The Denver Broncos quarterback position is under the spotlight this offseason as the team tries to figure out what path they’re going to take. What did the position entail this past season, what are the biggest questions surrounding it, and what is in the forecast for 2024?

Russell Wilson’s improvement big for Denver Broncos, but not enough for Sean Payton

When Sean Payton took the job last February to lead the Denver Broncos this past season, everybody was anticipating what Russell Wilson would look like in his offense after the veteran quarterback struggled in 2022 under Nathaniel Hackett’s ‘system’.

Despite the Broncos’ awful start to the season, Wilson’s improvement was drastic. He had 11 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions through the first six weeks of the regular season. You could make an argument that Wilson and the offense were the key reasons the team was in any of those games in the first six weeks of the season.

Fast-forward to the end stretch of the season: Wilson and the offense struggled, and Payton decided to make a change for the final two weeks of the season, turning the keys over to Jarrett Stidham for a spark.

There wasn’t much of a spark to Denver’s offense, but there was an intermediate passing presence that hadn’t been there consistently enough throughout the year. The bigger issue with the Broncos’ offense had nothing to do with quarterback play – the importance of a sustainable rushing attack, one which the Broncos could not muster, was put on display all season long.

Denver struggled to run the ball consistently all season long, which put more of an onus on the quarterback position and the passing offense. It’s easy to point fingers and blame quarterback play for the overall production of the offense, but the reality is that the offense was one-dimensional without a truly established run game.

All signs point to the Broncos and Wilson parting ways on March 13th, which puts the team in the tough position of trying to find a long-term answer at the position once again. But what does that look like?

What path will Broncos take regarding quarterback?

If the Broncos do, in fact, part ways with Russell Wilson, they’ll face several paths to addressing the position going into 2024. Their first potential option could be to remain in-house with Jarrett Stidham.

It’s unfair to negatively evaluate Stidham in the two-week sample size he had to close out the season. While his overall production wasn’t there, Payton praised him for his command of the offense.

Stidham is tough, confident, and does have experience, which could benefit him if he receives every opportunity to take over the starting job this season.

Another path the Broncos could take would be finding a way to mend fences with Russell Wilson, which hasn’t been ruled out, but seems almost unimaginable.

“Yeah,” Payton said regarding whether or not Wilson could return in 2024. “Otherwise, it would have been like, ‘Hey, goodbye.’ I said that to you way back when. We’ll look at all the scenarios and try to do what is best for the Broncos. Communication will be important. That final decision hasn’t been made.”

That decision is coming soon, and we’ll find out here shortly. If the Broncos do decide to move on from Wilson, they could look to free agency for a veteran stop-gap option, which could be an unpopular move in the eyes of the fanbase.

Some of the potential veteran options to keep an eye on include Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor, and Sam Darnold. Winston makes more sense, hypothetically, due to his prior history with Payton in New Orleans.

Winston led the Saints to a 5-2 start in Payton’s final year with the Saints and was on pace to have a historically productive season inside of their offense. He threw 14 touchdowns compared to three interceptions before suffering a torn ACL, abruptly ending his productive season.

If Payton decides that path is the best for the team in 2024, the biggest question will be whether or not it’s a one-year move or a long-term one. Ultimately, Payton is under a lot of pressure to get the move right.

The final option is for the Broncos to go all in on drafting a quarterback this year. This seems to be the most popular option in the eyes of Broncos Country, but it’s important that Payton and the team get the decision right.

There are a multitude of QB options in this year’s draft, including Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Bo Nix, Jayden Daniels, and Michael Penix Jr. as options who could go in the first round this year. It’s unlikely that the Broncos are in a position for Williams or Maye, but Nix, Daniels, and Penix are more realistic options for them.

If Denver feels strongly about any of those three players and they are available at 12th overall, they need to pull the trigger. There was a report put out there earlier this week that the Broncos are looking to trade up to get Caleb Williams, but it’s important to put these rumors to rest.

The Broncos right now aren’t even focused on draft decisions. Internally, the team is preparing for free agency and in-house decisions that they’ll have to make. After the team attends the NFL Scouting Combine in late March, those conversations relative to decision-making in the NFL Draft will take place.

Any rumor or report that suggests otherwise right now is complete speculation.

Since George Paton took over in 2021 as the team’s general manager, there haven’t been any leaks coming from inside the team facility. Payton’s arrival last year further enforced that.

Broncos quarterback forecast in 2024

If I had to forecast what the Broncos’ quarterback room will look like in 2024, I’d estimate that they draft a quarterback in the first round and roll with him next year.

Payton has four years remaining on his contract, and if the team decides to draft a quarterback, there isn’t a lot of time to waste. It may be more beneficial for Denver to take a rookie and insert him right away, get him comfortable with the scheme and system, and then build around him going forward. There are no guarantees that taking a QB will work, but there are also no guarantees that signing a free agent option will work.

It’s all about risk and taking calculated chances when it comes to developing players. Even if a rookie quarterback struggles in their first year in Payton’s offense, it will allow the coaching staff and front office to evaluate what that player needs around him.

For the last six years, the Broncos have taken the route of a free-agent stopgap minus the Russell Wilson trade, and it hasn’t panned out. While Payton has never drafted a QB in the first round of the draft, now is the perfect time for him to start.