File this one under Things to Do in Denver When You’re Playoff Chances Aren’t Dead?
Is Russell Wilson playing himself out of the HOF?
In a stunning move, the Broncos are considering benching quarterback Russell Wilson for the remainder of the 2023 regular season, according to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The Broncos are making the move to “preserv[e] their financial flexibility for the offseason,” per Rapoport.
The Broncos enter Week 17 with an 8 percent chance to make the postseason, according to NFL.com. There is even a scenario where Denver could win the AFC West if the Chiefs were to lose out. Instead of Wilson, Denver will start journeyman backup Jarrett Stidham against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Stidham has two years of meaningful playing time with the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders. He started two games for the Raiders in 2022, losing both outings. Across four seasons, Stidham has 926 passing yards, six passing touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
The Broncos acquired Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a 2022 and 2023 first-round pick, a 2022 and 2023 second-round, a 2022 fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, and defensive lineman Shelby Harris.
Since acquiring him, the Broncos have gone 11-19 in games started by Wilson. The nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback has had two of the worst seasons of his career in Denver. Wilson throw a career-low 16 touchdowns in 2022 and had the highest interception rate (2.3%) since his rookie season en route to a 5-12 record.
This season, Wilson has let down a Broncos defense that bounced back from a historic 70-point beatdown early in the season. Since Week 4, Denver is 10th in the league in defensive EPA/Play, per RBSDM. Over that same stretch, though, Wilson ranks 21st in EPA/play and 20th in success rate among 33 qualifying quarterbacks. On the season, he has thrown a career-low 3,070 passing yards and a career-low 6.9 yards per attempt, 18th and 20th in the league, respectively.
Upon his arrival in Denver, Wilson signed a five-year, $245 million contract. The deal guaranteed Wilson’s salaries for the 2022, 2023, and 2024 seasons. According to OverTheCap, Wilson’s 2025 salary will also be guaranteed if he is on the roster on the fifth day of the 2024 league year. The deal is also guaranteed for injury, meaning they would be on the hook for all of Wilson’s $35.4 million in 2024 and $55.4 in 2025 if he were to get injured these last two weeks.
If Denver were to cut him before then, they would incur $85 million in dead money along with a $49.6 million cap hit.