Broncos third string QB making serious case for backup job

Denver Broncos QB Ben DiNucci is making a strong case to be on the 53-man roster backing up QB Russell Wilson.

Aug 11, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Ben DiNucci (6) throws a pass
Aug 11, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Ben DiNucci (6) throws a pass / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the offseason, GM George Paton and the Denver Broncos knew that the QB position on their roster was going to have to be upgraded for the third year in a row. Thankfully this time, the concern was regarding the depth behind starting QB Russell Wilson, hence the free agent additions of both Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci.

Throughout training camp, both Stidham and DiNucci have both looked fairly efficient and have rarely turned the ball over which is just about all you can ask out of your two backups. However, after Stidham's preseason performance against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, head coach Sean Payton may be asking for a little more from his new backup quarterback.

In the preseason opener, Jarrett Stidham completed just five passes out of his 15 attempts for 50 yards and an interception with a 16.0 passer rating. Entering in the fourth quarter, Ben DiNucci completed seven of his nine passing attempts for 57 yards and a 93.1 passer rating while looking like a much better decision maker all around. Stidham truly struggled to operate the offense as efficiently as he did in camp and therefore never found his groove during the third quarter.

Fast forward to days 15 and 16 of Broncos training camp and it appears DiNucci has picked up some serious traction and may give Stidham a run for his money. Literally. The Broncos signed Stidham to a two-year, $10M deal earlier this offseason to upgrade their backup QB when in reality, DiNucci has already proved to be better than former Broncos backup QB Brett Rypien. Sure, there is still lots of opportunities for Stidham to prove his worth as the go-to backup however, with just two preseason games remaining and DiNucci's confidence quickly gaining ground, there may not be as much time as he would like.

Sean Payton has made it known that he is unsure as to whether or not the team will carry three quarterbacks on their regular season active roster with the new "third QB rule" where teams can dress an emergency QB on game days. Regardless, both Stidham and DiNucci will be with the Broncos in 2023, even if DiNucci has to sign to the practice squad. However, it is important to note that DiNucci does pose a serious threat to Stidham on the field despite Payton showing high praise for the signing earlier in the offseason.

If the Broncos were to cut Stidham before the August 29th deadline, the team would lose $2M in cap space and would be essentially wasting the $5M guaranteed they gave him at the time of his contract. Another thing we know for certain is that Stidham most definitely will not sign to the practice squad because he would almost immediately be picked up by another team - he probably would be signed by another team before he could even sign to Denver's practice squad so that is definitely out of the conversation.

Even though it is extremely unlikely that the Broncos do promote DiNucci to backup QB behind Wilson, at some point Sean Payton can't look DiNucci in the eyes and deny him that spot if he's performing at a much higher level than Stidham. That would be hypocritical of Payton and wouldn't send the best message to the team. For Stidham to keep his backup job under his belt, he'll need to play average at the very least even if DiNucci continues to make effective plays. It's just not too realistic or feasible for the Broncos to move on from Stidham as the backup after just one offseason and a few preseason games. Even though DiNucci continues to look nothing short of impressive in training camp, the Broncos' backup job is Stidham's to lose.

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