Broncos Insider Floats $4 Million QB as ‘Ideal Match’ for Sean Payton’s Offense

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos

Getty Head coach Sean Payton of the Denver Broncos.

The Denver Broncos can create roughly $62 million in salary cap space with a series of cuts or restructuring players’ contacts, per Over The Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald on December 22. It will take some work to get there without completely debilitating the team.

It might be worth it for the “ideal” quarterback for Head Coach Sean Payton: Baker Mayfield.

“Remove the financial repercussions from the Russell Wilson dead-cap hit and Mayfield would be the Broncos’ most logical No. 1 choice. His ability to process quickly and accurately throw timing routes makes him an ideal match with Sean Payton’s offense,” 9News Broncos insider Mike Klis wrote on January 28.

“Problem is the Broncos do have cap issues and Mayfield just played his way from a one-year, $4 million prove-it deal … to perhaps a new three-year, $75 million to $100 million contract.”

Mayfield, 28, was the No. 1 overall pick in 2018.

After four seasons with the Cleveland Browns to begin his career, Mayfield split the 2022 season between the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams, parlaying the latter stint into a one-year, $6.8 million contract (with incentives) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.

Mayfield completed 64.3% of his passes for 4,044 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 2023.

No Broncos passer has thrown for 4,000 yards since Peyton Manning in 2014, per Stathead.

Broncos Finances Not the Only Hurdle to Landing Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield, Denver Broncos

GettyBaker Mayfield #6 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mayfield is set to cash in this offseason after being voted the Most Improved Player by the Pro Football Writers of America. But there was strong momentum for his return to Tampa next season.

“My understanding is the Bucs want Baker Mayfield back next year,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on January 21. “He wants to be back as well and potentially cash in on a real, big-time quarterback deal. They also have the franchise tag as an option as well, but hopefully they will work that out.”

Klis acknowledges the likelihood that Mayfield returns. But points to a potential series of events that could work in the Broncos’ favor.

“The prevailing thinking is Mayfield will re-up with the Bucs before he reaches free agency.
Klis wrote. “But if Tampa Bay can’t re-sign receiver Mike Evans after it just lost offensive coordinator Dave Canales to Carolina, perhaps Mayfield will keep his options open.”

Former Sean Payton QB Jameis Winston Could be a Cheap Option for Broncos

Jameis Winston, Denver Broncos

GettyJameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints.

The Broncos are expected to let Jarrett Stidham compete for the starting job next season, and he is eager to do so.

If the Broncos want to bring in another veteran to compete with him and a rookie (and Ben DiNucci), New Orleans Saints free agent Jameis Winston could be an option. It would not be the first time came to Payton to jumpstart his career.

Klis’ suggestion comes with a word of warning, though.

“The Jameis Winston entering 2024 is not the same Jameis Winston who entered the 2020 season, when Payton signed him as a backup to Drew Brees.

“Winston has only started three games since. Two years of inactivity is a long time for a now 30-year-old quarterback but again, the price will be right and after Payton salvaged Winston’s career once he may want to finish the job.”

Winston threw 47 passes this past season.

He completed 53.2% of them for 264 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. He also logged three starts in 2022.

More importantly, he completed 59% of his passes for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and three interceptions under Payton in 2021. Those aren’t world-beating numbers. But the Broncos may or may not be working from a severe financial disadvantage.

Kilis’ other suggestions range from the aging and/or expensive like Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill to journeymen such as Gardner Minshew and backups like Jake Browning and Mason Rudolph. If the Broncos wanted to go that route, they might as well just try to stick with Wilson instead.