022. But a trade before June 1 would result in an immediate loss of $32.6M against the Broncos' 2024 cap. Denver could deal him to save $17M after June 1 — the best financial scenario to part with a QB — but that would have to wait until the summer, after the start of free agency, 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 released outright — without a negotiated injury settlement, at least — which explains why Denver benched Wilson for the final two games. The Raiders especially wanted former starter Derek Carr, who had a similar injury guarantee in his contract, before releasing him in the offseason at the end of 2022. But the car's benching all but guaranteed eventual breakdown; That seems to be happening in Denver.