Denver Broncos need much better Russell Wilson contingency in 2023

Nov 27, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) with Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) after the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) with Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) after the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Everyone in Broncos Country is disappointed right now, and rightfully so. Denver Broncos fans came into this season with massive expectations because of the arrival of Russell Wilson, and it’s been nothing but one heartbreak after another every single week this season. The Broncos are now a horrendous 3-8, and one more loss will mean the worst season for Russell Wilson in his professional career when it comes to his team’s record when he’s the primary starting QB.

With all due respect to Brett Rypien and Josh Johnson, the Denver Broncos don’t really have anywhere they can turn this year with Wilson struggling and clearly out there playing hurt. Wilson has multiple reported injuries, including a torn lat and injured hamstring, both injuries being suffered earlier in the season. At one point, Wilson had to miss a game against the New York Jets due to those injuries, but he came back with the infamous high knees on the plane ride to London situation before the Broncos beat the Jaguars.

There have been moments this season when we’ve seen “vintage” Russell Wilson, like when the Broncos had a game-winning drive against the San Francisco 49ers, or against the Jaguars in the aforementioned “high knees” game, and all three of the Broncos’ wins this season have been come-from-behind victories. Wilson has also contributed to the “problem” right now that is the ineffective and embarrassing Denver Broncos offense, though that whole unit is in shambles.

Denver Broncos cannot have poor contingency plan for Russell Wilson in 2023

The Broncos went out in the 2022 offseason and signed well-traveled veteran Josh Jacobs to a modest backup deal and let him compete with Brett Rypien for the QB2 job in Denver all offseason. Unfortunately, neither of those guys have proven to be someone the Broncos can turn to in a crisis, which at this point, the 2022 season definitely is.

Whether Russell Wilson is simply not healthy enough to play at a high level right now is something we can’t really know. He’s playing, so he’s getting graded for what we’re seeing on the field regardless of his physical status. Wilson has always been one to try and tough it out, play through injuries, and be on the field come hell or high water. In the past, that hasn’t really hurt his team but we’re starting to see that here in 2022. If Wilson truly needed to miss some time due to injury, it’s something the Broncos obviously feel they are better off with a 75 or 80 percent version of Russ than 100 percent Rypien or Johnson. It doesn’t even seem like Johnson playing this season has been seriously considered at all.

I’m not saying the Broncos need to bench Russell Wilson right now — they’ve got to see that investment through because that’s the bed they have made — but I am saying that if Wilson is truly not healthy, the Broncos have to have a better option in place so that the team and offense can succeed while Wilson is out.

Keep in mind — the Broncos were certainly frustrating in the red zone early on in the season, but there was a time when this team was not struggling to get into scoring position. They were moving the ball well early on in the year until Wilson’s hamstring issue popped up against the Chargers on Monday Night Football.

So what are the team’s options as we look forward? Even if the Broncos shut Wilson down for 2022 due to injuries (which they won’t), it doesn’t make much of a difference. There are so many injuries and other issues on that side of the ball right now. Looking ahead to 2023, however, there are some intriguing possibilities starting in NFL free agency…

2023 NFL free agent quarterbacks (listed by 2022 passing yards)

  • Tom Brady, Buccaneers
  • Geno Smith, Seahawks
  • Jacoby Brissett, Browns
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
  • Lamar Jackson, Ravens
  • Daniel Jones, Giants
  • Andy Dalton, Saints
  • Baker Mayfield, Panthers
  • Taylor Heinicke, Commanders
  • Cooper Rush, Cowboys
  • Phillip Walker, Panthers
  • Teddy Bridgewater, Dolphins
  • Mike White, Jets
  • Sam Darnold, Panthers
  • Gardner Minshew, Eagles
  • Case Keenum, Bills

Now, there are names on there that simply aren’t coming to Denver, and everyone already knows it. Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Geno Smith, Jimmy Garoppolo — those guys will be starting somewhere in 2023 (or retired, in Brady’s case potentially) and not options for the Broncos to be Russell Wilson’s backup. The rest of the list, however, is equal parts intriguing and fair game. Are there players on that list that you want to build around for the future outside of Lamar Jackson?

Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win with some of them in a pinch. Taylor Heinicke has done a good job with the Commanders this season. Mike White looked really good for the Jets on Sunday. Broncos Country has long admired Gardner Minshew. Sam Darnold has tons of talent and is still young enough that you might be willing to roll the dice there.

The main point here is that almost all of the guys on this list here would be preferable options to Brett Rypien, with all due respect to Brett. The Broncos simply have to have a better, more talented, perhaps more experienced backup behind Russell Wilson because they need a better contingency plan.

I think the Denver Broncos also have to look at quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft starting on day two, similar to what we saw from the Philadelphia Eagles a couple of years ago when they took a shot on Jalen Hurts in the second round. Here are a few prospects currently being considered outside or on the cusp of the first round right now by many outlets:

2023 NFL Draft prospects at QB for the Denver Broncos to consider

  • Anthony Richardson, Florida
  • Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (injury)
  • Tanner McKee, Stanford
  • DJ Uiagaleilei, Clemson
  • Jaren Hall, BYU
  • Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
  • Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

I think general manager George Paton would be an absolute fool not to take a shot on someone at the QB position considering wholesale changes could need to be made already in the next couple of years. Nobody thought the Broncos would be in this position, yet here we are.