Russell Wilson, benched for the rest of the season to back up Jarrett Stidham in Week 17; Veteran QB ready to cut

The Broncos lost any realistic chance to make the playoffs by falling to the Patriots on Sunday, giving them a 7-8 record — and just a 1.4 percent chance to reach the postseason — with 2023 coming to an end. They are now benching quarterback Russell Wilson for the final two games as he will serve as Jarrett Stidham’s backup, according to head coach Sean Payton, starting with Sunday’s game at the Chargers

The Broncos insist the decision to turn to Stidham is meant to provide an offensive “spark” after a 1-3 stretch — which has nothing to do with the QB contract, according to CBS Sports HQ Senior NFL Insider Josina Anderson. But the writing is on the wall: Wilson recently sidestepped questions about his future in Denver beyond 2023, while an injury in the last two games would prevent the Broncos from seamlessly releasing a QB in the postseason if the team wanted to move Na.

Why did Peyton move from Wilson to Stidham?

“I can tell you, look, we’re desperate to win,” said the head coach, via 9News Sports in Denver. “The No. 1 push behind it, and it’s a decision I make, is to provide a spark on offense. Obviously, it’s tough and we all feel like, “man, we didn’t do well enough,” but one of the things we saw when we signed Stidham in the offseason, not only from the preseason games, but the regular seasons, but he’s a guy , which I’m excited to see play.

“If I didn’t feel like he gave us a chance to win, we wouldn’t have made the move.”

According to The Athletic, Wilson is expected to be cut in March. He has reportedly known about his fate with the organization for nearly two months. The Broncos contacted Wilson’s representatives in late October if he didn’t push back the trigger date of his 2025 injury guarantee — which is $37 million guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year.

Wilson certainly improved on his shaky debut with the Broncos in 2022, leaving Week 16 with 26 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 98.0 passer rating — his best in three years. But Denver’s offense has struggled overall, ranking 16th in scoring and 25th in yards per game. And then there’s the QB’s lucrative contract, a whopping $245 million that will count $35.4 million against the 2024 salary cap.

Could it be that Payton and the Broncos’ relatively new ownership group already prefer to hit the reset button under center? Sure. Again, while Wilson has been improved this year, he’s 35 and very expensive (#5 among annual QB earners). But i can Should Denver continue? Is it even possible that Payton and Co. opt out of Wilson’s deal after the 2023 season?

the answer is yes, but it probably won’t save Denver much money in the short term.

Here are the details: Wilson is currently signed through 2028, but only has guaranteed money through 2024. However, his entire 2025 salary ($37 million) will be guaranteed if he remains on the Broncos’ roster early next year of the league (March 17), on Over the Cap. So it’s likely that Denver will make a decision on the QB’s future before then.

The options: The Broncos can outright release Wilson by March 17, but doing so would actually result in a loss of $49.6 million in 2024. Denver is already projected to be at least $18 million over the cap for 2024, so its direct reduction would be illogical. Designating him for release after June 1 is a different possibility, however. In this scenario, Denver would eat Wilson’s 2024 salary ($35.4 million) but actually avoid any financial hit to the cap for 2024. In other words, they would save nothing right away, but millions after 2024.

The other option, which is far less likely: a trade for Wilson. Not that QB wouldn’t have any market; chances are he’s recouped some of his value to other NFL teams after he returns from 2022. But a trade before June 1 would result in an immediate loss of $32.6 million against the Broncos’ 2024 cap.Denver could acquire him after June 1 to save $17 million — the best financial scenario for parting ways with a QB — but that would require waiting until the summer, well after free agency begins, to find a trade partner .

The other factor in all of this: Wilson’s health for the remainder of 2023. Injured players can’t be released outright — at least without a negotiated injury settlement — so that explains Denver’s benching of Wilson for the last two games. The Raiders notably demoted former starter Derek Carr, who had a similar injury guarantee in his contract, at the end of 2022 before releasing him in the offseason. But Carr’s bench warranted eventual dissolution; this seems to be happening in denver.

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