Russell Wilson’s first two years in Denver were a rollercoaster ride, to say the least. Tumultuous might be a better word for Wilson’s time as a Bronco, but that doesn’t mean it should automatically come to an end just because of a few bumps in the road. His first season was bad, and while his second season improved on the field, it wasn’t an overall success because of perceived (or actual) friction between Wilson and Sean Payton. Still, another year together, learning from each other, and growing with the team, could be the best move.
Is Russell Wilson playing himself out of the HOF?
Sure, it felt like Payton was all but done with Wilson when he benched him late in the season while Denver still had a shot at making the playoffs. That wasn’t the best look, and although Wilson is nowhere near his Seattle prime, he played much better this season. Of course, the talk is out there about Payton wanting to move on and much of it revolves around Wilson’s enormous salary cap number.
Contracts aside, who can the Broncos go get that is sure to be better? Justin Fields’ name has been tossed around in trade scenarios for Denver. He’s obviously much younger and athletic than Wilson, but there’s no guarantee he’ll take the team further. The Broncos were on the cusp of a playoff berth when Wilson was benched. While moving on from Wilson would eliminate his deal, you have to be sure whoever you bring in is capable of surpassing Wilson’s production.
Wilson improved in many areas from what we saw in year one with the Broncos. He threw more touchdowns (26) and had a better QBR (50.8) and passer rating (98) than his first season in Denver. Wilson passed for fewer yards, but also had fewer attempts and managed to complete more passes than the previous year. The stats weren’t mind-blowing, but they were an improvement and the team won three more games with Wilson on the field.
For the 2024 campaign, Wilson’s cap hit is $35.4 million with his dead cap number totaling $85 million. So, the Broncos could try to find some desperate team/coach that thinks they can “rehabilitate” Wilson’s career, or they can stick it out for one more season and see how things pan out. It’s not like there was no improvement once Payton arrived. Wilson is not Drew Brees, despite their similar stature. Payton knew who he was inheriting and the circumstances when he took the job.
The Broncos can always draft a quarterback, but again, no guarantees there. Unless you can acquire one of the top prospects, and even then, the draft is a crapshoot. Wilson was once a third-round pick no one expected anything out of, but he was placed in the right system with the right coaching staff and team that was ready to win. The Seahawks were able to be patient and bring him along slowly, although he became a rookie starter.
Ultimately, it seems like Denver/Payton are destined to move on from Wilson, but they should exhaust all options before doing so. A wrong move here and it’s too easy to end up in the NFL cellar winning four or five games. Wilson is no longer a top-five QB, but he’s still a better option than many others available to the Broncos.