The Denver Broncos appear to be moving on from Russell Wilson in 2024, although at this point, nothing is set in stone. If the team does move on from Wilson, there are a lot of different paths to potentially take to solve the QB situation. Perhaps the favorite path of Sean Payton throughout the course of his time in the NFL as a head coach is the reclamation project, taking on players who may not be good for their current situation and putting them in a better one.
Payton's most successful quarterbacks when he was head coach of the New Orleans Saints were talented players who simply didn't fit with the teams that drafted them for whatever reason. Drew Brees was an unwanted castoff of the Chargers when the Saints acquired him. Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions in his final season with the Buccaneers before Payton and the Saints scooped up the former #1 overall pick and Heisman winner. Teddy Bridgewater was a free agent shot in the dark by the Jets after a career-threatening injury before Payton and the Saints traded for him.
This isn't exactly a habit of only having had success with retreads at the QB position, but true reclamation projects. Every one of the guys I just mentioned played his best football at the NFL level under Sean Payton, no matter how big (or small) the sample size.
Could we see Payton go after another reclamation project in 2024? His comments to Rich Eisen lead me to believe it's something he's already been thinking about...
So who are the options in 2024?
1. Sam Darnold (free agent, 49ers)
Although we're reaching a bit by calling this one "high upside", there's evidence out there that Sean Payton really liked Sam Darnold in the pre-draft process back in 2018. Although 2018 doesn't feel like it was that long ago, we're now pushing six years on Sam Darnold entering the NFL with very little to actually show for it.
Darnold's last most extensive action was in 2022 when he started down the stretch for the Carolina Panthers, and actually did a pretty good job. He was the primary backup this past year to Brock Purdy in San Francisco and only threw a total of 46 passes. I think banking anything on Darnold in 2024 would be a massive risk for Sean Payton to take, and would almost certainly have to be backed up by taking someone high in the 2024 NFL Draft.