One national pundit says the Broncos had the ‘most fascinating signing of the first week’ in free agency

Mar 20, 2023, 12:59 AM

Jarrett Stidham...

(Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

When the Broncos agreed to terms with backup QB Jarrett Stidham last week, the move got more attention than the signings of some starters. That’s just how it is with the quarterback position. It’ especially true when the incumbent heads into 2023 after the worst season of his career.

What’s more, the Broncos gave Stidham a contract with an average annual value of $5 million. That’s more than the deals given by San Francisco to Sam Darnold and Indianapolis to Gardner Minshew. Those quarterbacks have 55 and 24 career starts, respectively. Stidham has two. He delivered mixed results: smooth and brilliant in his starting debut against San Francisco, rough and ragged six days later against Kansas City.

All that came together for a move that NBC Sports’ Peter King called “the most fascinating signing of the week.”

King explained his rationale in his Football Morning in America column at

The most fascinating signing of the first week: quarterback Jarrett Stidham, two years, $10 million, $5 million guaranteed … after starting a grand total of two games in his four-year NFL life. But one of those games convinced Sean Payton to take a chance on him. After Derek Carr was benched in Vegas in late December, Stidham, in his first NFL start and facing the best defense in football, San Francisco, put up 365 passing yards, three TD passes and 34 points.

King didn’t dive into what happened next for Stidham in his second start. But that’s less notable than what King suggests: that if Wilson struggles, Payton can turn to Stidham.

So now Payton buys him to be Russell Wilson’s backup, and nothing needs to be said to Wilson about it. If Wilson by midseason 2023 is having a similarly disastrous season to his first one in Denver, Payton won’t have to punt on the season. He’ll have an intriguing backup waiting in the wings. But Payton did not go hard after Stidham to put the pressure on Wilson.

Instead, King rationalizes, Payton gambled on Stidham’s upside:

He considered his options at backup QB and thought he could play it safe for around the same money with an Andy Dalton type, or swing for the fences on a young prospect with significant upside. I like the logic.

The months to come will reveal the wisdom of Payton’s backup choice. But there’s no denying that Stidham makes the Broncos’ quarterback stew a bit spicier as the offseason continues.



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One national pundit says the Broncos had the ‘most fascinating signing of the first week’ in free agency