Broncos Do Not View Zach Wilson As Starter; Teams Believe Denver Could Trade Patrick Surtain For QB

The Broncos’ trade for Zach Wilson is not expected to affect the team’s plans in the first round. Sean Payton’s team still wants to add a passer, and it appears willing to go to the extreme to make it happen.

Wilson is not viewed as a starter in Denver, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini. A report late last week suggested the Broncos would be willing to include All-Pro cornerback Patrick Surtain in a deal to move up for a quarterback Thursday night, and Russini notes teams in the top five believe the Broncos could indeed include their top player in a package that gives them a passer Payton covets (subscription required).

While confirming Payton wants a quarterback — which has long been the expectation for the Broncos in Round 1, potentially via moving up or down from No. 12 — Russini adds the Broncos do have a limit regarding how much they are willing to give up. Veterans on expiring contracts could also be in play in a trade-up scenario. The Broncos do not have a 2024 second-round pick, limiting their draft arsenal compared to other teams — like the Vikings, Raiders and Giants — linked to moving up for a passer.

Denver has left tackle Garett Bolles on an expiring deal, and Courtland Sutton (signed through 2025 on a $15MM-per-year pact) has made it known he wants a new contract. Defensive tackle D.J. Jones is also heading into the final season of a three-year, $30MM deal. Denver, which dealt Jerry Jeudy to Cleveland, does not plan to trade Sutton. Though, that cannot be ruled out given the stakes here.

Neither Bolles nor Sutton would carry comparable value to Surtain, a two-time Pro Bowler who is going into his age-24 season. The Broncos picked up the high-end cornerback’s fifth-year option ($19.8MM) on Tuesday and are aiming to start extension talks post-draft. That is, if they still employ the standout boundary cover man by that point.

J.J. McCarthy and Bo Nix have repeatedly come up in connection with the Broncos, with the former almost definitely requiring a trade-up move to acquire. Nix has been viewed as a player who could be available later in the first round, and moving down would play into the Broncos’ hands after the team traded away three first-rounders — to acquire Payton and Russell Wilson — from 2022-23.

Zach Wilson not being viewed as a starter is somewhat interesting, though the thrice-benched passer has not exactly done anything to show he is worthy of such a path. But the Broncos do roster both Wilson and Jarrett Stidham, a player previous reports indicated could be the starter if it came to it come Week 1. It is clear, however, both Stidham (tied to a two-year, $10MM deal) and Wilson are bridge options for a Broncos team that has done extensive work on this year’s QB class.

This is set to be a pivotal span for a franchise that has been unable to find a true Peyton Manning successor since the all-time great’s post-Super Bowl 50 retirement.

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