Denver, CO – In a shocking turn of events, veteran quarterback Russell Wilson was benched by the Denver Broncos in favor of backup Jarrett Stidham. This comes amidst a disappointing 7-8 season for the Broncos and growing speculation about Wilson’s future with the team.
Wilson’s 5-Year, $245 Million Gamble Not Paying Off
When the Broncos acquired Wilson in a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks in March 2022, they expected him to help lead the franchise back to contention. Denver even doubled down by signing the Super Bowl champion to a massive 5-year, $245 million contract extension.
However, the move has backfired spectacularly so far. In his first season under center, Wilson posted career-worst numbers as the Broncos limped to a 5-12 record. There was hope that new head coach Sean Payton could revive Wilson in 2023, but persistent offensive struggles and a losing record have put his future in jeopardy instead.
Benching Suggests Broncos Ready to Move On From Wilson
The decision to bench Wilson for Stidham, a former fourth-round pick with just one career start under his belt, raises serious questions. NFL insider Dianna Russini reported that Wilson has known for almost two months that he would likely be cut after this season.
Sources revealed that Broncos executives told Wilson in October that he would be benched and deactivated for 2022 if he did not agree to defer injury guarantee triggers in his contract. With $39 million in salary guarantees looming in 2024 and additional guarantees in 2025, Denver seems unwilling to take on the financial risk with Wilson’s struggles.
By benching their $245 million quarterback, the Broncos appear ready to move on from their expensive gamble this offseason.
Cutting Wilson Would Bring Massive Salary Cap Consequences
If the Broncos do release Wilson before March 17th, they would incur a staggering $85 million in dead salary cap space for 2024 according to Spotrac. The team could lessen the blow by designating Wilson as a post-June 1st cut, spreading the impact over two seasons, but it would still leave massive holes in their cap space.
After mortgaging significant draft capital and investing heavily in Wilson’s contract, his departure would leave the franchise in a difficult position. It would set back efforts to rebuild and contend for the playoffs. However, Wilson’s underwhelming performance has left them with few good options.
Wilson “Looking Forward To What’s Next”
For his part, Wilson has stayed quiet about the unfolding drama. In a social media post after being benched, the veteran QB simply said he was “looking forward to what’s next.”
While Wilson may still have gas left in the tank at 35 years old, it seems likely that will have to be outside of Denver. With the franchise ready to move on and absorb the painful cap penalties, one of the most surprising trades in recent NFL history looks set to end after just one season.
The Broncos’ gamble on Wilson has backfired in epic fashion. And both parties seem destined to go their separate ways this offseason as this rocky marriage ends in divorce.