It’s always been likely that the Denver Broncos would be moving on from quarterback Russell Wilson this offseason, but Tuesday’s press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine seemed to suggest that is indeed the direction the team is moving, and that QB is their focus in the NFL Draft.

Sean Payton discusses Denver Broncos QB outlook

Earlier this week, Russell Wilson sat down with Brandon Marshall on the I AM ATHLETE podcast and reflected on what took place last season with his injury guarantee and benching. In that interview, Wilson expressed his desire and openness to coming back to the team in 2024, but Payton’s comments during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine painted a different picture.

When asked about a potential decision regarding Wilson, Payton said that decision would come within the next week or so, as the team prepares for the start of the new league year on March 13th at 2:00 p.m. MT.

“We go through the combine week here,” Payton said. “Next week — Tuesday or Wednesday — we’ll be in meetings with ownership, and I expect that we’re going to know fairly quickly. I said at the Super Bowl, but I think more specifically, somewhere in the neighborhood of next week, we’re going to [know]. There’s a couple of factors here. Obviously, the cap projections came out, and we’re further down the road with the draft class and obviously the pro free agents. I would anticipate it being within the next two weeks.”

To further paint that picture, Payton made reference to a meme that has been circulating the social media world about the Broncos quarterback carousel since Peyton Manning retired. The meme shows a jersey with all of the various QB names that have played for Denver, each with a line crossing them out.

Regarding making the right choice at quarterback this year, Payton didn’t hesitate. “Yeah, we’d better,” he admitted. “In this league — which is very competitive in our division— it’s vital. I saw this humorous meme the other day where there’s a Broncos fan with a shirt on with like eight quarterback’s names crossed through them and he’s drinking the quarterback ‘Kool-Aid.’ Our job is to make sure this next one doesn’t have a line through it.”

The key word from Payton is “next one.”

It’s unfortunate that the relationship and dynamic between Russ and Sean didn’t work out, but at the end of the day, the NFL is a business, and Payton doesn’t believe he can achieve what he desires to with Wilson under center.

I recall the excitement around Broncos Country the moment Denver traded for him just two seasons ago. Nobody knew that things would play out the way they did, but Wilson’s legacy as a member of the Broncos shouldn’t be pinned entirely on him for the outcome.

What traits might Payton be looking for in their next quarterback?

Taking a chance on a rookie quarterback always presents a risk. More importantly, is the environment in which a potential young quarterback comes into stable enough to allow him to succeed or develop?

These are some questions to ponder as the Broncos navigate the possibility of pursuing a rookie quarterback in this year’s draft class. Payton shared his thoughts on how important the first impression is of any player they meet with.

“The first thing is putting a name with the face,” Payton said. “It’s the first personal visit where you are like, ‘Nice to meet you.’ You’ll spend time with [them, asking] questions and they will be football-related. There will be follow-up meetings and pro day visits and private workout visits. These are all pieces of the equation that are necessary. Obviously, the beginning of this event was to combine medical information — hence the term ‘Combine’ — and then pretty soon, it was, ‘Let’s run a 40, let’s run a few of these cone drills and let’s have some of these meetings.’ The interactions in the meetings are important because for a lot of us — maybe the scouts so much — but for a lot of us, it’s the first time we are getting introduced to a prospect. Not just at quarterback, but all the positions. That first impression is important.”

Denver is set to meet with Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy Tuesday evening. McCarthy has been the most common pick in various mock drafts for the Broncos, alongside Oregon Ducks triggerman Bo Nix.

Payton is going to get as much background info as possible on all of their highly graded prospects, and will ultimately use that to determine whether or not any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class will be their pick at 12th overall.