Denver Broncos Quarterback Russell Wilson Benched, Expects To Be Released

The Russell Wilson era in Denver is coming to a sudden and ignominious end. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Denver Broncos are benching the nine-time Pro Bowler for the remainder of the season in order to avoid triggering $37 million in guarantees this offseason should he not be able to pass a physical.

The move is an aggressive and definitive statement from the Broncos that they don't envision Wilson as part of their future. The Athletic's Diana Russini revealed later in the day that the former Seattle Seahawk expects to be cut in March.

Wilson had bounced back somewhat this year after a disastrous 2022 season in which the Broncos ranked dead last in points scored with 16.9 per game and finished 5-12. So far this season, he has posted sub-par numbers in net passing yards per attempt (5.72, 21st in the league) and passing yards per game (204.7, 21st in the league), but his league-best four fourth-quarter comebacks and the offense's overall improvement in point scored (21.8, 16th in the league) had the Broncos in the playoff hunt at 7-8.

Still, the Broncos and their new head coach Sean Payton have clearly decided that admittedly mild improvement isn't significant enough to make a multi-year commitment to Wilson, even if it comes at immense short-term expense. Per overthecap, the Broncos will accelerate a massive $85 million in dead money onto their salary cap over the 2024 and 2025 seasons by cutting Wilson. Effectively, the Broncos are paying almost 20% of their total cap space over the next two seasons to not have Wilson on their team.

As for Wilson, his future has never been murkier. Some of his surface statistics this season actually look respectable (a 26 to 8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 98.0 passer rating), and it wasn't that long ago he enjoyed one of the highest profiles in the league. As a practical matter, he shouldn't be considered a true ceiling-raiser at quarterback: despite his fame and thrilling playstyle, his teams have only finished as a top-five scoring offense once in his career, and that way back in 2015 in the last year of his rookie contract.

By definition, competence and mediocrity would be an improvement for about half the teams in the league, and that means Wilson still has value. He should be next offseason's version of Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo; he'll probably land still-significant money from a middle-road team that's not quite poor enough to draft a quarterback with a top-five pick. Barring that team assembling one of the league's elite rosters, Wilson's days in the league as a superstar are very likely over.

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