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Examining the factors that led the Broncos to bench Russell Wilson and what’s potentially next for QB

Unlikely? Certainly. But not impossible.

The Broncos could theoretically trade Wilson, who has a no-trade clause, and the two sides would have to work together to find a solution. Either way, because of the offbeat language, a new team likely wouldn’t pay more than the league minimum on a new contract for Wilson.

At the end of the season, the Broncos will have a decision to make, one that has always been looming, but now takes on a whole new look after the events of this week. Payton made the football decision to bench Wilson and start Jarrett Stidham this Sunday against the Chargers, a decision that also includes a significant financial component. After the season, Payton will have to do a similar one.

Do they cut Wilson or keep him?

If they remove him, it will result in an $89 million cap charge, plus $39 million in guaranteed money for 2024, although they could split the cap hit with a designation after June 1. If they keep him, that’s a cap hit of more than $90 million over two seasons, plus the $37 million due in 2025.

In other words, in the short term, it comes down to keep it or cut it. Either way, the Wilson contract seriously cripples Denver and its ability to build. If Stidham impresses today, everything becomes easier. He could be the Broncos QB, they could cut Wilson and go from there.

But there are so many other things that were involved in the move last week. An overview :

  • Payton was wary of Wilson during his interview with the Broncos before they hired him last offseason, sources say. While he talked in the interview about helping him become a championship QB and how to fix him, he wasn’t as sure if that could be done in private. In accepting the job, he committed to trying. It did not work.
  • When players watched film this past week of games, they saw an endless series of open players that Wilson didn’t find in time. Sure, the big plays in the fourth quarter were there, but finding the open guy in rhythm was a problem. The players saw it and discussed it privately among themselves, according to sources. Some have wondered in recent weeks whether Stidham, who Payton signed early in his free agency tenure, would be better.
  • Payton is not happy with how his attack is going, according to sources. He saw it at a high level with Drew Brees, and that wasn’t it. They constantly needed to simplify and reduce the game, they struggled to fit games in, and the game rarely flowed at the speed they wanted. Wilson played off schedule in the fourth quarter. But Payton regularly complained about the lack of efficiency. Over the past few weeks, he has reflected on his decision. This week, it looks like Stidham has been running the offense well in practice, with optimism growing.
  • Last summer, and again in October during the team’s bye week, Broncos general manager George Paton spoke with longtime QB agent Mark Rodgers about the possibility of changing the Wilson’s contract, pushing back the early vesting date of his injury guarantees to 2025. As it stands, the $37 million injury guarantee in 2025 would become fully guaranteed in March 2024. Paton thought that moving the date back to the start of the league year in 2025 would increase Wilson’s viability in the short and long term. , as it would eliminate the need for the Broncos to make a two-year decision on him in the coming months, significantly increasing the chances of him becoming a Bronco in 2024. Wilson saw this as a threat of being benched, as he said. this week. Ultimately, he wasn’t benched until seven weeks later, with the Broncos ranking 25th in offense and their playoff hopes dwindling after a 42-17 loss to the Lions followed by a 26 -23 at home against the lowly Patriots on national television at Christmas. Day before.
  • As many agents do during negotiations, Rodgers presented the Broncos’ proposal to the NFLPA, which often consults with agents on big-money player contracts. The union did not view the “threat” of benching as a real threat, and Wilson rejected the Broncos’ offer, which is his right. No grievance has been filed and it is unlikely there will be one. One source called such negotiations “trivial.”
  • Wilson, for his part, plans to play in 2024. And if the Broncos cut him, he’ll be available to a team in need of a bridge starter for probably the lowest possible price of the minimum.

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