Denver Broncos free agency predictions: Loading up on offense
5. Sign Sam Darnold as the team's backup QB
Ultimately, the Denver Broncos may go a number of different directions at the backup QB spot. That could include just bringing back Brett Rypien and maybe rolling with an NFL Draft pick at the position. Sean Payton has had success in the past, however, with bringing in some higher upside options who might have failed in their previous stops in the NFL.
Specifically, he did exceptionally well with former first-round picks Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston as "reclamation projects", and made those guys a lot of money.
The interesting thing about the timing of both Bridgewater and Winston coming to the Saints when Payton was still there? They were seemingly brought in with the thought in mind that they would take over for Drew Brees whenever he retired. Of course, they ended up a bit premature with the Bridgewater acquisition, but Winston took over as the starter in 2021 after Brees retired and wound up playing the best football of his NFL career for six games and change.
The Broncos just so happen to be in a pretty similar situation with Russell Wilson, albeit for different reasons than the potential of his retirement. There's no guarantee of what Wilson will bring to the table, and the Broncos may have to move on as early as 2024.
With that in mind, Darnold is still just 25 years old. He has always had the talent, and he's been able to put it together for stretches in the NFL. It might not be so much about potential with Darnold at this point as it is him just growing as a player, and perhaps getting in with the right coaching staff.
Darnold was once college teammates with Broncos QB coach Davis Webb, so there's a connection there. Broncos WR coach Keary Colbert was also on the USC staff from 2016-17, Darnold's primary years as the QB1 for the Trojans.
If the price is right, Darnold makes a ton of sense as a backup to Russell Wilson and contingency plan beyond this season if you-know-what hits the fan with Russ.