Denver Broncos Have to Deal With ‘Roster Stew’ in 2023: Executive

Getty An unnamed NFC executive explained the damning roster problem the Denver Broncos have right now

According to an unnamed NFL executive, the Denver Broncos have a “roster stew” of mismatched pieces because of the Russell Wilson and Sean Payton trades.

“You have a roster stew — a few players good enough to be with every staff and a bunch on the edge. Because you can’t replace everybody in one or two offseasons because of your cap or who is available or how many picks you have,” the executive told ESPN’s Jeff Legwold. “There’s just a lot of turnover all over the depth chart because every staff wants a little something different. It’s going to be hard to consistently hit if you’re getting rid of players because the new staff says they don’t ‘fit.'”

Bleacher Report’s Joseph Zucker wrote that such a damning roster problem could’ve easily scared Payton away from coming out of retirement to coach in the Mile High City.

“This is one reason some wondered whether Payton [might’ve turned] down the Broncos’ offer,” Zucker wrote in response to the executive’s “roster stew” comments. But Payton did sign a five-year deal in February. “Payton had ‘in the neighborhood of $18 million’ reasons per year to accept this position. Along with that, you’d assume he received firm reassurances from ownership he’ll get ample time and patience if Denver’s on-field fortunes continue to worsen in 2023.”

Writer Compares Denver Broncos Situation to That of Los Angeles Rams

Zucker compared the Broncos to an NFC West team that made similar win-now moves in the trade market, the Los Angeles Rams.

“Acquiring Wilson and Payton also required a lot of draft capital, the effects of which will really begin to show in a few seasons,” Zucker wrote. “Just look at how quickly the bottom fell out for the Los Angeles Rams after they prioritized ready-made reinforcements over draft picks.”

The Broncos don’t have a pick in the draft until the third round and have just five total. Denver Sports’ Darren McKee said the Broncos must trade for a first- or second-round pick.

“The capital used to trade for Russell Wilson and Payton has been crippling,” McKee wrote on March 27. “If the Broncos don’t get a first- or second-round pick, they will be bereft of a critical starter for years to come.”

That could signal an extension of their playoff drought. Unlike the Rams, who were champs in the 2021 season, the Broncos haven’t sniffed a Super Bowl since the 2015 season, which was also the last time they even made the postseason. Now, there’s even more urgency to coax a bounce-back year out of 34-year-old quarterback Russell Wilson.

“If the 59-year-old is unable to get Russell Wilson back to a Pro Bowl-type level, then the franchise could be looking at a multiyear transition [at quarterback],” Zucker wrote. “The Broncos would be reduced to treading water with Wilson on the roster or cutting him and being stuck with limited resources to immediately retool. Designating the nine-time Pro Bowler as a post-June 1 cut in 2024 would ease the long-term financial burden but put $35.4 million in dead money on the books for that season and another $49.6 million in 2025.”

Bleacher Report Is Bearish on Denver Broncos’ Timeline to Contend

Ultimately, Zucker struck a pessimistic tone about how quickly the Denver Broncos can realistically contend again.

“Team CEO Greg Penner emphasized how the organization needs stability on the sideline,” Zucker wrote. “Hiring a Super Bowl winner and the best coach on the market aligned with that vision. Still, it might be a while before the Broncos fully dig out of their present hole and become a winner again.”

Oddsmakers are slightly more optimistic after the Broncos’ five-win season. As of April 19, the over/under on Denver’s win total was 8.5, according to Legal Sports Report. If the Broncos can hit the “over,” it would be their best record since going 9-7 in 2016.

“For those inclined to take the ‘over,’ it’s not difficult to see Sean Payton’s impact elevate the Broncos to a nine-win floor, even in the uber-competitive AFC West,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Chad Jensen on April 1.