Broncos HC Sean Payton Name-Drops Potential Trade Partner, Reveals QB’s Workout

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos

Getty Head coach Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos.

The Denver Broncos swinging a trade up for a quarterback in the 2024 draft is “realistic,” according to Head Coach Sean Payton.

Speaking at the annual NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Payton made no secret of the organization’s interest in the 2024 class of quarterbacks and even name-dropped a potential trade partner in Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort.

Ossenfort openly declared the No. 4 overall pick for sale in a press conference on March 21.

“I think it’s realistic,” Payton told reporters on March 25. “What’s hard to predict, though, is what’s on the receiving end. I think it’s good to be Monti today at Arizona, right? So it’s hard to predict what that cost is. And yet, I certainly wouldn’t say it’s unrealistic, and we’ll pay close attention to it.”

Ossenfort similarly said that the Cardinals may not find an offer to their liking. But he was clear they have not locked in on picking in that slot.

For the Broncos, this follows a mildly aggressive approach to address the position.

Following the release of Russell Wilson, the Broncos were set to roll into 2024 with Jarrett Stidham as the starter – and Ben DiNucci behind him – since they stayed out of the quarterback market in free agency.

General Manager George Paton did “touch base” with Kirk Cousins’ camp before the QB signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer on March 18.

Their efforts have not stopped there, with a longer-term plan in place.

Broncos Held Private Workout for J.J. McCarthy, Planning More Amid Trade Rumors

J.J. McCarthy, Denver Broncos

GettyJ.J. McCarthy #QB05 of the Michigan Wolverines.

The Broncos met with all of the top quarterback prospects at the scouting combine, per the Denver Post’s Troy Renck on March 1. They only sent scouts to the pro days of Caleb Williams and Bo Nix.

Paton attended Michigan’s pro day to see J.J. McCarthy, whom the GM confirmed he would meet with at the combine.

Payton did not attend that workout, though he revealed a potentially telling alternative.

“For some of these guys, we’ll have an individual day, separate,” Payton said. “I wasn’t at J.J.’s pro day. But we had a private the next day, where we sent him a bunch of information, spent four or five hours with him, and made him throw all over again. It’s all part of the process. And it can lead to, at least, a more efficient and effective decision.”

That is far from a definitive endorsement of McCarthy being their guy. And this is the time coach speak and subterfuge as teams look to avoid tipping their hand. The Broncos won’t be the only team to work McCarthy out privately either.

Their top 30 visits can be more telling in that regard. The Broncos have already held several, though none have been with quarterbacks.

Still, McCarthy is the first prospect to go through the ringer with Payton and Paton.

If the Broncos cannot find an agreement with the Cardinals, the Washington Commanders and New England Patriots have seemingly softened their stances on trading out of the Nos. 2 and 3 spots, respectively for the right offer.

Payton was asked about more than just the potential future at quarterback, also addressing present and past Broncos QBs in Stidham and Wilson.

Sean Payton Gets Honest About Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham

Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham, Denver Broncos

GettyRussell Wilson #3 of and Jarrett Stidham #4 of the Denver Broncos.

On the former, Payton previously professed his belief that Stidham could be a starter in the NFL. But, in addition to admitting the Broncos’ interest in a trade, Payton hedged on that at the owners’ meetings, noting the uncertainty around the fifth-year passer’s ceiling.

“He’s definitely competing to be the starter,” Payton said. “I don’t think we have the term ‘driver’s seat’ going. But he’s going to compete for that position. I know he’s anxious and excited to do that. And I’m sure there’ll be other candidates that will be competing with him.”

In the second year of a two-year, $10 million contract, Stidham will either be a tremendous bargain as a starter or a relatively cost-effective backup given his familiarity with the system.

Payton also spoke on Wilson, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency.

“It’s a good opportunity for Russ,” Payton said, per the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel. “First off, they’re a playoff team and a team that wanted to make a change at quarterback. Certainly he has a chance to be a starter there.”

Wilson leads former Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields in the race to be the Steelers’ starter in Week 1.

As for possibly pausing over the $85 million dead cap hit the Broncos absorbed cutting Wilson? Payton said “no,” noting they had thought through their decision.