Russell Wilson dilemma looms over Denver Broncos after late season benching and monster contract

HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 03: Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Russell Wilson runs with the ball in the fourth quarter of the Denver Broncos’ game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 3, 2023.Carmen Mandato/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Russell Wilson was meant to be the Denver Broncos’ savior. But things have not gone to plan.

His two seasons in Colorado have been disappointing for both the front office and fans, with the team missing out on the playoffs twice and with the 35-year-old QB being benched at the end of the 2023 campaign.

And now, with a huge financial hit on Denver’s books thanks to Wilson’s monster contract, questions about what to do with the veteran quarterback loom over the organization.

In their end-of-season press conference, Broncos general manager George Paton and head coach Sean Payton both fielded questions from reporters on Wilson’s future with the team, with both refusing to shut the door on him returning to the squad for the 2024 campaign.

“Look, I think when we get back and we begin this process of looking at our roster, where we select, there’s so many things that go into a decision specific to the quarterback, which is significant obviously, so it’s too early at all,” Payton said on Tuesday.

“I spent half an hour with Russ yesterday, and I told him, I said, ‘Look, I don’t think it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process, but it hasn’t been decided relative to what our plans are.’ But as soon as we know something, certainly, he would be the first to know.”

Per Spotrac, Wilson’s salary cap hit increases to $35.4 million in 2024 and $55.4 million in 2025.

According to the NFL, Wilson has a $37 million injury guarantee for 2025 that becomes fully guaranteed in March meaning that if the Broncos want to avoid that hit to their cap, they will need to move him before that deadline.

Wilson’s situation with the Broncos has been further complicated after the quarterback revealed in December that the team had approached him in an attempt to restructure his contract during Denver’s Week 9 bye week.

Paton said that the team’s decision to bench Wilson for the final two games of the season was purely a football decision, not anything to do with the contract situation.

Denver Broncos general manager George Paton during an NFL preseason football game, Aug. 27, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Broncos general manager George Paton during a preseason game.David Zalubowski/AP

“During the bye week, I did reach out to Russ’ agent in good faith and in a creative attempt to adjust his contract,” Paton told reporters. “We couldn’t get a deal done, and we moved on with our season. It didn’t come up again.

“Fast forward to Week 17, and [head coach] Sean [Payton] makes a change at the quarterback position. This was a football decision made by Sean in what he thought was in the best interest of team. This was completely independent of any conversations I had with the agent. Again, it was a football decision made by Sean.”

The Broncos won once and lost once with Jarrett Stidham starting in place of Wilson as the Broncos slumped to an 8-9 finish to their season, the team’s seventh consecutive losing season.

With Denver at an important crossroads, whatever happens next with Wilson is likely to change the franchise’s destiny for the foreseeable future.

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