Broncos coach Sean Payton said Friday on Radio Row that the team will decide on the future of quarterback Russell Wilson as he makes the rounds on the Super Bowl ahead of an important contract deadline.
“We look closely at where the pieces are,” Payton said during An interview with Adam Schein Mad Dog Sports Radio. “There are ‘wants, wants and needs’ and when you ask questions about Russ, those are the reasons. Is it possible to do ‘this, this and this’ or not? I think the decision will be soon. He will soon know.”
Peyton’s comments echoed what he said about Wilson in the end, when he admitted that “it’s not going to be a long drawn out process” as to when and if Wilson will be released. Part of that is dictated by the trigger in the 35-year-old quarterback’s contract, which will pay him $37 million in salary through 2025 if he’s still on March 17. If the Broncos cut Wilson, they’ll be on. In the year A dead money hook for $85 million due to a future guarantee due at the end of 2024. The team could split those payments over two seasons with the designation released after June 1.
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Payton, who led the Broncos to an 8-9 record in his first season as head coach, said the team is in the process of free agent meetings and will begin meetings Monday, the day after Denver continues its AFC West rivalry. The Kansas City Chiefs will play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII. Payton said those meetings will be an important part of the decision-making process with regard to Wilson, but he pushed back on the idea that Denver has chosen a path at quarterback.
“Anything that people have said or commented or heard, ‘Oh, he’ll be traded and —’ I can’t tell you the jersey numbers of these rookies yet,” he said. “We start on Monday. So how on earth do we (trade) for one (pick) or do we go to five or six?’
The Broncos hold the No. 12 pick in the draft and could be looking for a new quarterback after benching Peyton Wilson for the last two games of last season. The Broncos were 7-8 at the time and were coming off a stunning Christmas Eve loss to the New England Patriots that all but ended Denver’s playoff hopes for the first time since 2015. Signing for the final two games before the 2023 season.
Payton said the Broncos are evaluating their quarterback options through a new lens.
He told Kai Adams on FanDuel TV’s “Up and Adams” show: “When the season ends, we take our puzzle and flip it upside down and all the pieces are redistributed. We look at the salary cap where we are with our own free agents. We’ll look at who’s in the draft, where we’ll pick, how many draft picks we have, and start this puzzle all over again. … Our plan, to do this thing the right way, is to really review the quarterly position. Can we get it in the draft? Are we going to get him in free agency? Or is it in the building? The decision will be made as quickly as a week.
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“If we like one of these guys so much, I wonder where people are going to steal them,” Payton told Adams, expanding the possibility of selecting a quarterback in the draft.
The draft remains a good option for the Broncos’ next quarterback if they move on from Wilson, in part because they are financially constrained by other options, such as landing one of the top signal-callers in free agency. Over the Cap reports that the Broncos are $24.1 million over the projected 2024 salary cap. There are plenty of ways to easily get under the cap and create a comfortable spot to add to the roster, but the Broncos, as general manager George Patton reiterated at the end of the season, can’t get into the mix this time around. The first wave of free agency as they did last season.
Denver has relatively limited draft capital. The Broncos hold six picks in 2024 — and just one in the first two rounds. They could include a future first-round pick as part of the deal to move up the board for a quarterback, but the team traded three first-round picks through 2022 to get Wilson and Payton and has several holes in the deal. That should be fixed.
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A quarterback route won’t be chosen, however, until the Broncos make their decision with Wilson, who spent the offseason in Southern California and the Los Angeles Lakers’ legendary Kobe Bryant statue, unveiled at Crypto.com Arena on Friday. Both sides have said the door is open for Wilson to return to the Broncos for a third season in 2024, but that path seems unlikely given how last season ended. After Wilson was benched, he said the Broncos approached him in October with a request to roll back the injury guarantee in his contract. Patton said the negotiations with Wilson’s camp were “in good faith,” but the quarterback said the talks included threats to bench Wilson if he didn’t agree to his contract demands.
“They came to me at the beginning of the bye week … and told me that if I didn’t change my contract, my injury coverage, I’d be sitting out the rest of the year,” Wilson said after the week. 17 Benching, which Peyton said is a reason for football. “…I was definitely upset…I wasn’t going to take out the damage warranties. This game is a physical game. I’ve been playing for 12 years and that’s important to me.
The NFLPA’s first-year executive, Lloyd Howell, confirmed Thursday that he was involved in the matter amid concerns about the players’ union during Super Bowl attendance.
“In that regard… (the NFLPA) is working with our members and their representatives to ensure that they reach the best possible financial situation that protects our members and was originally agreed upon. Howell said. “to be continued. I won’t go into exactly what happened with Russ, but the PA was involved, and we came to a decision.
Wilson, who had his first season with the Broncos in 2022 following a blockbuster trade that sent five draft picks and three players to the Seattle Seahawks, bounced back from a statistical standpoint last season. In 15 starts, he threw for 3,070 yards with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions and a 66.4 percent completion rate was his best since 2020. But Denver’s offense, with three losses in four games, ruined the playoff hopes and Wilson’s ball. -Safety issues — four interceptions, three fumbles — played a role in that slide.
“Everything at the beginning of last season and every ounce of our energy was, ‘What is (Wilson) going to do for us offensively?'” Payton said in an interview with Shane. “Finally, we got to where we thought we wanted to see Stidham. Honestly, we felt like we needed an offensive spark.”
(Photo: RJ Sangosti / Getty Images)