BRONCOS

Do the math before considering QB options for the Broncos

Feb 7, 2024, 11:49 AM

The Broncos quarterback plans for 2024 remain a mystery. One month after playing their final game of the ’23 season, the direction Denver is going to go at the most-important position in sports is still unknown.

One thing seems certain: Russell Wilson won’t be behind center for the Broncos next season. After getting benched for the final two games of the year, a move that almost everyone realized was for monetary reasons until the team had to cover its tracks with the NFLPA, the ship seems to have sailed with the veteran QB.

The door might not be all the way closed, however. At his end-of-the-season press conference, Sean Payton said the franchise would make a decision quickly with regard to Wilson. A month later, mum is the word, as the deadline for guaranteeing the QB’s salary for 2025 is just six weeks away.

If Denver does indeed move on from Wilson, the Broncos would still owe him $39 million in cash for 2024, while absorbing an $85 million cap hit across the next two seasons. That limits their options in the offseason.

Many people want the team to use their first-round pick on the quarterback of the future. Sitting at No. 12, there will be options for Denver if they want to go that route.

But Michael Penix, Bo Nix or J.J. McCarthy won’t come cheap. Even though they’re rookies, they’ll cost the Broncos in cash (with a signing bonus of more than $10 million) and salary cap (with a projected 2024 number of $3,269,515).

If the Broncos went that route, keeping Jarrett Stidham on the roster as the veteran option at the beginning of the season, they’d have an expensive QB room. The numbers aren’t team-friendly in 2024.

CASH
Wilson = $39,000,000
Stidham = $6,000,000
Rookie = $10,078,060
TOTAL = $55,078,060

SALARY CAP
Wilson = $35,400,000
Stidham = $6,000,000
Rookie = $3,269,515
TOTAL = $44,669,515

That’s a lot of dough to have tied up in a player not on the roster, a journeyman and a rookie. And the figures for 2025 would be even worse, when Wilson’s dead money jumps to $49.6 million.

Other than keeping Wilson, the rookie route is likely the most-economical, however. Some other plans make even less financial sense.

For weeks, Mike Evans has put forth his plan for the Broncos QB room. During “Schlereth and Evans” (M-F | 6a-10a | 104.3 The Fan), the co-host has suggested that Denver move on from Wilson, keep Stidham, sign Sam Darnold and trade for Mac Jones.

In addition to being a room full of reclamation projects, a plan that hasn’t worked other than with Kurt Warner in Arizona, the idea has one huge problem. It’s ridiculously expensive.

Jones is entering the final year of his rookie deal with the Patriots, so the Broncos would inherit that number. Darnold will be a free agent, as he was a year ago, when he inked a one-year, $4.5-million deal with the 49ers; he’ll get at least that in ’24.

CASH
Wilson = $39,000,000
Stidham = $6,000,000
Jones = $2,785,412
Darnold = $4,500,000
TOTAL = $52,285,412

SALARY CAP
Wilson = $35,400,000
Stidham = $6,000,000
Jones = $4,959,294
Darnold = $4,500,000
TOTAL = $50,459,294

That’s a lot of money for a QB who will be playing on another team, a guy who went 0-2 when given a shot with the Broncos in 2023, a player who seemed to peak as a rookie and a quarterback who has been on three teams in six seasons.

Of course, it makes more sense than some of the other options being speculated on as the offseason approaches. The Baker Mayfield idea is perhaps the most preposterous, as the Buccaneers quarterback is expected to command a four-year deal worth more than $100 million. The Broncos couldn’t possibly take that one with Wilson’s contract still on the books across the next two seasons.

Denver is currently $25 million over the salary cap for 2024. They’re going to have to make some tough decisions in order to get below the projected limit of $242 million. That’ll involve well-known players, such as D.J. Jones, Garett Bolles, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and perhaps even Justin Simmons.

Making their quarterback room more expensive won’t help matters; it’ll make it worse. That’s why there are very few options that make sense for the Broncos.

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