Former No. 1 Pick Floated as Russell Wilson Backup Option for Broncos

Getty Jameis Winston was floated as a potential Broncos backup quarterback option for Russell Wilson

With the Broncos potentially needing a backup quarterback for Russell Wilson in the event Brett Rypien isn’t retained, Mile High Huddle’s Chad Jensen has proposed former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston — who played under Denver’s new head coach Sean Payton for two seasons while with the Saints — as an option after New Orleans signed Derek Carr to a long-term deal on March 6.

“Carr’s arrival in New Orleans creates an unstable situation for Jameis Winston,” Jensen noted. “The Broncos are in search of the right backup quarterback behind Russell Wilson and we’ve long anticipated that for that role, Sean Payton might be inclined to target a veteran with whom he has experience. Before Broncos Country goes rolling its eyes at the prospect of Winston landing in Denver, remember that in Payton’s final season in New Orleans, he turned to the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft to start seven games.”

Winston started the first seven games of the 2021 season for the Saints before the former 2013 Heisman winner tore his ACL on October 31 during a 36-27 Week 8 victory over the Buccaneers. Following Winston hitting the injured reserve, Taysom Hill (4-1), Trevor Siemian (0-4), and Ian Book (0-1) took over for a Payton-coached team that missed that season’s playoffs.

Jameis Winston Expected to Draw Interest From the Colts

Winston will be pursued by more than just the Broncos as a backup option. Horseshoe Huddle’s Zach Hicks tabs the Colts as a franchise likely to renew its previous interest in Winston from the 2022 offseason.

“While that interest certainly could have subsided over the past year, it seems easy to believe that the Colts will yet again be in the market for Jameis Winston this upcoming offseason,” Hick wrote. “The biggest wildcard in this equation becomes Shane Steichen. Will the new head coach be comfortable with a player like Winston being his back-up/fallback option behind the rookie?”

How much weight Steichen puts into his quarterback room, Hicks says, will be the key to Winston ever wearing a Colts jersey. “We know that the Colts have had some interest in the past, but it all comes down to what the new head coach values in his back-up quarterbacks,” Hicks wrote. “While I can’t say that Winston is a likely veteran quarterback option for the Colts this offseason, I wouldn’t be shocked if this is the route the team ultimately decides to go in free agency.”

Potential Russell Wilson Contingency Plan

Back on February 11, Mile High Huddle’s Bob Morris came up with a contingency plan in the event Wilson has a failure to launch under Payton. Included in Morris’ plan were Rypien, two former first-round draft picks, and a starter as recently as the first half of the 2022 season.

“Brett Rypien is an option, and he’s a restricted free agent, so he wouldn’t cost much money to retain if you use the right of first refusal tender,” Morris wrote. “Teddy Bridgewater has experience in Payton’s system. Jacoby Brissett plays a similar style to Wilson. Baker Mayfield may be interested in working with Payton.”

Morris believes the Broncos will target a backup caliber player being signed to a short-term contract when they do eventually land on a depth piece for the quarterback room. “Those aren’t the only options, but in any case, what you will do is get the backup under a one-year deal,” he wrote. “That way, you have no commitment beyond 2024, but you have some peace of mind knowing there is an experienced backup on the roster.”