Broncos make most obvious Zach Wilson decision imaginable

There was no way the Broncos were picking up Zach Wilson's 5th-year option
New York Jets v Denver Broncos
New York Jets v Denver Broncos / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

At this point, there is still plenty of reason to like the trade the Denver Broncos made to acquire former New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. But there's no reason to like it $22.4 million worth.

The Denver Broncos made the incredibly obvious decision to decline the 5th-year club option built into Wilson's rookie deal signed back in 2021. Every first-round pick contract includes this 5th-year option, which is basically like a built-in, discounted franchise tag. The higher the first-round pick, the more expensive the 5th-year option.

And Wilson being the former #2 overall pick, his option was worth a whopping $22.4 million. He's talented, but the Broncos would never have paid that much to keep him around. They might, however, entertain the idea of re-signing him at some point if he is able to beat Jarrett Stidham for the #2 quarterback job behind Bo Nix.

At least, we hope there's no drama at the QB1 spot. The Broncos using the #12 pick in this year's draft on Bo Nix will hopefully lead to him being the starting quarterback immediately.

But the team is obviously intrigued by the upside of Wilson, who is barely any older than Nix, in all honesty. Wilson came into the league after a sensational breakout year at BYU in which he was drawing comparisons to Patrick Mahomes for his ability to throw off-platform and make plays in any situation.

Of course, transitioning to the NFL hasn't been quite that simple for Wilson. The New York Jets have been mostly an abject disaster in his time there, but Wilson has also struggled to put it together. He showed some signs of exactly that last year when you watch his games against Denver, Kansas City, and Houston, but the Jets have moved on.

He's Sean Payton's reclamation project now.

But that project won't be overly costly to the Denver Broncos. In addition to declining his 5th-year option (making him a free agent in 2025), the Broncos are only paying for half of Wilson's 2024 salary. He's counting a shade over $2.7 million against this year's salary cap for Denver and he's on the hook for about the same in New York.

Ultimately, the Broncos not picking up Wilson's 5th-year option was never really hanging in the balance. It wasn't a realistic option to begin with. This was always going to be a one-year move with the opportunity to see what the future might hold.