Russell Wilson Not Guaranteed to Be Long-Term Broncos Quarterback: Report

Getty A report from NBC Sports' Matthew Berry indicates that Russell Wilson may be auditioning for the Broncos quarterback job in Sean Payton's first season

Russell Wilson isn’t guaranteed to be the long-term Broncos quarterback under first-year head coach Sean Payton — this according to a report from NBC Sports’ Matthew Berry on the ground in Indianapolis for the 2023 NFL Combine. Per an anonymous source Berry spoke to, Wilson is “auditioning” for the starting signal-caller job in Denver starting this summer. “I don’t think [Sean] Payton likes Russ. He’s got one year to prove himself or Payton will move on.”

As Berry points out, the Broncos could be willing to take the hit on releasing Russell despite his guarantee. “There’s no way Denver can cut him this year, but next year, while the dead cap hit would certainly be bad, it could be spread out over two years and wouldn’t be franchise crippling,” Berry said.

Wilson went 4-11 during his first season in the Mile High City during the 2022 season, throwing for a career-low 16 touchdowns and completed a career-worst 60% of his passes. After being acquired for the price of two first-round picks, two future seconds, and tight end Noah Fant — who had more receiving yards than any Broncos tight end in 2022 –, Wilson now faces a do or die year in 2023.

Sean Payton Says Russell Wilson’s Struggles Led to His Hiring

Reading between the lines of Payton’s comments at the at the 2023 NFL Combine during a February 28 media scrum, the new Broncos coach seemingly admitted that it was Wilson’s struggles that led the retired 59-year-old to take the Denver job. “Certainly, for Russell standards—and the Bronco standards—it wasn’t the type of year that they wanted,” Payton said. “And typically, that’s why new head coaches arrive. We have a lot of work ahead of us right now. We’re just kind of getting started. It was a tough year.”

Payton did defend his quarterback as well, though, barking at the media for making Wilson’s second floor office at the Broncos facility a story only because Denver wasn’t winning. “I don’t think it matters because I didn’t see any articles from any of you prior to Week 1 or Week 2 and that was happening,” Payton said. “That’s what happens when you lose. Everything gets looked at closely, including the coaching.”

While there may be a short leash for Wilson under Payton, it’s clear there will be an investment in the quarterback from the coach. Payton shared to reporters that he arranged a meeting between the two and NFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback Joe Montana to project what the future could hold for the two.

Jameis Winston Floated as Potential Broncos Quarterback Signing

With the Broncos undecided on Brett Rypien’s future, Payton and the Denver front office could explore a more proven quarterback option on the free agent market to give Wilson a legitimate challenge for the starting role.

Mile High Huddle’s Chad Jensen tabbed Jameis Winston, a former Saints starter under Payton during his final years in New Orleans, as a potential backup quarterback target. “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,” he said. “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 went 5-2 under Payton in 2021 during the Saints’ first season post-Drew Brees before he tore his ACL on October 31 in a 36-27 win against the Buccaneers.