A likely scenario for the Denver Broncos in 2023 and beyond?

Denver Broncos, Russell Wilson - Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos, Russell Wilson - Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos are likely going to build around Russell Wilson for the 2023 season, but what happens if he is truly washed up?  I think there’s a potential scenario at play here that could really benefit the Broncos in the long term.

Perhaps it ends up not coming true.  However, I do think it’s something that surely can happen.  Russell Wilson will remain a Bronco in 2023, for sure.  I don’t think there is any scenario where he isn’t on the roster.  The financial ramifications of cutting him this coming offseason are too large to ignore.

George Paton, I think, is also safe.  Moving off of a GM after two seasons is not common.  Paton should get to ride or die with Wilson.  So, what does this potential scenario look like for the Broncos?

Potential scenario for the Broncos beginning in 2023

OK, so, the first part of this scenario involves firing Nathaniel Hackett at the end of the season.  This is likely going to happen.  Next, something that does seem firmly in the realm of possibility is the team hiring someone like Frank Reich.

Reich has a track record of getting respectable production out of veteran quarterbacks, so the fit makes a ton of sense for Denver.  Reich is also a rock-solid head coach and knows how to build a staff (take a look at who was on his staff in Indianapolis for reference).

The next part of this equation is the team investing heavily in the offense in the 2023 free agency period and the 2023 NFL Draft.  This is obvious.  The defense does not need a ton of work.  Re-signing Dre’Mont Jones and adding to the secondary seems like the most pressing issues to me.

Turning your focus to the offense in free agency likely means a rebuilt offensive line, which is needed, and perhaps adding new faces at wide receiver.  You’d also likely need to find an RB1 as Javonte Williams continues to heal, and a veteran tight end in the room also does not hurt.

The point here is that the offensive personnel are going to look very different in 2023.  Every position on the offense, perhaps even quarterback, will have new faces.  Players on the offense this year that could find themselves not on the roster next year include Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Billy Turner, Calvin Anderson, Cameron Fleming, Tom Compton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Graham Glasgow, and Brett Rypien.

This is not an exhaustive list but merely an example of how many changes could be coming to this side of the ball.  This is very doable to me considering that the team is projected to have around $13 million in cap space this offseason but can easily create a bunch more by cutting and restructuring players.

So far, this is what the scenario looks like:

  1. Fire Nathaniel Hackett
  2. Hire someone like Frank Reich (also consider Jim Caldwell, Dan Quinn, etc).
  3. Invest heavily into fixing the offense in free agency or the NFL draft.

Next, the 2023 season actually begins, and this is where the worst-case situation happens.  Maybe, just maybe, Russell Wilson is the primary issue with the team.  Perhaps the veteran quarterback has fallen off and simply is not an effective passer anymore.

If this is the case, given what the team could look like in 2023 with better coaching and a strong offensive core of players, the Broncos could probably limp their way to 6, 7, or 8 wins.  I do think Russell Wilson plays much better in 2023 than he has this year, but perhaps he doesn’t play as well as he has or as well as his $250 million contract says he should.

So, if the Broncos finish, let’s say, 7-10 in 2023 with a massive quarterback contract and an overall underperforming team, what happens next?

You move off of Russell Wilson NEXT offseason. 

As in, the 2023 season would be the last year that Wilson plays for the Broncos.  The dead cap hit would be over $35 million, but you’d begin saving money on your cap as early as the next season.  So, you rebuilt the offense and brought in a stronger coaching staff to try and make it work with Wilson, and it didn’t.

Do you blow it up?  No, you don’t.  You likely just signed a handful of players in free agency and restructured some contracts.  The defense is likely elite still and the offense boasts some nice talent.  What’s the next step?

To me, the next logical step in this process is twofold.  First, you go out and sign some sort of veteran bridge quarterback in the mold of Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, etc.

THEN, you take a quarterback with your first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but how does this benefit you?

Well, by keeping the roster pieces together and not blowing it up, you give the Broncos a chance to succeed in 2024.  You just signed a veteran bridge quarterback and used your first-round pick on a QB.  From there, you allow the two players to battle it out in the offseason with the intention of your first-round QB eventually being given a chance to drive the car.

By doing this, you effectively moved off of Russell Wilson without wasting a year of potentially being bad.  You at least went down swinging with Wilson in 2023.  If that doesn’t work, pivot off of his monster contract and use your 2024 first-round pick on a quarterback prospect.

So, in totality, this scenario for the Denver Broncos beginning in 2023 is definitely something I can see happening:

  1. Fire Nathaniel Hackett
  2. Hire someone like Frank Reich (also consider Jim Caldwell, Dan Quinn, etc).
  3. Invest heavily into fixing the offense in free agency or the NFL draft.
  4. Run it back in 2023 with Wilson and the improved O
  5. if Wilson still isn’t good, cut him at end of ’23
  6. Sign a veteran bridge QB to elevate the floor of the room
  7. Use your 2024 first round pick on a QB

So then, the idea here is that the veteran bridge QB likely wins the job initially, but perhaps is eventually sat on the bench in favor of the rookie.  Or, even better, the rookie wins the job and plays immediately.

What do you think?