Boy, that escalated quickly. Russell Wilson went from “career resurrected by Sean Payton” to getting screamed at on the sidelines by his coach very publicly, to getting benched for Jarrett Stidham with two games left in the regular season.
Realize this: The Denver Broncos are still in playoff contention, and they’re removing the guy they paid to be their franchise quarterback from the field with two weeks remaining. For a guy with a 73.5 career passer rating. All so that they eliminate the possibility of Wilson getting injured and paying him way more money.
Russell Wilson already has $39 million guaranteed for 2024, but he has an additional $37M that would become guaranteed if he can’t pass a physical by early March.
Denver’s move to sit him assures that money won’t trigger. And Denver does this at a time when Wilson is the NFL’s…
Because yeah. The Broncos have Beyond F*ck You Money with the Walmart heirs owning the team. What’s it to them to cut bait with an aging, overpaid QB who’s failing to maximize the financial ceiling of their franchise?
An intern at my ex-employer had the lack of foresight to tweet out this ignorance last Christmas Day:
Four moreyears? Yeah, try one. But I get it. A lot of people were thinking this way. They looked at Russ’ contract on a surface level and didn’t think too critically about it.
Now, that aforementioned article does contain passages that state Sean Payton would never accept the job with Russ as the QB. My take? That Walmart money was too much for Payton to turn down. He must have had assurances that he’d make a shotgun arranged marriage with Wilson work as best he could for one season, and then move on to a QB he actually coveted.
To Payton’s credit — and frankly, let’s give Russ a little love for perseverance — Denver rallied from a 1-5 start to get to 6-5. Unfortunately, a 1-3 recent stretch has worn out Payton’s patience. Enter: Jarrett Stidham for evaluation purposes. Hey, it’s the year of the backup QB after all, so who knows? Maybe Stidham can capture some of the lightning in a bottle he found in Las Vegas last year in spot duty and keep the Broncos in the playoff hunt.
More likely, though, this is Payton raising the white flag. It’s also a sign he wants nothing to do with Wilson in 2024, much less when his contract is due to expire in 2028.
You cannot play football – at a team level – with how Russ was dropping his eyes in the opening 3 quarters of the game in Week 16
Sean Payton, and dropped weight, improved Russ’ game vs 2022
Per OverTheCap.com, the Broncos can cut Wilson loose this offseason with a post-June 1 designation and eat $128 million of dead money through the end of his deal. But if you parse that out over five years, it’s only an average of $25.6 million annually. That’s a lot of money to you or me, but bear this in mind: Denver will have a new, rookie QB either this coming season or the next. That contract will cost pennies on the dollar, relatively speaking.
With the new TV/media rights deals kicking in, the NFL salary cap and league revenue will continue to explode. There’s no ceiling in sight. The annual average $25.6 million of dead Russ money — $85 million of that $128 million would come off the books in the next two years — would become all the more insignificant in the bigger picture.
The Russ trade really looks like one of the most catastrophic deals in NFL history for the Broncos, and an all-time coup by Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.
Let’s not overreact, though. I think anyone with a brain knew the Payton-Wilson partnership wasn’t for long. Denver’s defense has recovered nicely from that rocky start. Payton has earned deserved praise for coaching up Russ back to respectability. Soon enough, Payton will get his guy, the Broncos will have another draft class and free agency period to build the roster, and they should be off and running.
With the projected 14th overall pick as of now, and a loaded crop of QBs expected to enter the 2024 NFL Draft, Denver could move up for somebody, or Payton could make lemonade out of a semi-lemony mid-first-rounder like Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr., JJ McCarthy, or possibly even move up for LSU Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels.
I’m just glad we’re seeing the end of the Russell Wilson Broncos era. The ship has sailed. The organization is moving forward into an exciting, totally unpredictable new era. If Russ stayed, they’d be spinning their wheels. Can’t wait to see what this looks like when Payton has hisguy under center.
If the Denver Broncos bench Russell Wilson for Jarrett Stidham, this is a clear indication that they will move on from Wilson after this season. If this happens, this will also tell you Bronco's ownership has full trust in Sean Payton.