Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson Reiterates Desire To Remain With Broncos; Team Expected To Proceed With Release

MARCH 2: As Wilson and Payton’s comments on the matter have continually suggested, the Broncos are expected to move forward with a release. Dianna Russini of The Athletic notes the belief around the league remains that Wilson will be cut by next week (subscription required). The Broncos and all other teams will need to have their financial situations in order in time for the start of the new league year on March 13.

FEBRUARY 26: The quarterback position is one worth watching in Denver this offseason. The Broncos appear poised to move on from Russell Wilson (and absorb major dead cap charges in the process), but the former Super Bowl winner is still open to remaining with the team.

The Broncos benched Wilson once a playoff berth was essentially out of reach, leading to questions about his future in the organization after just two seasons and one under head coach Sean Payton. Wilson was approached by the team about restructuring his contract and threatened to be benched if he refused to alter his injury guarantee. He remained the starter for a short time afterwards, and no changes have been made yet to his pact.

During a recent appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast, Wilson repeated that he was not prepared to set a precedent by delaying the point at which his $37MM injury guarantee for the 2025 season would vest (h/t ESPN’s Jeff Legwold). The nine-time Pro Bowler notably added that Payton told him to “act like nothing happened” in advance of the team’s win over the Bills on November 13; indeed, reports on the timing of the matter did not emerge until the news of Wilson’s benching broke.

The Broncos would face major cap consequences by releasing Wilson immediately or designating him a post-June 1 cut. He is still likely to be playing elsewhere in 2024, however, as Denver prepares to move forward with Jarrett Stidham or, potentially, a first-round selection in April’s draft under center. If Wilson has his way, though, he will remain in the Mile High City for 2024 and beyond.

“I’ve got more fire than ever, honestly, especially over the past two years of what I’ve gone through,” the 35-year-old told Brandon Marshall on the podcast. “Whether it’s in Denver or somewhere else, I hope it’s in Denver, I hope I get to finish there. I committed there, I wanted to be there. I want to be there.”

While Wilson has maintained a consistent public stance on the matter, Legwold reports he nevertheless “expects” to find himself in a new home shortly. The guaranteed money owed by Denver could make Wilson a low-cost addition to a team in need of a quarterback addition, and it will be interesting to see how much of a market he generates should he become a free agent. His preference would still be to avoid that, but a third Broncos campaign would come as a surprise at this point.

Broncos Moving Toward Russell Wilson Decision; Team Eyeing J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix?

The Steelers became the first team to go through with post-Super Bowl cuts, moving on from former starters Mitchell Trubisky and Chukwuma Okorafor. A much bigger domino is likely to fall in Denver.

Although the Broncos’ path to upgrade on Russell Wilson is complicated, they still are likely to separate from the pricey passer they benched before Week 17. The team and Wilson had gone through a messy behind-the-scenes chapter pertaining to the decorated QB’s guarantee vesting date, but pushback on that decision being strictly contract-related ensued. The Broncos benched Wilson for Jarrett Stidham, and while the latter is almost definitely not the team’s long-term answer, the Payton-Wilson partnership appears in its final days.

Payton confirmed during an appearance on Up & Adams a decision on Wilson should emerge sooner rather than later (video link). The second-year Broncos HC said the team began its draft meetings Monday. When asked if he was looking to “fall in love” with a QB this offseason, Payton responded, “Yeah,” continuing to point to the Broncos absorbing the record-shattering dead money that would come with a Wilson release. Wilson holds a no-trade clause, though his five-year, $245MM deal is not viewed as tradeable on the surface.

It would cost the Broncos $85MM in dead money to release Wilson; that will be spread over two years due to the expected release set to be classified as a post-June 1 cut. That will slot the 2024 dead money at $35.4MM. That number checks in just $300K north of what the Buccaneers absorbed when Tom Brady retired. Of course, Tampa Bay is no longer restricted by any Brady money this year. The Broncos will be set to deal with $49.6MM in dead cap in 2025. That alone will smash the NFL record, one the Falcons still hold (at $40.5MM) after trading Matt Ryan to the Colts in 2022. A Wilson release will need to occur before March 17; his 2025 base salary ($37MM) becomes fully guaranteed on that day.

The Broncos hold the No. 12 overall pick and cannot enter true negotiations with an outside free agent until March 11. The Bucs and Vikings can respectively talk with Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins now. If one of those players becomes an option in Denver, such a signing would be costly. Considering the dead money coming via the likely Wilson release, the Broncos would be tying up plenty of cash at QB were they to go with a pricey free agent option. Of course, none of this year’s UFA passers beyond Cousins or Mayfield are expected to be especially expensive.

During an appearance on the Jim Rome Show (via 9News’ Mike Klis), Payton mentioned Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees as quick-processing QBs while notably leaving out Wilson when discussing that important skill in his offense. Known more for off-schedule brilliance than pocket mastery, Wilson had moments in Payton’s offense. He still finished in the top 10 in passer rating, while QBR slotted the ex-Seahawks star 21st. A market is likely to form for the 12-year veteran, though he will not be tied to anything close to the $49MM-per-year deal he signed in Denver. Wilson, 35, is unlikely to command anything near his $35MM-AAV Seahawks extension from 2019. The less Wilson makes, however, the more money the Broncos owe due to offset language.

New NFLPA executive director Lloyd Howell said (via the Washington Post’s Mark Maske) the Broncos mistreated Wilson when they attempted to move his vesting guarantee date from 2024 to 2025. Wilson’s camp said the team threatened a benching had the QB not gone along; Broncos brass denied the benching threat occurred. The NFLPA had urged Wilson to call the team’s bye-week bluff. Wilson did, and the Broncos stayed with him as their starter until they were realistically eliminated from playoff contention. Despite Denver’s limitations when it comes to securing an upgrade this offseason, a reconciliation here — despite Wilson indicating in January he wanted to stay with the team — should be considered highly unlikely.

At No. 12, the Broncos are not realistic candidates to end up with Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Jayden Daniels‘ rising stock may well ensure the Heisman winner goes off the board well before No. 12. The Broncos have been loosely connected to trading up for one of these passers, but the team — which has not made a first-round pick since 2021, thanks to the Wilson and Payton trades — views the cost as high enough a move into the top three is unlikely.

This would naturally tie the Broncos to this QB class’ second-tier options, and Denver7’s Troy Renck notes that is already happening. Denver is being connected to Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix within scouting circles, per Renck. An ex-Jim Harbaugh pupil who is not yet 21, McCarthy joins Nix in not yet being a first-round lock. Given the supply-and-demand issues at quarterback, however, it would certainly not surprise to see both prospects be chosen on Day 1.

The Broncos selecting a QB at 12, as opposed to trading up, would be optimal given the draft capital the team surrendered for Wilson and then to obtain Payton’s rights. Excepting Jay Cutler‘s intermittent promise, the Broncos have not had much luck drafting QBs. The franchise’s top passers (John Elway, Peyton Manning, Jake Plummer, Craig Morton) all game via trade or free agency. But Denver will likely be connected to this year’s crop. The 2025 group, although it is still quite early on that front, is viewed as a lesser group. That could force some teams’ hands ahead of this draft.

Vikings, Broncos On Radar To Trade Up For First-Round QB?

This year’s draft could begin with three quarterbacks, and the teams currently holding the top choices have been steadily linked to taking a first-round passer. Teams in need of signal-callers who do not carry friendly draft real estate will, of course, be monitoring the buzz circulating around the Bears, Commanders and Patriots’ draft blueprints.

Two clubs who appear to be among those watching top QB prospects look to be those positioned just outside the top 10. Holding the Nos. 11 and 12 overall picks, the Vikings and Broncos are believed to be interested in drafting a quarterback high. While it will take considerable draft capital to climb into the top three, neither of these two are in good shape at the position. Minnesota, however, may still have the inside track on Kirk Cousins, who has expressed his fondness for his Twin Cities situation on a number of occasions.

[RELATED: Vikings Want To Re-Sign Kirk Cousins]

Some around the league are keeping an eye on the Vikings’ interest in moving up for a passer,’s Jeremy Fowler offers, noting the team did extensive work on the QB front last year. The Vikes were the team most closely tied to showing Trey Lance interest — before the Cowboys completed a trade for the former 49ers No. 3 overall pick — and they did not come to an agreement on another extension with Cousins.

Guaranteed money into the deal’s third year provided a sticking point, and the Vikings merely restructured Cousins’ contract. The latter transaction has put Minnesota in a time crunch, and the team could face the prospect of losing its starting QB — who has mentioned testing free agency — and being hit with a $28.5MM dead-money bill brought on by void years. If the Vikings do not re-sign Cousins by the start of the 2024 league year (March 13), that $28.5MM accelerates onto their 2024 cap sheet. Not quite the Tom Brady void years-driven cap charge the Buccaneers just faced ($35.1MM), but that is a high dead-cap number devoted to one player.

Cousins, 35, will undoubtedly factor in a potential Vikings desire to trade up for a quarterback into his latest free agency decision. Cousins is the longest-tenured Vikings QB1 since Tommy Kramer, narrowly edging Daunte Culpepper as the third-longest-tenured QB1 in team history. Like Culpepper in 2005, Cousins is coming off a major injury. The Vikings and other teams will be factoring Cousins’ Achilles tear into prospective offers.

The Broncos are almost definitely moving on from Russell Wilson, preparing to enter dead-money infamy in the process. The forthcoming dead-cap hit will cost the Broncos $84.6MM, which will be spread over two offseasons due to the expected post-June 1 designation. This stands to limit the Broncos’ interest in pursuing a pricey veteran — should any starter-caliber arms be available by the time the legal tampering period begins March 11 — and would naturally make Sean Payton‘s team more interested in a draft investment. The Wilson-fronted five-game win streak midway through this season, however, moved the Broncos down to the No. 12 slot. That will complicate a move into high-end QB real estate.

A rumor at the East-West Shrine Game involved Payton being interested in the Broncos moving up to draft Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels, Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline writes. Of course, the cost of doing business here would be steep — and the team would need a willing seller. The prospect of Denver trading up may already be drowning in cold water, too, with Pauline adding the team should not be considered likely to move in this direction because of the draft capital — and/or established players — that would need to be included.

The Broncos gave up their first-round picks in 2022 and ’23 in the Wilson trade, and while they obtained a 2023 first-rounder from the Dolphins in the Bradley Chubb swap, it was subsequently thrown in to acquire Payton’s rights last year. This stands to be the Broncos’ first chance to use a Round 1 pick since they nabbed Patrick Surtain ninth overall in 2021. Surtain has become one of the NFL’s top young corners, and GM George Patonwho is still with the team despite being the point man behind the Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett calls — said Surtain is viewed as a cornerstone piece. Denver’s actions at last year’s trade deadline, which featured at least two first-rounders to even warrant a Surtain discussion, back that up. Pauline adds the Broncos do not want to part with Surtain and would only do so as a last resort in an effort to trade up for a QB.

Wilson’s 2023 rebound notwithstanding, the Broncos have obviously struggled to fill this spot since Peyton Manning‘s 2016 retirement. They were in the Cousins mix in 2018 but bowed out — as the Vikings emerged in pole position — en route to Case Keenum. The Broncos would seemingly have another shot at Cousins now, though QB demand would still make the veteran starter costly — even after the Achilles tear. As of early February, the Vikings are projected to hold more than $24MM in cap space; the Broncos are nearly $24MM over the projected salary ceiling.

Most around the NFL view the Broncos reconciling with Wilson as unlikely, Fowler adds. If Wilson were to remain on Denver’s roster past the fifth day of the 2024 league year, his 2025 base salary ($37MM) locks in. That would balloon Denver’s 2025 dead money for a Wilson release past $85MM. Hence, the team’s controversial maneuvering in an attempt to move the date on which Wilson’s injury guarantee vests.

Although Wilson was fond of Payton prior to the parties’ partnership, Fowler adds Payton let it be known behind the scenes he was not big on the ex-Seahawks star. Wilson’s penchant for creating plays out of structure ran counter to how Payton prefers his offense to run, being part of the reason — along with the injury guarantee — the Broncos benched him for Jarrett Stidham in Week 17. Fowler mentions Minnesota as a destination Wilson would likely pursue, given Kevin O’Connell‘s presence, in the event Cousins leaves after six years. O’Connell worked alongside ex-Seahawks OC Shane Waldron under Sean McVay. The Vikings also roster Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson.

If/once Wilson departs Denver, his next team will not need to pay him nearly what the Broncos and Seahawks have. Wilson’s 2023 rebound still probably places him as a mid-tier starter, but Fowler adds his next team could build around him more effectively due to the offset language in the Broncos’ five-year, $245MM extension. Wilson signing at a low rate would be punitive for the Broncos, as their two-year starter’s next deal helps determine how much dead money will be on tap.

Cousins and Wilson join Baker Mayfield and Ryan Tannehill as experienced starter options set to hit the market. But Denver and Minnesota will need to weigh their chances of trading up in Round 1 against spending on a veteran. There will be plenty of moving parts at QB for certain teams this offseason, with the Bears’ upcoming Williams-or-Justin Fields decision a rather important domino as well.

Latest On Broncos, Russell Wilson

An upset loss to the Patriots on Christmas Eve set forth a chain reaction that led to the Broncos’ behind-the-scenes drama with Russell Wilson becoming public days later. Wilson appears headed toward free agency, but the Broncos are stopping short of confirming that.

Sean Payton and GM George Paton said Tuesday the two-year Denver starting quarterback could return in 2024, with the veteran head coach indicating (via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson) he spoke at length with Wilson after the season ended. Paton said (via Tomasson) the 12-year QB is open to coming back.

Wilson said as much two weeks ago, confirming the rumors the Broncos approached him about changing the guarantee vesting date in his contract. Paton confirmed the Broncos made a “good faith” effort to address the $49MM-AAV contract during the team’s bye week, contacting Wilson’s agent, Tomasson adds. This brought the NFLPA into the process, though no grievance is expected.

I spent half an hour with Russ yesterday, and I told him, I said, ‘Look, I don’t think it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process, but it hasn’t been decided relative to what our plans are,’” Payton said, via’s James Palmer. “But as soon as we know something, certainly he would be the first to know.”

Paton later said he works collaboratively with Payton, but the three-year GM indicted the late-December benching was independent of the guarantee that would kick in had Wilson suffered an injury that would have prevented him from passing a physical in March. Considering the circumstances, that is rather difficult to believe.

During the bye week, I did reach out to Russ’ agent in a good-faith and creative attempt to adjust his contract,’’ Paton said. “We couldn’t get a deal done. We moved on with our season. It didn’t come up again.

The Broncos retaining Wilson past the fifth day of the 2024 league year would lead to his $37MM 2025 base salary becoming guaranteed. Wilson’s 2024 money is already locked in, and a March release would still result in a record-smashing $84.6MM in dead money associated with a single player. The Broncos would assuredly spread that over two offseasons, via a post-June 1 designation. If they kept Wilson for 2024, he would be just as difficult to release in 2025. The 2025 salary guarantee vesting this March would lead to an $86MM dead-money hit in the event of a ’25 release.

Wilson, 35, has expected to be released for weeks. The Broncos, however, do not have access to the top quarterbacks in the draft. Barring a trade, that is. Considering Denver already traded two first-round picks for Wilson and sent the Saints first- and second-rounders for Payton’s rights, a trade-up maneuver for a passer would be particularly costly. The Broncos hold the No. 12 pick in the 2024 draft, complicating their path to land a rookie.

The free agency crop stands to feature Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield as the top names, but both arms have expressed interest in staying with their current teams. Ryan Tannehill, Gardner Minshew, Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett, Jake Browning and ex-Payton Saints charge Jameis Winston are among the notable QBs on track for free agency. Jarrett Stidham‘s $10MM contract runs through 2024, putting the two-time contract-driven replacement in play to be a Broncos bridge starter in 2024.

Paton being the point man on the Wilson trade and Nathaniel Hackett hire naturally invited rumors about his job status, seeing as Payton inherited the ex-Vikings exec as GM. But Payton again offered support for his coworker Tuesday. This follows a Sunday report that indicated Paton is more likely to stay for a fourth year. When asked (via Tomasson) who has the final say if a Payton-Paton disagreement ensues, the GM said that scenario has not yet come up. While John Elway‘s GM successor has offered hits (the 2021 draft), his misses (a list that also includes Randy Gregory) have outshined those through three years.

After the team gave up a blockbuster trade haul to land Wilson, another offseason looks set to be devoted to identifying a passer. Unless Wilson changes his mind and is suddenly amenable to a pay cut or a reworking that gives the Broncos more flexibility, Payton is likely to have his first chance in Denver to handpick a starting quarterback. It would be unlikely Paton stands in the HC’s way.

No NFLPA Grievance Expected Over Broncos’ Russell Wilson Situation

The Broncos’ season began with questions about Russell Wilson‘s long-term future within new head coach Sean Payton‘s scheme. His contract was also a talking point, and that is once again the case given the recent decision to bench him.

While the move to start Jarrett Stidham was based in part on the lack of consistency Denver produced on offense with Wilson at the helm, the latter’s 2025 injury guarantee was a factor as well. Wilson was approached midseason and asked to move the date at which his $37MM for that season became a full guarantee. Denver threatened to bench the nine-time Pro Bowler midseason if he refused to alter his contract, which remains intact.

Wilson was demoted to backup, but only after the Broncos’ postseason chances were essentially extinguished. Now, his future in the Mile High City is very much in doubt, although he has expressed a desire to finish his career in Denver. With respect to the situation surrounding his contract, no action from the player’s association is expected to take place, something which could help lead to an amicable split or a reconciliation.

The NFLPA sent a letter to the Broncos and the league’s management council in early November, days after the team approached Wilson’s agent about delaying his injury guarantee. As noted by Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the union stated in that correspondence that benching him would constitute a violation of the CBA and his contract. The Broncos, meanwhile, met with the management council and, upon accepting Wilson’s decision not to alter his pact, proceeded with much of the second half of the campaign with him under center after he called the team’s bluff (h/t Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer).

While this situation has become a public issue and one which will have franchise-altering consequences if Wilson is indeed released, it is not set to produce action from the NFLPA. Despite the letter suggesting a grievance could be filed in the wake of Wilson being benched, Denver7’s Troy Renck notes that has not happened yet. More to the point, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network adds no grievances are expected in the future.

Per Rapoport, Broncos general manager George Paton‘s request that Wilson delay (rather than remove) the vesting date of his 2025 guarantee led the NFLPA to not view the possibility of his benching as a genuine threat. As a result, attention will remain on how the parties proceed after the campaign comes to an end. Denver has been eliminated from the playoffs, and a QB pursuit will ensue if Wilson is released in the near future. His next destination would become a key NFL storyline, and it would mark an unceremonious end to his time in Denver.

Russell Wilson Confirms Broncos Asked Him To Adjust Contract; QB Wants To Stay With Team In 2024

On the verge of becoming a first-time free agent, Russell Wilson resides in limbo to close out his second season with the Broncos. Demoted after the Broncos fell out of reasonable playoff contention, Wilson has expected to be released for several weeks.

First, however, the 12th-year veteran will be Denver’s QB2 behind Jarrett Stidham against the Chargers. Unlike Derek Carr, who left the Raiders following his benching for Stidham last season, Wilson will dress for the Broncos’ Week 17 game. Beyond that, his situation is murky.

Wilson shed light on the Broncos’ reported attempt to change his guarantee vesting date. GM George Paton is believed to have contacted Wilson’s agent about adjusting the contract to move back the 2024 vesting date, according to the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson. Wilson also confirmed (via Denver7’s Troy Renck) this occurred during Denver’s Week 10 bye, just after the team had beaten the Chiefs. The 35-year-old QB also said the team notified him he would be benched earlier had he not agreed to do so. After the NFLPA contacted the Broncos about this request, with Wilson adding the NFL indeed was also involved, the team did not follow through with benching its starter at that juncture. His five-year, $245MM contract remains untouched — for now.

They came up to me during the bye week, beginning of the bye week — Monday or Tuesday — and told me if I didn’t change my contract, my injury guarantee, I’d be benched for the rest of the year,” Wilson said. “I was definitely disappointed about it. It was a process through the whole bye week. We had just came off beating the Chiefs. I was excited obviously for us fighting for the playoffs. The NFLPA and NFL got involved at some point, I think.

“… I wasn’t going to take away injury guarantees. This game is such a physical game. I’ve played for 12 years and that matters to me.”

The former Seahawks superstar suffered multiple injuries, including a concussion last season; he missed two games. Were he unable to pass a physical by the start of the 2024 league year, the Broncos would be locked into paying that guarantee. Sitting him to close out this season doubles as a bubble-wrap scenario Las Vegas utilized with Carr and Washington executed by sitting Robert Griffin III — to protect against his fifth-year option salary from locking in, back when the options were guaranteed for injury only — in 2015.

A 2024 release will hit the Broncos with a record-shattering dead-money figure, $84.6MM over two years in a post-June 1 cut scenario. (For perspective, the Falcons’ $40.5MM Matt Ryan dead-money hit is the current single-player record.) But Denver’s two-year starter said Friday (via Tomasson) he wants to stay with the Broncos beyond this season. That would almost definitely require a contract adjustment, and the nine-time Pro Bowler did not confirm he was open to that.

Indicating disappointment with the Broncos’ midseason request and calling it a “low blow,” Wilson still appears headed toward free agency. When asked about the October attempt to adjust Wilson’s contract, Payton said (via Tomasson) he was not privy to the matter pertaining to the injury guarantee. The timing of the request occurred between the Broncos’ wins over the Chiefs and Bills. While they won four more games after the request, the team’s losses to the Lions and Patriots have all but buried its playoff hopes.

The guarantee in question — a $37MM sum — covers Wilson’s 2025 base salary; it shifts from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2024 league year. The Broncos attempted this ultimatum measure to explore a post-2023 future with Wilson, Renck notes. The Broncos aimed to move the vesting date from March 2024 to March 2025 to provide them more flexibility, per Tomasson.

Faring better this season than he did in 2022, Wilson has still not justified the trade cost or the $49MM-per-year extension. The former Super Bowl champion would have had a better chance to stay in Denver for the 2024 season had he accepted the team’s terms, but it is not surprising he would decline this request. It would have represented a risk had he gotten injured during the season’s second half. Were that $37MM guarantee not in the equation, the Broncos could have cut Wilson in 2025 for $49MM rather than the $84.6MM total they will soon face.

Wilson is not expected to receive that extra $37MM, but his contract will have paid out the $124MM fully guaranteed; that represents a monster sum for two years of work. Barring an 11th-hour reconciliation, the parties will separate at some point between Super Bowl LVIII and that March vesting date. Wilson will presumably look for another chance at a starting job elsewhere, while his contract will hamstring the Broncos as they seek to replace him.

I hope that it’s here. I hope that it’s here for a long time,” Wilson said of his playing future. “… But if it’s not here, I’ll be prepared to do that somewhere else.

Ian Rapoport of does say that the Broncos will only part ways with Wilson if a better option becomes available to them. After all, as we discussed when the news of Wilson’s benching was first reported, Wilson will account for roughly the same charge on Denver’s cap over the next two seasons regardless of whether the club cuts him or retains him through Day 5 of the 2024 league year (although the actual cash outlay would be $37MM less if Wilson is released prior to the vesting date). Rapoport floats the possibility of a trade, noting that Wilson’s no-trade clause would allow player and team to work together to engineer some sort of mutually-beneficial exit.

Likewise, Adam Schefter of acknowledges that keeping Wilson or trading him are options that remain on the table, but both pundits ultimately believe that a release is far and away the more realistic outcome. Assuming Wilson is indeed cut, the Broncos are likely to designate him as a post-June 1 release to at least spread his staggering dead money hit over two seasons, as Schefter confirms.

Rapoport notes, as we also detailed previously, that Payton is unhappy with the way his offense looks with Wilson at the helm. Payton, who was privately unsure how Wilson would perform in the system that Drew Brees thrived in for so many years, has had to pare down and simplify his scheme, and even that did not allow the offense to operate at the speed that would allow it to maximize its potential. Furthermore, players have seen on film how Wilson, despite some big fourth-quarter performances, has failed to find open receivers on a consistent basis, and some players wondered even before Wilson’s benching if Stidham would be the better option. Starting today, we will start to see if there is some merit to those musings.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Latest On Broncos, Russell Wilson

Unsurprisingly, the Broncos’ decision to bench Russell Wilson has generated some fallout. The process that led to this call transpired during much of the team’s five-game win streak earlier this season

Wilson has been expecting to be released since shortly after the team’s win over the Chiefs on Oct. 29, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini (subscription required). Despite Wilson playing much better in 2023 than he did during a shockingly mediocre 2022, his contract has hovered as a big-picture issue for the Broncos.

Sean Payton acknowledged the economic component involved with this benching — one that comes exactly a year after the Raiders shelved Derek Carr to play Jarrett Stidham for contract reasons — but said the team wants to gather some intel on its backup before season’s end. With the Broncos’ last-second loss to the Patriots all but slamming the door shut on their playoff hopes, the initiation of Wilson divorce proceedings makes sense. The inevitable release will bring a seismic dead-money hit, one that will more than double the record the Falcons set last year ($40.5MM) when they traded Matt Ryan to the Colts.

It will cost the Broncos $84.6MM in dead money to cut Wilson in 2024. They will assuredly spread that number over two offseasons with a post-June 1 designation, but this will still represent a significant chapter in NFL transaction history — one that will hamstring the Broncos for two more years. It is unclear where Wilson will end up and how the Broncos — thanks to the Payton-Wilson experiment producing a midseason surge that revived the team’s playoff hopes — will go about replacing him. At 7-8, Denver’s draft slot sits 14th presently. But this drama has played out behind the scenes for weeks.

Shortly after the Broncos’ 24-9 win over the Chiefs, GM George Paton initiated the conversation to Wilson’s agent centered around the QB delaying his 2025 guarantee. The third-year Broncos GM said Wilson would be benched for the season’s final nine games if he did not delay the $37MM guarantee for 2025, Russini reports. That number, which shifts from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2024 league year, is behind the Broncos’ decision to bench Wilson now. This did not amount to a full-on ultimatum, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who notes team brass went through Wilson’s agent rather than bringing the QB into a meeting and demanding he adjust his deal or lose his starting job.

The Broncos’ ultimatum, reiterated days after Paton’s initial request, prompted Wilson’s agent to contact the NFLPA, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports. Paton is said to have noted Wilson’s benching would be financially motivated, rather than for skill or performance. Reviewing the matter, the NFLPA wrote a letter to the Broncos and indicated it had consulted with the NFL management council, per Anderson, who offers that the team then sent Wilson’s camp a letter conveying the QB’s refusal to change his contract’s guarantee structure would be respected. The letter, however, also indicated Payton would now dictate if Wilson would be benched. The Broncos never previously informed the 35-year-old passer when he would be shelved, however, according to Russini.

Ultimately, the Broncos’ talks with Wilson’s camp about delaying the 2025 guarantee were not amicable and were not in accordance with the CBA, per Anderson. Though, the team does not share the viewpoint the talks were not CBA-compliant. But this relationship — one that veered from disastrous to adequate on the field from 2022-23 — looks to have been deteriorating over the past two months. Wilson has likely thrown his last pass as a Bronco, with Stidham — given a two-year, $10MM deal in March — in place to start the final two games.

The contract component will lead to this trade being viewed as one of the worst in NFL history. Wilson’s 26-TD, eight-INT bounce-back effort notwithstanding,’s James Palmer notes people in Denver’s building viewed this benching as a football-related call — with the obvious financial undercurrent — for the 2023 season’s remainder.

Payton has said the offense needs to improve, and Palmer adds the new Broncos HC believes too many elements are present in the team’s current attack. Prior to the Wilson-guided rally against the Patriots, the Broncos’ offense struggled during an ugly effort. Payton has since said he does not view the up-tempo attack Wilson thrived in as sustainable over the course of a game. Pro Football Focus rates the Broncos’ offensive line as seventh overall, but Palmer adds only Justin Fields has been pressured more than Wilson. Broncos staffers also believe the pocket has been cleaner than the sack-prone QB’s pattern would depict. Wilson ranks seventh in passer rating but 21st in QBR.

While this adds up to Payton believing the fit between his concepts and Wilson’s strengths — a long-rumored issue after the Broncos acquired the ex-Saints HC — is too clunky, the team (and potentially its GM) will pay the price in the form of the historic dead-money sum.

Paton said upon firing Nathaniel Hackett he believed Wilson was salvageable, and Payton said just before this season the potential Hall of Famer’s skills had not eroded despite his 2022 regression. Wilson partially proved both right, but the Broncos’ offensive performance was not justifying the trade cost or the $49MM-per-year extension. Following the report Wilson wanted Payton to replace Pete Carroll in Seattle, Payton being the one to bench the accomplished QB is rather ironic.

Stidham’s contract contains just $1MM guaranteed for 2024, but after his Raiders run brought one stunningly productive start (a 365-yard, three-TD outing against the 49ers) and one shaky showing (against the Chiefs), the Broncos will see what their backup can bring. Wilson has since tweeted, “Looking forward to what’s next.”

As a head coach, you’ve got to make some tough decisions and they won’t always be right,” Payton said. “They just won’t. You go with your gut and your instincts. We need a spark. We need something right now. We’ll handle the long term when we get there.”

Broncos Asked Russell Wilson To Adjust 2025 Injury Guarantee; QB’s Benching Was Contemplated Midseason

The Broncos made a potentially franchise-altering move on Wednesday by benching Russell Wilson. Given his struggles in Denver across the past two seasons and the nature of his contract, it is widely believed his time with the team has come to an end.

In the wake of the news regarding Wilson’s demotion, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz reported the Broncos first threatened to bench Wilson after their upset win over the Chiefs on October 29. The reason for that action, both then and with today’s move of making it official, he notes, was tied to the timing of Wilson’s 2025 injury guarantee. If on the roster on the fifth day of the 2024 league year, Wilson’s mega-pact would trigger $37MM in 2025 money.

Schultz adds the Broncos asked the former Super Bowl winner to delay the time at which that clause kicked in. Further reports (including from Denver7’s Troy Renck) have corroborated that, with the latter noting the Broncos intended to have Wilson compete for the starting role this offseason without having a guarantee in place for the following year. To no surprise, the 35-year-old did not acquiesce to that plan.

During the time after Denver’s attempt to remove the 2025 guarantees, the NFL, NFLPA and an “unknown party” took part in negotiations over the matter, per Schultz and Mark Maske of the Washington Post. In the end, no adjustments were made to Wilson’s contract, leaving the Broncos in a unenviable financial position. With a substantial dead cap charge looming, the team is positioned to release him and begin another search process for a long-term answer under center.

When addressing the matter publicly, head coach Sean Payton admitted that “economics” were a factor in the decision to essentially put a firm end to the Wilson era in the Mile High City. Since he will dress as the backup this week, though, the possibility remains the longtime Seahawk could be thrust back into action and thus put himself at risk for injury. Still alive for the playoffs, Denver’s middling offense will rely on Jarrett Stidham at the QB spot to finish the season.

Following that, Payton (whose relationship with Wilson has been the source of plenty of speculation during the year) will likely be heavily involved in the search process for a new quarterback. That, coupled with Wilson’s first career foray into free agency – presuming the team follows through with his release – will be among the league’s top 2024 offseason storylines.

Broncos To Bench Russell Wilson

With a Week 16 loss to the Patriots effectively closing the door on the Broncos’ playoff hopes, the Russell Wilson watch has begun in Denver. As Sean Payton was not with the team when it acquired the longtime Seahawks star last year, the 2024 offseason has been viewed as a key point on the Broncos’ timeline.

It could also soon be a key chapter in NFL transaction history. Sitting at 7-8, the Broncos will bench Wilson. Payton informed the team Jarrett Stidham will start in Week 17,’s Adam Schefter reports. After the Broncos followed up a five-game win streak with a 1-3 stretch,’s Ian Rapoport reported the team was considering this move — one aimed at ensuring Wilson stays healthy before a pivotal offseason physical.

While Wilson has played much better this season, he has not justified the Broncos’ trade cost. The team sent an eight-asset package to Seattle, which included two first-round picks and two second-rounders. That decision came just after Aaron Rodgers — a multiyear Broncos target — agreed to a Packers extension. More importantly, the extension the Broncos gave Wilson just before last season creates a complex situation for the improved team.

The Broncos signed Wilson to a five-year, $245MM extension last summer; that deal came with $124MM fully guaranteed. The team had Wilson on a Seahawks-constructed contract ($35MM per year) through 2024, but it wanted to beat this year’s extension surge, leading to the $49MM-AAV re-up. Wilson waiving his no-trade clause for Denver always pointed to a new deal in 2022, but that turned out to be the wrong play. Even considering this year’s improvement, Wilson has not moved the needle for a Broncos team that has not found an upper-crust replacement for Peyton Manning since his 2016 retirement. Stidham will be the Broncos’ 14th starting QB post-Manning.

The Broncos can protect themselves against a $37MM guarantee (Wilson’s 2025 base salary) vesting in 2024, but the team cutting Wilson would create a staggering dead-money total. Even if the Broncos release Wilson with a post-June 1 designation — which would assuredly be the move if they are indeed cutting the cord — they would take on $35MM in dead money next year, according to OverTheCap. That would approach a record in itself, but this move would also bring a $49.6MM dead-money blow for 2025. Considering Matt Ryan‘s $40.5MM dead-money total from 2022 remains the single-player record, the Broncos would be sailing into uncharted waters — a two-offseason dead-cap total of $84.6MM associated with Wilson’s contract — if they cut their top quarterback next year.

On Day 5 of the 2024 league year, that $37MM guarantee vests if Wilson remains on the Broncos’ roster. That number is guaranteed for injury only until that March date, when it shifts to a full guarantee. But $68MM in bonus prorations from 2024-28 are also part of this equation, which stands to lead to the dead-money bloodbath.

Wilson’s contract containing a year-out guarantee, which is common among today’s high-profile deals, will force the Broncos’ hand early. If Wilson’s 2025 base salary locks in come March, the Broncos would still be tagged with $86.6MM in dead money (the $37MM base plus the $49.6MM in prorated bonuses from 2025-28) if they cut the decorated QB in 2025 rather than 2024. If Payton has deemed this a substandard fit, it behooves the Broncos to absorb this unprecedented financial blow early. Offset language does exist in Wilson’s deal, which would provide some relief once the 12th-year veteran lands elsewhere, OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald adds.

This scenario is eerily similar to the one the Raiders encountered with Derek Carr. Once again, Stidham is the player who would move into the starting lineup in the event of a protection-based benching. Deciding early to bail on the Carr extension that included a February 2023 guarantee vesting date, the Raiders parked Carr on the bench — though, he left the team to avoid becoming a distraction — ahead of Week 17 last season.

Stidham started the Raiders’ final two games last season, creating a QB2 market. The Broncos gave the ex-Patriots draftee a two-year, $10MM deal to back up Wilson, beating out a Raiders offer. Unlike Carr, Wilson will not leave his team. He will dress as Denver’s QB2 against the Chargers,’s Tom Pelissero tweets.

Wilson ranks seventh in passer rating, throwing 26 touchdown passes — after he tossed just 16 last season — compared to just eight interceptions. But the Broncos have not exactly deployed an explosive offense. It ranks 16th in points scored, though that is up from 32nd last year, and 16th in DVOA. Wilson’s relative bounce-back effort notwithstanding, the team remains limited through the air. Payton has restrained Wilson to a degree, and the Broncos have largely relied on short passes or deep shots to Courtland Sutton during their rebound from a 1-5 start. The 35-year-old passer ranks 21st in QBR, and new regimes are more willing to take on dead money associated with players brought in under previous staffs.

Technically, this is not a new regime. GM George Paton remains, but it is widely assumed Payton is calling the shots in Denver. Paton, who was in place for the Wilson extension and Nathaniel Hackett‘s one-and-done, has been linked to being on thin ice. A move to bench Wilson to protect against an injury affecting his contract status may well precede Paton exiting in 2024. The coach Paton traded for this offseason has not meshed especially well with Wilson, whose skillset differs from Drew Brees‘.

For Wilson, this obviously represents new territory. Although the two-time Super Bowl starter submitted a shockingly mediocre season under Hackett, the Broncos did not bench him last season. The nine-time Pro Bowler moving closer to his Seahawks form under Payton may keep the Hall of Fame in play — though, this Denver tenure does inject an interesting chapter — but this benching points to him being available in 2024. Considering this is not a tradeable contract, Wilson is moving toward becoming a free agent for the first time.

This imminent separation will put the Broncos in the market for a new quarterback soon. The team’s recovery from its 1-5 start will make that more difficult, as its draft slot has dropped to 14th. Should the Broncos follow through on their now-expected Wilson release in 2024, it will be interesting to see if a team would be willing to provide another starting opportunity for the ex-Seattle iron man. Wilson is the only player in NFL history with over 40,000 passing yards and 5,000 rushing yards. After being hesitant to run much under Hackett, Wilson has regularly helped the 2023 Broncos by scrambling (341 rushing yards).

While it is clear Wilson is past his prime, he has played a key role in the Broncos’ surprising playoff push — one that Stidham now controls. ESPN’s FPI gives the Broncos just a 5.6% chance to qualify. Against those long odds, the team will soon began a look toward the future.

Broncos’ Frank Clark Generating Trade Interest; Team Not Inclined To Trade Offensive Talent

We heard just last week that the 1-3 Broncos are not planning to be early sellers in advance of the October 31 trade deadline. Naturally, the team’s decision-making will be impacted quite a bit by how it fares over the next several weeks, and as ESPN’s Adam Schefter writes, Denver has received calls about a number of players on the roster and could be an active participant in deadline activity.

Specifically, the Broncos are willing to listen to offers for any defensive player, according to sources around the league. The team just dealt edge defender Randy Gregory to the 49ers for a minimal return, and fellow pass rusher Frank Clark could be next. Per Ian Rapoport of, Clark has drawn interest from rival teams, and if he performs well in the coming weeks, that interest will only increase.

Clark was released by the Chiefs prior to the opening of free agency in March, and after he lingered for a couple of months on the open market, he and the Broncos agreed to a one-year contract in June. The plan was for Clark and Gregory to spearhead the Denver pass rush, but as has been the case for most aspects of Sean Payton‘s Mile High tenure thus far, things have not gone according to plan.

Gregory played in just six games in 2022, his first season in Denver, and his lack of effort in the club’s historic drubbing at the hands of the Dolphins in Week 3 of the current campaign led to his losing his starting job for the Broncos’ Week 4 tilt with the Bears (although he entered that game in the second defensive series and ultimately played nearly half of the defensive snaps). Pro Football Focus has Gregory graded as a bottom-10 edge defender through the first four games of the year, and the Broncos needed to eat nearly all of his 2023 salary just to coax a late-round pick swap in 2024 out of San Francisco.

Clark, meanwhile, played in the Broncos’ season-opening loss to the Raiders but suffered a partial abductor tear in practice several days later. He is expected to be back on the field for Denver’s bout with the Jets today, which could be an audition of sorts for potential trade partners. Most of Clark’s compensation came in the form of a signing bonus, so an acquiring team would be on the hook for only the remaining portion of his $1.21MM base salary.

Wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy have generated trade interest in the past several years, and Schefter expects teams to again inquire on both players as October rolls along. Likewise, Armando Salguero of hears that GM George Paton has fielded calls from clubs that believe Denver could be in sell mode, with those calls focusing on Clark, Sutton, Jeudy, and LT Garett Bolles. Quarterback Russell Wilson has not been the subject of any trade inquiries.

Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) reports that the Broncos are not looking to move any of their offensive talent at present. As the team currently ranks last in both total defense and points allowed, it makes sense that Paton would be more inclined to move defensive pieces.