In QB Desperation Mode, Broncos Trade For Jets Bust Zach Wilson… & The Reactions Are Magnificent

Zach Wilson NFL
New York Jets

Well isn’t this story going to be a nightmare first reference first name/last name scenario. Let’s just refer to Zach Wilson as “Wilson” from here on out, and go with “Russ”, “Mr. Unlimited”, or “DangeRuss” for Russell Wilson to avert constant confusion, shall we?

OK. So the Denver Broncos, not even two months removed from eating $85 million in dead money so that DangeRuss no longer plays quarterback for them, are taking a flier on Zach Wilson. They pulled off a trade on Monday to land the former No. 2 overall pick, who may or may not present an upgrade over Jarrett Stidham.

To be fair to Wilson, he was not put in position to succeed from the jump with the Jets. They didn’t have a single veteran QB to mentor him as a rookie, put way too much on his plate early on, and he was drowning out there on the field. During the 2023 campaign, he was supposed to take a backseat and learn from Aaron Rodgers until it was eventually time to take the reins. Rodgers ruptured his Achilles on the first series of the season, thrusting Wilson into action.

Not that anyone but Rodgers could probably thrive in a Nathaniel Hackett-coached offense — just ask Russ, Nat Hackett derailed his whole career in Denver! — but Wilson struggled once again in his third NFL season. Granted, there were more flashes than before, such as his exceptional performance in throwing for 301 yards in a 30-6 rout of the AFC South champion Houston Texans in Week 14. Wilson also played well enough to beat the Chiefs earlier on.

Almost everything between and around those outings was more of the same maddening inconsistency from the young gunslinger. Wilson got drafted second overall for a reason, though. There’s no denying he has absurd arm strength. He’s a real threat to run the ball, too. Sean Payton can’t be too thrilled at the prospect of another reclamation project after putting up with Mr. Unlimited in 2023, yet this younger Wilson at least has some high-end upside that hasn’t been anywhere near fully capitalized on yet.

If Payton can just put Wilson in the role of a game manager, build on what he did well this past year, and, you know, be a better play-caller than Nathaniel Hackett, it stands to reason Wilson can make some serious strides in the Mile High City. Here’s the problem: The AFC West division features QB-coach tandems of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, and Jim Harbaugh and Justin Herbert on the Chargers. Depending on what the Raiders do in the draft — they pick 13th overall to the Broncos’ 12th but have more ammunition to move up — they could get a franchise QB of their own.

See, Denver doesn’t have a second-round pick, so its options on draft night are limited. They’d have to hope somebody like Michael Penix Jr. or Bo Nix falls to them at No. 12, and actually like one of those guys enough to draft them.

This trade for Wilson won’t and shouldn’t preclude the Broncos from considering their QB options with the 12th pick.

I just think it’s less likely they mortgage the future for, say, the potential QB5 or QB6 in this class. Payton has the self-belief that he can get the most out of anyone, be it Wilson or Stidham as his 2024 starter. There’s always the 2025 rookie class to mine from. Furthermore, as things stand at this very moment, some of the notable 2025 free-agent quarterback include Dak Prescott, Jordan Love, and reigning NFL passing leader Tua Tagovailoa. I’d expect all three of those signal-callers to stay with their current teams, but I’m just saying, crazier things have happened in the NFL, have they not?

Anyway, were I Payton and had assurances from the Broncos’ ownership group (richest in the sport), I’d be patient at QB. Even if the blowback for now will be borderline unbearable.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock