Jarrett Stidham

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Gallup, Chargers

Rumored to be at an impasse with the Broncos regarding his contract, Courtland Sutton said recently he is not certain he will show for training camp. It should be considered more probable than not the seventh-year wide receiver reports due to the hefty fines (at least $50K per day) that would pile up if he skipped. One sign Sutton is a decent bet to resurface in Denver next week: he attended throwing sessions with Jarrett Stidham and Bo Nix recently. An SMU product who grew up near Houston, Sutton was among the pass catchers in attendance at the Stidham-organized workouts, 9News’ Mike Klis notes.

Sutton showing represents a good sign for Denver fans. Though, the 6-foot-4 target missed nearly the entire offseason program — and time to establish a rapport with the first-round QB — before making a minicamp cameo. Sutton, 28, has angled for a raise. He is tied to a four-year, $60MM deal that runs through 2025. Only $2MM of the former Pro Bowler’s $13MM 2024 base salary is guaranteed, though the rest of it will lock in just before Week 1.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

Broncos’ QB Competition Will Not Place Bo Nix In Third-String Role

JULY 8: Echoing previous reports on the subject, Parker Gabriel of the Denver Post confirms Nix could earn the No. 1 gig outright based on his training camp performances. Likewise, he notes Wilson is an underdog for the backup spot as things stand, although he adds the latter’s arm talent could still keep him in the mix to beat out Stidham and earn an extended period developing under Payton. The Broncos’ allotment of training camp and preseason reps under center will certainly be worth watching closely.

JULY 5: Sean Payton‘s second Broncos quarterback room features an interesting makeup, as the team has its 2023 backup (Jarrett Stidham) and a trade acquisition (Zach Wilson) joining this year’s sixth QB chosen (Bo Nix).

While the sixth QB taken in a draft sometimes stretches into Round 2 or Round 3, Nix was this year’s 12th overall pick. The Oregon and Auburn product is most likely going to be the Broncos’ starter at some point this season — perhaps in Week 1 — but Stidham fared best during Denver’s offseason program. Considering the team’s Russell Wilson backup played in Payton’s system last year, it is not too surprising he looked the best to start the three-way competition.

[RELATED: Broncos’ QB1 Job Nix’s To Lose?]

A scenario in which Nix struggles during training camp would stand to see one of the veterans receive the call for Week 1, but while the five-year college QB’s development is the central Broncos storyline, the team’s decision on which veteran passer to retain is also part of this competition. Regardless of how Nix performs during camp, 9News’ Mike Klis notes the Broncos will not go into the season with their first-rounder as the third-string quarterback.

Nix’s floor being QB2 pits Stidham and Wilson against each other. So far, Wilson is noticeably behind. The former Jets franchise-QB hopeful exited minicamp with ground to cover for the backup job. Although Wilson may have more arm talent than the other two passers in Denver’s competition, his erratic New York stay undercuts this part of his game. Stidham probably offers a higher floor by comparison, though bridge option represents the best-case scenario for the sixth-year arm this season.

Nix having set the record for most starts by a Division I-FBS quarterback (61) and joining Jayden Daniels and Michael Penix Jr. in going into an age-24 season makes him an illogical third-stringer, and Payton’s past carrying two QBs points to the team’s upcoming roster call being a Stidham-or-Wilson decision. The Broncos will obviously focus their training camp around Nix reps as well. Klis also viewed Stidham as the team’s most consistent QB during the offseason program, though training camp and the preseason will obviously reveal more about the passers’ 2024 capabilities.

Money will be a factor, with just $1MM of Stidham’s $4.49MM base salary guaranteed. Even so, the Broncos — thanks to an agreement with the Jets to split Wilson’s 2024 pay — will probably not base this decision solely around finances. It would cost the team only $2.76MM if Wilson is the odd man out, while a Stidham cut would cost $2MM. Though, the Broncos would save $5MM by releasing Stidham. Wilson would also need to pass through waivers if cut, whereas Stidham is a vested veteran.

The Broncos have not given the keys to a rookie quarterback since John Elway 41 years ago. Drew Lock began the 2019 season on IR, while Trevor Siemian beat out Paxton Lynch for the 2016 job. Lynch was the team’s top backup to start that season, however, with trade acquisition Mark Sanchez being released before Week 1. Tim Tebow and Jay Cutler did not start games until late in their rookie seasons. Tebow began his rookie season as a third-stringer — behind Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn — but Nix is not viewed as the kind of raw prospect the popular left-hander was 14 years ago.

Nix would represent a course change, but the Broncos certainly need one given how their passers have fared since Peyton Manning‘s retirement.

QB Notes: Broncos, Mahomes, Lance

By selecting Bo Nix 12th overall, Sean Payton and the Broncos added a potential franchise quarterback. Whether or not the uber-experienced college passer takes on starting duties as a rookie remains to be seen, though.

Denver used a rotation of Nix, Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson with the first-team offseason during spring practices. A report from earlier this month pointed to Nix being the favorite despite Stidham’s familiarity with Payton’s scheme. On that note, Troy Renck of the Denver Post confirms Nix “has ground to cover” relative to the 27-year-old who made two Broncos starts last season.

On the other hand, Payton has not been shy about praising Nix’s acclimation so far. The former Saints Super Bowl winner noted (via Renck’s colleague Parker Gabriel) the Oregon alum’s performances so far have matched the team’s expectations based on their pre-draft evaluations. As Renck adds, Nix could very well wind up getting the nod for Week 1. That would turn attention from Stidham’s perspective to a competition with Wilson for the QB2 gig.

Here are some other quarterback notes:

  • The top priority for NFL teams during this part of the year is having players avoid non-football injuries. As a result, the contracts of several players list specific activities which are deemed off-limits. In the case of Patrick Mahomesthat list includes basketball. The three-time Chiefs Super Bowl MVP would have the guarantees in his deal voided if he were to be injured playing basketball, as detailed by ESPN’s Marc Raimondi. Mahomes’ monster extension was restructured again in March to create cap space, but it still runs through 2031. Plenty of rolling guarantees (in terms of both salary and bonuses) remain on the contract, giving him ample reason to play things safe.
  • Trey Lance is on the books with the Cowboys for one more season, with the team having made the unsurprising decision of declining his fifth-year option. The former 49ers top-three pick did not play last year, and it remains to be seen if he will serve as Dak Prescott‘s backup. Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes Lance is likely still behind Cooper Rush on the depth chart. The latter has made 26 appearances and six starts for Dallas, and he has one year remaining on his deal. With both Rush and Lance set to reach free agency next spring, their respective training camp and preseason performances will be key in determining the pecking order.
  • Taulia Tagovailoa‘s pro football career will begin north of the border. The CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced Tua Tagovailoa‘s younger brother signed with the team. Taulia began his college tenure at Alabama, but he transferred to Maryland and enjoyed a successful four-year run there. Tagovailoa, 24, broke the Big Ten’s all-time records for passing yards (11,265) and completion percentage (67.1%) with the Terrapins before going undrafted into the NFL this year. He received a look from the Seahawks and Cardinals during their minicamps, but his attention will now turn to earning playing time in Hamilton.

Zach Wilson In Uphill Battle To Be Broncos’ Backup QB?

Ahead of training camp, the Broncos have a quarterback who spent a season in Sean Payton‘s offense and another the team drafted in the first round. Zach Wilson looms as a wild card.

As Jarrett Stidham enjoys an advantage from spending 2023 in Denver and Bo Nix likely to start the majority (barring injury) of the Broncos’ games this season, Wilson sits in an unusual position. The Broncos and Jets agreed on a salary compromise to facilitate a trade finalized days before the draft, but the former No. 2 overall pick is not a lock to secure a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.

[RELATED: Broncos Decline Zach Wilson’s Fifth-Year Option]

Stidham and Wilson may well be vying for one roster spot, and The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider notes the latter has some ground to close if he is to be Denver’s backup to begin the season (subscription required). The Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel also views Wilson as in third place in this competition exiting minicamp.

In terms of arm talent, Wilson did reveal an advantage over the other two Denver QBs during on-field workouts. This has not exactly been the BYU alum’s issue during his NFL career, with a dazzling pro day leading to the Jets deciding to select him second overall and trade Sam Darnold. Wilson quickly revealed himself to be a poor decision-maker with inconsistent mechanics in New York, leading to multiple 2022 benchings and another demotion — for a player (Tim Boyle) Robert Saleh admitted was less talented — late last season.

Payton said (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold) he does not have a hard deadline — before game week, that is — on deciding if Nix, Stidham or Wilson will be his Week 1 starter. A recent report pointed to the job being Nix’s to lose. Considering the Broncos’ investment in the recent Oregon standout, it would be stunning if the No. 12 overall pick was not in the lineup early in the season. As of now, Stidham appears to have the better shot among the veterans of delaying Nix’s debut.

Payton regularly kept two quarterbacks on his active roster in New Orleans, doing so before the NFL reimplemented the emergency third-QB rule. The league further increasing flexibility for teams regarding their QB3 spot keeps the door open for the loser of the Wilson-Stidham competition to end up on the practice squad. Though, select teams could certainly eye the competition’s odd man out for an active-roster role. Wilson would need to be exposed to waivers if cut, whereas Stidham is a vested veteran. If the Broncos waive Wilson, they would be hit with $2.7MM in dead money. This would obviously represent another setback for a once-coveted prospect.

The Broncos, of course, are in Year 1 of a record-setting dead money process stemming from their Russell Wilson release. A minor guarantee for Zach Wilson might not move the needle too much when Payton decides on his backup.

Stidham is attached to a two-year, $10MM deal, but just $1MM of his 2024 base salary ($4.49MM) is guaranteed. As a vested vet, Stidham will see the rest of that money become locked in just before the season. Denver trading one of the veterans, while adding another QB to be its emergency option on the P-squad, also would seem to be on the table. The preseason’s conclusion has been a trade window for many years.

Stidham or Wilson seeing significant playing time this year will mean something has gone wrong, as Nix is 24 and set the Division I-FBS record for quarterback starts. Training camp and the preseason will bring more important reps for Wilson, but after being paid to leave the Jets, the erratic talent — who arrived after the Broncos’ offseason program had begun — looks to be falling behind with his new team.

QB Bo Nix On Track To Start For Broncos?

To little surprise, the Broncos were one of six teams who used a first-round pick on a quarterback during this year’s draft. Bo Nix – head coach Sean Payton‘s target throughout the pre-draft process – is in line to serve as Denver’s starter at some point in the near future.

The Oregon alum is one of three signal-callers who has spent time with the first-team offense during offseason practices to date. Nix is competing with trade acquisition Zach Wilson and returnee Jarrett StidhamThe latter has familiarity with Payton’s scheme dating back to his two starts at the end of the 2023 campaign, and he opened OTAs tentatively atop the depth chart.

Nix has impressed so far, though, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes (video link). The 24-year-old made a record-breaking 61 starts in college, and that experience should allow him to transition to the pro game fairly quickly. Nix’s accuracy was a central aspect of his success with the Ducks, and his ability to translate that at the NFL level will be a key talking point for the Broncos if he sees playing time as a rookie. Mike Klis of 9News confirms the QB1 job is Nix’s to lose at this point, adding he is on pace to start Week 1.

Of course, this week’s minicamp – and, more importantly, training camp this summer – will more clearly define the pecking order at the position. Denver took on an historic dead money charge by releasing Russell Wilson, clearing the way for Payton to move forward in his Broncos tenure with his preference under center. If that proves to be Nix right away, he will be expected to elevate an offense which put up middling numbers in several categories last year.

Klis adds that the battle for QB2 between Stidham and Wilson will be worth monitoring. The former is due $6MM in 2024, but only $1MM of his salary is guaranteed. The latter, by contrast, is owed the guaranteed $2.75MM Denver agreed to take on as part of the trade agreement with the Jets. Klis notes the financial element of the situation could come into play, and that will especially be true if Wilson can demonstrate why he was a recent No. 2 pick.

Like all teams, nothing is truly settled at this point of the offseason. Still, signs still point to Nix holding down starting duties right away as the Broncos continue to sort out their quarterback pecking order over the course of the offseason.

Latest On Broncos’ QB Competition

The Broncos added their preferred Russell Wilson successor in the first round of the 2024 draft. Bo Nix is positioned to see plenty of time at the helm of Denver’s offense over the course of his rookie contract, but that may not mean he sees the field right away this year.

The decision to move on from Wilson (along with more recent one to waive Ben DiNucci) has left Denver with three signal-callers. Nix is joined by offseason trade acquisition Zach Wilson and returnee Jarrett StidhamThe latter is the only one with experience working under head coach Sean Payton.

A report from earlier this month confirmed, to no surprise, that Stidham is expected to open OTAs with the Broncos’ first-team offense. The 27-year-old started two games last year after Wilson’s benching, and he will have the opportunity to earn the Week 1 starting gig depending on how Nix and Wilson are evaluated over the course of the summer. Payton recently confirmed those two passers will receive plenty of looks as well, though.

“We’ll figure it out,” the former Saints Super Bowl winner said during minicamp about a QB rotation once training camp begins in July (via ESPN’s Jeff Legwold). “With young guys, the reps are important. But we’ll have a rotation, and we’ll go from there.”

Wilson struggled mightily during his time with the Jets. The 2021 second overall pick was slated for backup duties in 2023, but Aaron RodgersAchilles tear thrust him back into starting action. Wilson did not progress compared to his previous campaigns, and New York dealt him to Denver as part of a Day 3 pick swap. One year remains on his rookie contract, with the Broncos footing half of the bill per the terms of the trade.

Of course, most of the attention at Broncos’ camp will be aimed at Nix. The Auburn and Oregon product made a record-breaking 61 starts during his time in college, and he is likely much closer to his NFL ceiling than many of the five other passers selected within the draft’s opening 12 picks. Payton and Co. were frequently connected to Nix in the pre-draft process, and the Broncos had him ranked as their third-best QB prospect.

Given the team’s struggles in finding a true Peyton Manning replacement, the Broncos will be satisfied with any of their in-house options taking charge in the upcoming quarterback competition over the short term. It will be interesting to see how Nix stacks up against Stidham and Wilson, and how quickly he is handed the reins depending on their respective performances.

Broncos Made Call About Moving Up In Round 1; Team Eyed TE Help In Offseason

Sean Payton admitted he was a central part of a smokescreen effort that centered on Broncos interest in moving up for a quarterback. This buzz certainly may have influenced the Vikings to trade up one spot (via the Jets), and the effort also involved Denver brass making calls about moving up the board.

The Bears heard from the Broncos about No. 9 overall, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes. This would add a layer to one of the more interesting smokescreens of recent years. One pick later, the Vikings moved from No. 11 to No. 10, sending the Jets fourth- and fifth-round picks to climb up and lock in J.J. McCarthy draft real estate.

This did clear the runway for the Broncos to land Bo Nix, their long-rumored target, though it helped an AFC team in the form of Day 3 draft capital. Neither the Bears nor Jets were candidates to draft a quarterback, and Payton said he viewed the Vikings as more interested in McCarthy than Nix. The Broncos are believed to have ranked the Oregon prospect as this draft’s third-best QB.

The Broncos indeed became enamored with Nix, with Fowler adding the five-year college starter was the team’s “guy the whole way.” Nix, 24, will be expected to either begin the season as the Broncos’ starter or take over from either Jarrett Stidham or Zach Wilson early. Seeing as he spent a season in Payton’s system, Stidham is on track — per 9News’ Mike Klis — to see starter work to open OTAs. Though, the primary Broncos QB storyline will be Nix’s progress in Payton’s system as the offseason turns into training camp. Stidham’s two-year, $10MM deal includes only $1MM in guaranteed 2024 salary.

Also entering the draft with a quarterback need, the Raiders lurking at No. 13 influenced the Broncos to not attempt to trade down for Nix but rather to stay at 12 and pull the trigger. This prompted many to label the pick a reach. The Broncos had interesting options had they not opted to fill their most glaring need. Brock Bowers and Laiatu Latu remained on the board. Denver was among the teams to clear Latu on his pre-draft physical, Fowler adds, noting the team would have given strong consideration to the UCLA edge rusher had it not determined Nix needed to be the pick at 12.

Latu met with the Broncos during the pre-draft process; Bowers did not. But the Georgia tight end would have filled an apparent need for the Broncos, who have seen their top receiving tight end — Greg Dulcich — run into repeated hamstring trouble. Hamstring issues have caused the 2022 third-round pick to miss extensive time in both his pro seasons, leading to four IR trips already, and Klis adds the Broncos wanted to come out of this offseason with a tight end addition. Nothing has transpired on this front, though.

Specifically, the Broncos were hoping to acquire another receiving tight end. The Raiders ended up with Bowers at No. 13, despite having traded up for Michael Mayer (albeit under a previous regime) early in last year’s second round. The Broncos did not view the free agent market as lining up with their budget, Klis adds. The market also saw two of its top names — Hunter Henry, Dalton Schultz — re-sign before free agency began.

Ex-Broncos first-rounder Noah Fant stayed with the Seahawks (two years, $21MM) but was available during the legal tampering period. Falcons cut Jonnu Smith landed with the Dolphins for just two years and $8.4MM, while the Bengals scooped up Mike Gesicki for just $2.5MM. Gerald Everett joined the Bears on a two-year, $12MM deal, while Hayden Hurst followed ex-Broncos FA target (during Nathaniel Hackett‘s offseason as HC) Will Dissly to the Chargers.

While the Broncos circled back to edge rusher in the third round (Utah’s Jonah Elliss), they did not select a tight end. The team re-signed ex-Saints cog Adam Trautman on a two-year, $7.5MM deal. Trautman led Broncos tight ends with just 204 receiving yards last season, highlighting Dulcich’s absence.

Beyond Logan Thomas, the market is fairly dry for receiving TEs. This points to Dulcich, who totaled 411 receiving yards as a rookie but played in two games last season, having another genuine opportunity to hold this job — if he can stay healthy.

Broncos To Decline Zach Wilson’s Fifth-Year Option

As expected, the Broncos won’t be committing to Zach Wilson for the 2025 campaign. According to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, the Broncos have informed Wilson’s camp that they won’t be picking up the quarterback’s fifth-year option.

[RELATED: 2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker]

Considering the $22.41MM commitment that the option would have required, it’s not a surprise that the Broncos won’t lock themselves into that salary. Wilson will now hit free agency following the 2024 campaign, and he’s set to earn more than $5MM in what will be the final season of his rookie contract (the Jets are picking up a portion of that tab).

The Broncos acquired the former second-overall pick last week, swapping a sixth-round pick for a seventh-round pick along the way. Things have already changed since that acquisition, as the Broncos reached a bit for Bo Nix in the first round. The rookie could end up leading the depth chart in 2024, with only Wilson and Jarrett Stidham standing in the way.

Wilson, of course, will be seeking a fresh start in Denver. Following two underwhelming seasons to begin his career, the Jets made a major pivot last offseason when they acquired Aaron Rodgers from the Packers. The veteran suffered a season-ending injury in his first drive with his new squad, forcing Wilson back into the limelight. The third-year quarterback ended up going 4-7 under center, completing 60.1 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Jets allowed Wilson to seek a trade elsewhere this offseason, although the market was predictably light considering the player’s lack of production and $11MM cap charge. They eventually found a taker in the Broncos, but following today’s move, this could prove to be only a one-year stop in Denver for Wilson.

Broncos “Leaning Toward” Jarrett Stidham As QB1

Before the 2024 league year began, we heard that Jarrett Stidham had a good chance to open the season as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Now, as the dust settles on the first wave of free agency, it appears that Stidham’s hold on the QB1 job has only gotten stronger.

In evaluating the QB signings and trades that have taken place around the league, Mike Klis of 9News.com says that the Broncos “seem to be leaning toward” having Stidham serve as the starter — at least at the beginning of the 2024 campaign — and using their No. 12 overall selection on a collegiate passer. After all, while Denver considered Sam Darnold, who ultimately signed with the Vikings, Sean Payton & Co. reportedly did not make a contract offer (per Klis, Darnold strongly preferred Minnesota anyway).

Likewise, Klis reports that the Broncos did their due diligence on former Patriots signal-caller Mac Jones, but they did not make a trade offer. New England ultimately dealt Jones to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. Klis also says that Denver was never in on high-priced free agent options like Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield, and he adds that the club has not shown any interest in Ryan Tannehill. While there are still free agents (Tannehill) and trade candidates (Trey Lance, Zach Wilson) that the Broncos could pursue, none of them would necessarily unseat Stidham.

Notwithstanding Klis’ expectation that the Broncos’ will use their top draft choice on a quarterback, Troy Renck of the Denver Post believes the team could trade back, unless a player like Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy should fall into that range, or unless Payton is particularly high on Oregon’s Bo Nix. Renck’s sources tell him that four quarterbacks will be selected within the top six picks of the draft, and it certainly seems to be a safe bet that the first three selections will be used on passers. The Bears (No. 1 overall) and Commanders (No. 2 overall) appear poised to draft QBs, and even if the Patriots (No. 3 overall) trade back, the team that trades with them may well use that pick on a quarterback. The price to leap up the draft board to select the third- or fourth-best QB prospect in the draft would be prohibitive for a team like the Broncos that is clearly in rebuild mode (to say nothing of the fact that the Vikings, who have the No. 11 overall pick, are better-positioned to make such a move).

Obviously, if the Broncos were to trade down as Renck suggests, that would solidify Stidham as the short-term starter while helping the team pick up additional capital to address other holes on a roster that has plenty of them. One way or another, as Albert Breer of SI.com wrote on the day free agency began, Denver is not going to force anything at the QB position, and Payton’s confidence in Stidham affords them the ability to be patient, even if “patience” is not one of Payton’s favorite words.

Russell Wilson Free To Negotiate With Teams

MARCH 6: Although Wilson will remain a Bronco until March 13, the team will extend this free agency preview of sorts to include in-person visits with other clubs, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. An unofficial agreement could conceivably commence before free agency starts, though teams interested in Wilson likely will be interested in seeing how other QB dominoes fall before committing.

MARCH 5: The Broncos officially announced on Monday that Russell Wilson will be let go, marking an end to his disappointing stint with the team. The move will not be made until the new league year begins, but Wilson could have a new agreement in place by that point.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports Denver has no issue with Wilson immediately negotiating with prospective teams. The outgoing veteran passer is still under contract with the Broncos (and will be until March 13), but with his fate already known the team will allow him to begin seeking out his next home. Wilson is therefore, for all intents and purposes, already a free agent.

With $39MM in compensation guaranteed for 2024 by the Broncos, an acquiring team will not be obligated to add the Super Bowl winner on a lucrative pact. Any base salary Wilson signs for will offset part of Denver’s obligations to him. Given the state of the 35-year-old’s value, though, a short-term pact at a low cost will likely be the means by which he begins the third chapter of his NFL career.

A number of teams will be in the market for a veteran passer as the offseason unfolds. Wilson will not be as in-demand as the likes of Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield, but he could be viewed as having higher upside than other bridge options such as Jacoby Brissett and Ryan Tannehill. While the Broncos could be in the market for an experienced signal-caller to take Wilson’s place, the top incumbent passer on the roster will likely receive the first chance to earn the starting gig.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network notes Jarrett Stidham is in place to take on QB1 duties, especially if Denver does not add a quarterback in the first round of April’s draft (video link). Plenty could change under center in the coming months, but Payton has thrown his support behind Stidham (who signed a two-year deal last offseason) before and after he filled in for Wilson following the latter’s benching. Resources will be limited if the Broncos aim to add a pricey free agent, of course, given the cap consequences of Wilson’s release.

On that point, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports Denver has not yet decided how to handle the move to cut Wilson. A guaranteed $22MM payment owed next week either as an option bonus or, if declined, base salary, will affect the cap charges associated with the release. The team will be hit with $35.4MM in dead money in 2024 and $49.6MM next season if the option is picked up, or cap charges of $53MM and $32MM if not. The Broncos will make a decision on how to structure Wilson’s contract while he begins the process of landing a new one.