The Denver Broncos somehow managed to trade for Russell Wilson, a superstar quarterback who will one day be immortalized in Canton, Ohio.
As a result of the massive trade, almost everyone in the Broncos’ organization is set to benefit, but who stands to gain the most from the deal? Let’s take a look.
John Elway was brought on to be Denver Broncos’ general manager in 2011, and after one season — which he spent embroiled in a quarterback controversy between a beloved, yet polarizing young quarterback, and an uninspiring veteran — he pulled off one of the biggest deals in franchise history. He landed a Hall-of-Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning and ended Denver’s quarterback despair.
Elway’s successor, George Paton, has had a nearly identical start to his career as a general manager.
He found a player with the talent to one day be the face of the franchise in Patrick Surtain II with his first pick, nailed his first NFL Draft, and now rescued Denver from their quarterback dystopia by hauling in a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback — buying him mountains of goodwill with Broncos fans.
Not only has he won the hearts of Broncos Country, but he’s also put together a truly remarkable resume to put in front of whoever the franchise’s next owner is, preserving his job.
Javonte Williams & Denver’s other ’22 RBs
Down the stretch of the 2021 season, the effectiveness of the Broncos’ rushing attack plummeted, and a major reason why was how frequently defenses stacked the box against them.
Opposing defenses didn’t trust Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater to attack them through the air, so they went all-in on shutting down Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. In Week 17, a game in which the Broncos’ star backs combined for 73 yards on 24 carries. On 11 of those 24 carries, the Chargers had at least eight defenders in the box, suffocating the ground game.
Not only is Wilson a sizable upgrade on Denver’s quarterbacks of last year, but he’s also one of the NFL’s most dangerous deep ball throwers of the 21st century. So, that same hyper-aggressive strategy won’t be as effective.
If defenses dare Wilson to attack them through the air, he’ll do so with ease. If they want to attack him with conservative 2-high safety looks, as much of the league has over the last two seasons, Javonte Williams and whoever else joins him in the backfield will feast all season long.
Many Broncos fans would argue that Albert Okwuegbunam outplayed Noah Fant down the stretch, and with Fant now on his way to the Seahawks, he’ll be the team’s unquestioned No. 1 tight end.
Plus, he’s also now paired with the best quarterback he’s ever gotten to work with.
That would be enough to make Okwuegbunam a winner on its own, no matter who the incoming quarterback was, but the fact it’s Wilson provides an extra boost.
Lower-tier tight ends like Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Nick Vannett, Luke Wilson, and a late-stage Greg Olson have been turned into valuable contributors by the star gunslinger, so it’s exciting to think what a tight end of Okwuegbunam’s caliber could do.
Jerry Jeudy & Courtland Sutton
Every wide receiver on the Broncos’ offense stands to benefit from the addition of Wilson, obviously, but Sutton and Jeudy should benefit the most.
Jeudy is a natural fit for the Davante Adams role in Hackett’s offense — though it goes without saying that he’s nowhere near that caliber as of now — and finally has a quarterback that will be able to fully utilize his skillset.
He’s also the closest thing the Broncos have to Wilson’s favorite target from Seattle, Tyler Lockett.
Meanwhile, Sutton might be the closest thing the team has to D.K. Metcalf, as a big-bodied, athletic deep threat. Sutton’s 2021 season wasn’t remarkable, but it was also his first season back from a devastating knee injury. In 2019, he appeared to be one of the game’s more electric young, rising stars, and with better quarterback play, he could get back on track.
Vic Fangio or Drew Lock will be a ‘chicken or the egg’ debate that will rage on as long as you let it, but ultimately, both greatly impeded the other’s chances of success.
Tired debates aside, the point is, if you don’t have a quality starting quarterback, your days as an NFL head coach are probably numbered.
Had the Broncos not traded for Wilson, Hackett would have been without a quality quarterback and without an appealing avenue to acquire one — thanks to a meh free-agent class and terrible rookie class at the position.
Now Hackett will have a real chance to prove himself as a head coach.
Justin Simmons, Garett Bolles & Bradley Chubb
Justin Simmons, Garett Bolles and Bradley Chubb have been valuable leaders on the Denver Broncos for years, and yet they’ve never gotten to experience being part of a winning team. Justin Simmons is the only one that’s really even gotten to be a part of a decent team, unless you want to count this year’s squad.
After years of wandering the desert, they’ve found their salvation.
It’s this fact that also provides confidence that Wilson will be able to ingratiate himself to Denver’s locker room relatively quickly.
With Shelby Harris being shipped off to Seattle, the Broncos will have to find away to replace 564 snaps total, and 357 pass rushing snaps on the defensive line.
McTelvin Agim is the most sensible on-roster option to replace those snaps after he showed some incredibly promising flashes in 2021.
Despite being inexperienced and operating in a very limited role last season, Agim was one of the team’s most efficient pass rushers.
Among Broncos with at least 15 pass rushing reps (Agim had just 61 on the season), only Von Miller (19.8%) won his pass-rushing reps at a higher rate than Agim (19.0%), but it should be noted that it’s easier to win those reps on the edge. Among interior defensive linemen with at least 25 pass rushing reps, Agim ranks fifth in pass-rush win rate, trailing only Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, Javon Hargrave and Jonathan Allen.
Agim will have to add strength and improve as a run defender if he wants to fill Harris’ role as a starter, but no matter what, he should see his role increase as a result of Harris no longer being on the roster.
As of now, Brett Rypien is a winner from this trade, but that is very temporary and could change in a hurry.
Rypien is about to become a restricted free agent, but he’s also the easy choice to be a backup quarterback at this point. The Broncos and their new coaching staff could easily move on from him in the coming weeks here, or during camp — so hold off on the champagne Rypien stans — but the front office made an effort throughout the season to keep Rypien in orange and blue, by protecting him and sometimes even adding him to the 53-man roster.
The era of Rypien as a longtime backup quarterback might be underway.
Other QBs on the market
Immediately following Aaron Rodgers’ announcement that he would be staying in Green Bay and the Russell Wilson trade, the value of the league’s alsoran quarterbacks skyrocketed.
Carson Wentz was traded for multiple quality picks, the 49ers are reportedly fielding multiple offers for Jimmy Garoppolo, and that trend is likely to carry over to free agency as well.
Someone like Tyrod Taylor, Mitch Trubisky and Marcus Mariota have a good chance of cashing in big, in a textbook example of supply and demand.