5 landing spots for Russell Wilson if the Broncos move on at QB

Russell Wilson said on Sunday that he’d like to finish his career with the Denver Broncos.

Whether he means it or not, the decision’s not his.

The reality is that there’s a very real chance that Wilson doesn’t play in Denver again and suits up with another team next season. The decision ultimately lies with a Broncos team that benched him amid mediocre play last season in a move that carried contract implications — most notably avoiding a $37 million injury guarantee for 2025 if he couldn’t pass a physical come March.

Broncos have to pay Wilson, take cap hit either way

Healthy or not, that $37 million will be guaranteed if Wilson remains on the roster by the March 17 deadline, meaning the Broncos have a major decision to make in the coming weeks. They’re on the hook for big money and a big cap hit either way, so there’s little motivation to keep him unless they want him for football reasons.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, parting with Wilson will result in an $85 million cap hit that could be split across two seasons depending on how it’s designated. They’ll owe him the $39 million he’s guaranteed this season regardless. Keeping him would mean a cap hit of roughly $90 million split over two seasons. And the Broncos would owe the $37 million guarantee for 2025.

Russell Wilson could be obtained for a discount if the Broncos move on. If so, where might he land?

Russell Wilson could be obtained for a discount if the Broncos move on. If so, where might he land? (Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

Wilson could be available at a discount

Thanks to offset language in his contract, the Broncos will be on the hook for that cap hit and his 2024 salary guarantee, meaning that Wilson could be had by another team for as little as the league minimum whether acquired via trade or release and free agency. Thanks to a no-trade clause in his contract, Wilson has the final say on where he would land outside of Denver.

So where might Wilson play in the event that the Broncos move on? Here are five teams that could potentially have interest in landing Wilson for cheap.

After keeping Kenny Pickett on the bench in the playoffs, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in January that he wants competition for his third-year quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky’s been released, and Mason Rudolph is slated for free agency, meaning the Steelers will have to look elsewhere.

The Steelers are reportedly interested in pursuing Ryan Tannehill, who will hit free agency after five seasons with the Tennessee Titans. Wilson on a cheap contract could also prove an attractive option.

Ultimately, the Steelers would prefer that Pickett emerges from whatever competition he’s in after investing a first-round pick on him. But that’s no guarantee considering his tepid first two NFL seasons. Could Wilson revive his career with a stable franchise and a roster built to compete now?

After seven appearances for Las Vegas, the Jimmy Garoppolo experiment is over. With Antonio Pierce entering his first offseason as head coach, the Raiders are widely expected to release Garoppolo before an $11.25 million roster bonus kicks in, meaning they’re in the market for a quarterback.

Aidan O’Connell remains in the mix after flashing some promise in 10 starts as a rookie. The Raiders also have the 13th pick in the draft, which they could use to roll the dice on a quarterback not named Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels. Either way, the addition of a veteran in Wilson who’s been to multiple Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl could prove attractive. That he knows the inner workings of the division-rival Broncos is an added bonus.

After 13 starts produced 12 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and few successful downfield plays in 2023, Desmond Ridder’s time as Atlanta’s starter appears to be done. He was benched twice in favor of Taylor Heinicke before starting the season finale against the New Orleans Saints.

The Falcons are in the market for an upgrade who can maximize the potential of high-upside weapons Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson. Is Wilson that guy? His last two seasons suggest that he’s not. But he could be worth a low-risk roll of the dice if the Falcons don’t make a move for a player like Justin Fields should Fields become available. Wilson could also act as a bridge if the Falcons prioritize a quarterback in the first round of the draft, where they’re slated to pick at No. 8.

The Vikings would presumably prefer to carry on with Kirk Cousins. But that’s no guarantee. Cousins is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in the truest sense. He’s not eligible for the franchise tag. And he could ask for more than the Vikings are willing to pay a 35-year-old coming off an Achilles injury.

In that instance, the Vikings will be in desperate need of a replacement for Cousins that didn’t emerge in his injury absence last season. It will be an appealing position for whomever takes the job with two of the league’s top young receivers in Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison at his disposal. There a much worse spots for Wilson to land.

The Mac Jones era is over after he was benched repeatedly in favor of Bailey Zappe last season. The Patriots are in position to draft his replacement with the No. 3 pick as Jerod Mayo takes the head coaching reins from Bill Belichick.

That pick could very well be used to select electric LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, assuming that Williams and Maye go off the board first. Recent NFL history makes a strong case for letting young quarterbacks learn the ropes from the bench. See Patrick Mahomes and Jordan Love.

In that instance, Wilson could emerge as an attractive bridge in New England as a mentor with Super Bowl experience. Wilson could also be the target if New England opts to draft an elite position player like Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

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