When it comes to the state of the Denver Broncos roster, it starts and finishes with the quarterback.
And there are more questions than answers.
What will the Broncos do with Russell Wilson?
Will Denver find a replacement via NFL free agency, trade or the NFL Draft?
Will the Broncos roll with Jarrett Stidham?
All will be answered in due time, but as we speak, it the state of the Denver roster when it comes to quarterback remains a glaring issue.
In the first edition of our state of the Denver Broncos roster series, we examine the quarterbacks.
Contract status: First year of a five-year contract ($17 million base salary; $22 million signing bonus; $35.4 million cap hit; $85 million dead cap value)
Key statistics: 15 games played; 297 completions; 447 attempts; 66.4 completion percentage; 3,070 yards; 6.9 yards per completion; 26 touchdowns; 8 interceptions; 98.0 QB rating
There’s no question that Wilson played better in 2023 than how he played in 2022. If you just look at the stats, you would think he had a great year.
But the stats don’t tell the whole story for Wilson in 2023.
Wilson was inconsistent, and the offense disappeared far too often over the course of the season. That put Denver in situations where it needed miracle finishes or plays to have a chance.
Wilson also left numerous plays on the field, when he wasn’t putting himself in situations that led to sacks or costly fumbles.
To sum up Wilson’s 2023 season, it was hit and miss with some good and bad. In other words: meh. He wasn’t good enough.
Add in the contract he has, and that’s why Wilson didn’t play the final two games.
The question now is what Payton and the Broncos do with Wilson. Based on everything that’s unfolded, it’s highly likely Wilson won’t be Denver next season.
Contract status: Second year of a two-year contract ($4.49 million base contract; $1 million roster bonus; $7 million cap hit; $2 million dead cap value)
Key statistics: 3 games played; 40 completions; 66 attempts; 60.6 completion percentage; 496 yards; 7.5 yards per completion; 2 touchdowns; 1 interception; 87.7 QB rating
In the two games that Stidham started for the Broncos at the end of the season, it was basically what Wilson did. The difference is about $40 million in contract, give or take.
One of the questions rolling around Broncos Country right now is whether Stidham could be the starter in 2024. Based on the results, probably not.
Stidham seems like a serviceable backup QB for whoever is the next starter for the Broncos.
Contract: Signed a 1-year contract for the 2024 season ($985,000 base salary; $985,000 cap hit)
Key statistics: n/a
DiNucci didn’t play in 2023, spending most of the season on the practice squad. There were a few times he got elevated to the main roster to avoid being plucked by other teams.
DiNucci will be back in 2024, but more than likely will have a similar role as a season ago. Obviously, he could flash over the course of the offseason but it’s not likely he will be more than the third-string, practice squad QB for the Broncos next season.
As it stands the day after Championship Sunday, the next starter of the Broncos isn’t on the roster. Yes, the salary cap implications are huge when moving on from Wilson. But based on how everything played out at the end of the season, it’s highly unlikely Wilson is back in Denver in 2024.
And there are ways to make the cap work and lessen the hell that could put the Broncos in.
Now it’s just a matter of who Payton and Denver target to replace Wilson.
Is it free agency or a trade?
Do the Broncos turn to the Draft?
All questions that will be answered in time, but until they do nothing else matters for this franchise.
What Payton and Denver decide to do at quarterback set the path for the franchise and the subsequent moves they make to get this roster back to where everyone wants and expects and that’s competing for Super Bowls.
Of course, a winning season would be nice.