Broncos' brass indicates a divorce with QB Russell Wilson isn't inevitable following his benching

Tue, Jan 9, 2024
NFL News (AP)

Broncos' brass indicates a divorce with QB Russell Wilson isn't inevitable following his benching

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Maybe Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos aren't headed for a nasty, costly divorce, after all.

That was the main message from coach Sean Payton, general manager George Paton and team owner and CEO Greg Penner at the Broncos' season-ending news conference Wednesday.

While the head coach said he hasn't made up his mind about the direction the Broncos will take at quarterback because he won't begin his player evaluations until next week, Denver's GM said the "door is open" to a reconciliation that would keep Wilson in Denver and added that Wilson has indicated to him that "he's open to returning."

The Broncos (8-9) benched Wilson for their final two games and Jarrett Stidham went 1-1 with a pair of middling performances.

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After Wilson was benched, he said the team approached him during the bye week following Denver's biggest win in years, a 24-9 dispatch of the Chiefs in Week 8 that snapped a 16-game losing skid to Kansas City, and threatened to bench him if he didn't adjust his $37 million injury guarantee in 2024.

He declined to change anything in his $242.6 million contract that he signed prior to the 2022 season and which kicks in this year, and he remained the starter until he was benched following a loss to the Patriots on Christmas Eve.

Both the GM and head coach declined to characterize Paton's interaction with Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, as a threat to bench him if he didn't adjust his contract.

The Broncos owe Wilson $39 million in salary in 2024 no matter where he plays and parting ways with him would result in an NFL record $85 million in dead cap charges over the next two years, which would severely hamper the franchise's roster building efforts.

Penner, however, said the substantial financial fallout from a split with Wilson won't be the driving factor in the team's quarterback decision. Rather, he said, it would be about who gives the Broncos the best chance to turn around their fortunes following their seventh straight losing season and eighth year in a row without a playoff berth.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

ARNIE MELENDREZ STAPLETON Arnie is an NFL writer based in Denver twitter mailto "
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