Where will he part as Broncos and Russell Wilson? NFL votes weigh in – and on another important question

By | March 5, 2024

As the Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson each filed their divorce decrees Monday afternoon, the long-awaited answer to their shared future led to a series of questions about their individual journeys.

Who will the Broncos find as their next starting quarterback? Where will Wilson play in 2024? Will Wilson start? And how long will it take for any of these answers to arrive?

“Very, very interesting and rare situation,” an NFL agent texted Monday.

It’s rare for a team to release a quarterback before even one year of a five-year extension has expired. The Broncos are choosing to saddle themselves $85 million in dead salary cap space the next two years instead of moving on with a nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback who was healthy enough to play all of last season.

Wilson completed 66.4% of pass attempts for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in 2023, his first season working with head coach Sean Payton. He was the eighth most efficient quarterback in the league, his 98.0 passer rating was 13.6 points higher than his 27th ranking a year earlier.

None of this stopped Payton and general manager George Paton from releasing a statement on Monday, a move that is scheduled to officially hit the books on March 13 when the NFL league year is over.

“We are excited to improve this offseason and will have the flexibility to get better through the draft and free agency,” said the statement readpartially.

NFL agents and executives weighed in on Russell Wilson's future.  (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

NFL agents and executives weighed in on Russell Wilson’s future. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The veracity of the Broncos’ statement is worth questioning. We’ll save that for another time. For now, let’s stick with the future of a quarterback who still appears to have gas in the tank. Where will Wilson land and when? Yahoo Sports asked NFL executives and quarterback agents what they expect.

The timeline for Russell Wilson’s next move could reveal the team’s intent

Perhaps as interesting as where Wilson lands when that movement will crystallize. With free agency starting next week and the draft just over seven weeks away, Wilson may have to decide: How much does he want to let the roster prospects sink in before signing with a team? Would he rather try to convince a team to give him an answer before otherwise investing substantial resources in the quarterback?

Wilson’s price will be a huge draw, with the quarterback expected to play for a veteran minimum of $1.21 million. (The Broncos will have a compensation cap on the remainder of Wilson’s salary, a price he’ll no doubt be happy to command.)

His presence in the locker room, meanwhile, could pose challenges for a team concerned with culture. Will his talent and playing ability trump a perceived lack of authenticity and individual habits rather than team habits for which he is being criticized?

“Russ is easy to sign because he is at minimum,” one agent texted. “Russ is difficult to sign because he is Russ.”

Opinions are divided about when a deal will be completed.

One quarterback agent thought Wilson would be signed “in the next few weeks” so he could start working toward success with his next team, while another thought waiting for the draft to shake out would allow him to find a team with a “young and suspect QB” against whom he could compete more easily, especially in 2024.

One AFC executive thought Wilson might wait until a team suffers an injury at quarterback and thus will need him more seriously and want him in a starting role.

“In almost all cases, the sooner the better, so he can get the system [and] the representatives,” said an NFC executive. “I guess he’s still attractive to players, so you’d want him in place sooner. So I would think it would be decent for it to be done quickly once you start.

“If he’s a backup, all bets are off because there’s not the same urgency.”

NFL sources weigh in on Wilson’s landing spots

Where might Wilson end up in this context? Agents and executives participated from their perspective on trends and transactions in the league, rather than from knowledge of Wilson’s specific conversations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers each signed one agent and one executive, perhaps Wilson’s best chance to both start and be competitive. The Atlanta Falcons also made two rosters, with Wilson able to fill an immediate need without having to be the long-term answer.

‘Unless they want to trade the farm [an] unknown rookie, why don’t you take Russ for literally nothing ($1 million) and wait to find him [a] young guy later,” one officer texted. “Unless one of the top guys falls to them in eighth place, which I think is unlikely.”

The Las Vegas Raiders seem to be a good fit for Russell Wilson, and vice versa.  (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)The Las Vegas Raiders seem to be a good fit for Russell Wilson, and vice versa.  (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and New York Jets intrigued sources, the latter of which desperately needed to pair Aaron Rodgers with a backup quarterback not named Zach Wilson.

But the main response from both executives and agents would not require Wilson to travel far — geographically or by division.

Two agents and two executives each believed the Las Vegas Raiders and Wilson would make the most sense. Wilson could help keep the Raiders in place with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, grabbing a quarterback like Bo Nix, Michael Penix or perhaps JJ McCarthy (if he’s still available) to in the beginning to learn from Wilson. Wilson could team up with star receiver Davante Adams and possibly running back Josh Jacobs, whose free-agency price will likely be more sustainable amid a declining running back market and a veteran quarterback on the books for as much as $1.2 million. It wouldn’t hurt for the Raiders to remind Wilson that he’ll be competing against Payton and the Broncos twice a year.

“[Antonio Pierce] will want to upgrade at all costs and be as competitive as possible,” an agent said of the Raiders’ first-year head coach. “Easy to sell to management/ownership because it’s ‘free’ [and] wouldn’t stop them from taking a young man.”

Wherever Wilson goes next, he said in a statement Monday that he is “excited about what’s next.”

“Tough times don’t last,” Wilson said, “but tough people do.”

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