Moving On From Russell Wilson Debacle Leaves Denver Broncos In Rebuild Mode With Qb Among Many Needs

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton talks with reporters during an AFC coaches availability at the NFL owners meetings, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton talks with reporters during an AFC coaches availability at the NFL owners meetings, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos are in the market for a quarterback again.

And a tight end. And a cornerback. And a tackle. And an edge rusher.

You name it, they need it.

The Broncos lack the draft capital to meet all their needs in the NFL draft, where they have the 12th overall pick in Round 1.

They aren't slated to make their second selection until the 72nd overall choice in the third round because they sent their second-rounder this year along with last year's first-rounder to New Orleans so they could hire former Saints head coach Sean Payton.

Although their fanbase is pining for a quarterback at No. 12, the Broncos could go in any direction to fill one of the numerous holes on a roster still reeling from the team's calamitous connection with Russell Wilson.

Wilson's acquisition from Seattle in 2022 cost the Broncos four premium draft picks and his departure from Denver this spring after he went just 11-19 carries its own hefty price tag.

The Broncos parted with first- and second-round picks in 2022 and ‘23 in the Wilson trade. So, they haven’t picked in the first round since 2021, when they took Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II ninth overall.

Parting with four premium picks in the Wilson deal is a recurring cost for the Broncos, one that's produced a paucity of depth on Denver's roster.

Their first selection in 2022 was outside linebacker Nik Bonitto, the 64th overall pick, and their top choice a year ago was wide receiver/returner Marvin Mims with the 63rd overall selection.

Surtain is the Broncos' only bona fide star after they cut safety Justin Simmons this spring to save $15 million in salary, something Payton blamed on the enormous ramifications of moving on from Wilson, who signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency.

The Broncos are on the hook for $37.79 million of Wilson’s $39 million salary this upcoming season because the one-year deal he signed with Pittsburgh was for the veteran’s league minimum of $1.21 million.

So, Wilson will again be their highest-paid player even though he's no longer on the roster — and that's on top of the $85 million in dead cap the Broncos take over the next two seasons.


Aside from Surtain, eighth-year left tackle Garett Bolles is the only player on Denver's roster whom the Broncos selected in the first round. Denver's three first-round picks before Surtain have all been traded (wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to Cleveland, tight end Noah Fant to Seattle and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb to Miami).


Payton has said he'd like to sign another veteran quarterback before camp. If he doesn't draft a QB, journeyman Jarrett Stidham, who went 1-1 after Wilson was benched last season, will be the incumbent. Stidham is Denver's 13th starting QB since Peyton Manning retired a month after winning Super Bowl 50 in 2016.


Quarterback. Tight end. Tackle. Cornerback. Edge.


Despite the new kickoff rule putting a premium on returners, the Broncos are pretty much set on special teams with Mims making second-team All-Pro as a rookie last year. They re-signed K Wil Lutz and have one of the league's top punters in Riley Dixon.


Payton didn't expect he'd be picking this high when he took over last summer and declared he'd be ticked if the Broncos didn't make the playoffs. They not only extended their playoff drought to eight years, but they had their seventh straight losing season.