Russell Wilson will enter his second season as the Denver Broncos quarterback but could have an entirely new backup behind him.

Will the Denver Broncos invest in more options at backup quarterback?

Under former head coach Nathaniel Hackett, the Denver Broncos had Russell Wilson, Brett Rypien, and Josh Johnson as the mainstays of their quarterback room last season. With Hackett gone and Sean Payton as the next head coach, Denver’s quarterback room behind Wilson could look entirely different next season.

One of the first orders of business for Payton and Broncos GM George Paton is determining what they’re going to do with Brett Rypien who is a restricted free agent. Essentially, Rypien can negotiate and sign with another NFL team, but the Broncos can either have the right of first refusal or require the team interested in signing him to provide them with draft compensation.

In terms of tenders, the Broncos could place a first-round, second-round, or original-round tender on Rypien. If they were to withdraw the tender, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

Internally the Broncos hold Rypien in high regard — which is evident considering he’s been the only stable quarterback on the roster since 2019 and has been part of two different coaching staffs with the possibility of making it with a third staff. The Broncos’ backup quarterback from last year has expressed his desire to stay in Denver and be part of when things turn around for the team.

Denver should bring Rypien back but also look at adding another quarterback to their roster.

Potential out-of-market backup options

As it pertains to potential out-of-market backup options for the Broncos, there are a multitude of players with youth and experience that could be considered.

Jacoby Brissett
Jacoby Brissett might be the most intriguing option for the Broncos behind Russell Wilson and inside Sean Payton’s offense. Brissett will be entering his eighth season in the NFL and has valuable enough experience to be a solid option behind Wilson.

As a member of the Cleveland Browns in 2022, a strong argument can be made that Brissett was the best option for them at quarterback last season. While the Browns struggled, Brissett displayed more of a command of the offense than Deshaun Watson.

He threw for 2608 yards, 12 passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, six interceptions, and a career-high completion percentage rate of 64%. Brissett also led two fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.

If Wilson struggles this upcoming season or misses any time, a player like Brissett has enough starting experience to step in and produce.

Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz would be the most controversial option in the eyes of many Broncos fans. After recently being released by the Washington Commanders, Wentz will hit the free agency market.

2023 will more than likely be a different experience for Wentz who has been a career-long starter. Various teams around the league in need of a backup quarterback could look his way.

While Wentz wouldn’t be the most appealing option in the eyes of fans in Broncos Country, it’s worth looking at how he might benefit from the coaching and tutelage of a coach like Sean Payton. He’s just one season removed from a 3500-yard, 27 touchdowns, and seven-interception season in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2021.

Marcus Mariota
After being released by the Atlanta Falcons earlier this week, Marcus Mariota’s player profile matches what Denver could look for in a backup quarterback behind Wilson. The former first-round draft pick has the ability to use his legs to create opportunities offensively but has widely been considered a dink-and-dunk QB.

He started 13 games for the Falcons this season before being benched at the bye week for rookie Desmond Ridder. Shortly after that, he left the team and underwent a knee procedure that landed him on injured reserve. Mariota finished the year throwing for 2200 yards, throwing 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions, and rushing for 438 yards and four touchdowns.

Under Payton’s design, he could very well fit in within the offensive structure the Broncos are aiming to create. Unless the former Oregon Ducks standout desires to start, his name could be on a list of potential players George Paton and Broncos brass could look at.

Taylor Heinicke
The former Washington Commanders quarterback is set to become an unrestricted free agent after spending the last three seasons with Ron Rivera. In games he started this past season, the Commanders went 5-3-1.

Heinicke took a backseat at the start of the season in favor of Carson Wentz who came over to Washington during the off-season. Despite Wentz’s arrival, Heinicke played and started in nine games this past season — throwing for over 1800 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

The former Commanders QB has the mobility and athleticism to be a solid backup option behind Wilson and offers the Broncos somebody who can also hang in the pocket to make plays. Heinicke could sneakily be the best option backup option on paper for Denver as they embark into the 2023 season.

While Denver could look at a more prominent backup name this off-season, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they focus on riding out this season with somebody on a one-year deal and ride into 2024’s NFL Draft looking for a developmental piece who could eventually take over as the starter down the road.

Jameis Winston
The New Orleans Saints are set up for an interesting off-season, especially at the quarterback position. Last season, Jameis Winston dealt with injuries and some inconsistent play just one season after Sean Payton left the team.

As the starter in 2021, Winston got off to a hot start inside of Payton’s offense — leading the team to a 5-2 record. On top of him helping the Saints win games to start, he threw 14 touchdowns compared to three interceptions before subsequently suffering an ACL injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Life was much different for him last season under Dennis Allen. He finished the season with four touchdown passes compared to five interceptions in just three games for New Orleans. He was benched too early in this author’s opinion for Andy Dalton who struggled massively himself.

Winston could fall into the category of still being a capable starter, but coming to Denver as the backup to Russell Wilson might not be out of the realm of possibility either.

What should the Broncos do?

As witnessed during the playoffs, the NFL needs to look into adding another quarterback designation to active rosters going forward. Fans pay to watch their favorite teams have a quarterback.

The Denver Broncos should have this stakeholder in place because nobody wants to see Brandon McManus serve as an emergency QB option. With that said, here’s how the Broncos should proceed forward in 2023 at the position.

Russell Wilson will be the Broncos’ starter for the foreseeable future. Behind him, they should keep Brett Rypien on the roster and add another player during NFL Free Agency.

After this season, Denver should look into a developmental option in the 2024 NFL Draft that can sit behind Wilson with the chance to grow into the potential future starter of the franchise.

Drafting a player at the QB position and allowing him to develop behind Wilson and grow under Sean Payton’s coaching could help Denver — potentially avoiding the disaster that the franchise went through not having an eventual replacement behind Peyton Manning.