It is that time of the year again when the speculation of the Denver Broncos' quarterback position begins to ensue. Following a string of inconsistent performances, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is under fire with the expectation that he will no longer remain with the organization after the 2024 offseason. Assuming the Broncos decide to release the 9X Pro Bowl quarterback prior to the post-June 1st designation, this will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst trades in NFL history.
If you may recall, in 2021, the Denver Broncos were one of several teams interested in trading for, at the time, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. According to NFL insider Albert Breer, the Broncos had offered their 2021 first-round pick (ninth overall) for the Lions' 2021 second-round pick and Stafford. New general manager George Paton, who the Broncos had just hired weeks prior, proposed one of the worst trade offers that obviously was not going to budge Lions general manager Brad Holmes.
After multiple trade proposals back and forth between both sides, Holmes then came with a final counter offer, according to KOA Colorado's Benjamin Allbright: Multiple draft picks, QB Drew Lock, WR Jerry Jeudy, and another undisclosed player for Stafford. At the time, it seemed like an unreasonable offer from the Lions' end however, in hindsight, George Paton should have pulled the trigger to close the deal. The Broncos were then outbid by the Carolina Panthers and Washington Commanders but the Los Angeles Rams were able to close the deal with the most attractive offer being two first-round picks and a third-round pick for the longtime Lions quarterback.
After a failed season with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock quarterbacking the offense, the Broncos then made one of the most blockbuster trades in NFL history for former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Denver sent Seattle a total of nine draft picks and players including two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a fifth-round pick for Wilson and a fourth-round pick. Compared to the group of draft capital that Los Angeles had to surrender for Stafford, George Paton and the Broncos look silly for what they sacrificed to acquire Russell Wilson.
Not only has Matthew Stafford played significantly better than Russell Wilson in 2023, but he is getting paid $9M less per season as opposed to Wilson's $49M average annual value. Despite Wilson having the better touchdown/interception ratio, the film suggests Wilson has been a much worse quarterback. Stafford's arm talent, eye discipline, pocket presence, and overall mechanics look lightyears better than Wilson on tape. It's almost hard to watch at times, especially knowing George Paton and the Broncos refused to trade less for Stafford but trade more for the worse quarterback in Russell Wilson.
While one may say that Wilson was a better quarterback at the time than Stafford, that simply was never true and the Broncos front office was deceived. Wilson's read progression and pocket presence were noticeably starting to decline towards the end of his tenure in Seattle and it is exactly why Seahawks general manager John Schneider felt it was the perfect time to move on.
In Wilson's last five games, he has thrown for a low 60.8 percent completion percentage, four interceptions, and has fumbled the ball five times during that span. Meanwhile, Stafford has thrown for 14 touchdowns and just one interception during his last five games. It's not like these throws are easy either. Stafford has made countless throws time and time again in tight windows and in clutch moments to help propel his team toward the playoff race when it matters most. The Rams are 4-1 in their last five, the Broncos are 2-3 due to Wilson having to throw the ball more because the run game has not been as efficient and the defense has not generated as many takeaways as opposed to earlier in the season during their win streak.
The stark difference in play between Stafford and Wilson continues to expose the poor evaluation by general manager George Paton and the front office before head coach Sean Payton brought his authoritative abilities to Denver. The decision to pass on Stafford for worse quarterback play continues to be a puzzling one and thus has cost the Broncos years of wasted time and financial ruin due to the naive belief in Russell Wilson as a franchise player.