Sean Payton reveals why Broncos made trade for former first-round quarterback

So, why did the Broncos trade for Zach Wilson?
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Denver Broncos used their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on quarterback Bo Nix, it's fair to wonder why they spent over a month working on and completing a trade for Zach Wilson at the same position. The Broncos already had Jarrett Stidham on the roster, and although it's never a bad idea to add talent to the quarterback position, it was still a curious move by general manager George Paton and head coach Sean Payton.

So, Sean Payton clarified.

Why did you trade for Zach Wilson?

"We just felt like, ‘Man, we’d love to work with this guy.’ It wasn’t too long ago we remembered grading him. [We] felt the investment was worth it relative to his skill set and his talent. So it took a while. We spent the better part of a month and a half working on that trade."

Sean Payton (via Broncos PR)

The thought process in acquiring a player like Zach Wilson is very simple. He's still just 24 years old. He is extremely talented. He has starting experience in the NFL and has taken some serious lumps. At this stage, a lot of people would consider him to be an NFL Draft "bust" but as Sean Payton noted, the ink is still drying on the grades he was given by scouts, coaches, and executives coming out of that 2021 NFL Draft.

Payton has made a habit of rehabilitating the value of quarterbacks in his time as a head coach.

When he got to the New York Giants in 1999 as quarterbacks coach, they added Kerry Collins to the roster. At that time, Collins was cast away from the Carolina Panthers as the former 5th overall pick in the NFL Draft. He finished second in the NFL in Comeback Player of the Year voting in 2000 and started 140-plus games outside of his tenure with Carolina.

In 2005 -- Payton's final year with the Dallas Cowboys -- they won nine games with Patriots castoff Drew Bledsoe at the quarterback position. Bledsoe was the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft once upon a time and that was his last full season as a starter in the NFL.

When Payton got to the New Orleans Saints in 2006, he famously brought in Drew Brees via free agency. Brees was the 32nd overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, which was a 2nd-round pick at the time. The Chargers had traded for his replacement in 2004 when they drafted Eli Manning and swapped him with Philip Rivers in a deal with the Giants. Brees was productive at times for the Chargers, but the organization didn't want him.

He became a Hall of Fame quarterback under Sean Payton.

Teddy Bridgewater was a former 1st-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings whose NFL career was threatened by a gruesome leg injury in the 2016 offseason. Even when he was able to "come back" in the 2017 season, he didn't look like the same guy. The Vikings let Teddy hit free agency and he signed a deal with the New York Jets. Sean Payton liked what he saw in the preseason and traded a third-round pick to get him.

When he was called upon to start a five-game stretch for the Saints in 2019, Bridgewater played the best football of his NFL career and wound up signing a $63 million deal with the Panthers as a result.

After former Heisman winner and #1 overall pick Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions in a season with the Buccaneers, he hit free agency with his value at its lowest. Sean Payton took him in with the Saints and trotted him out as a starter in 2021 where he had the highest TD percentage and lowest interception percentage of his NFL career over the first six games and change before suffering a torn ACL.

Former first-round picks (or top 32 picks, at least), castoffs of their original teams. All of them maximizing their talent under Sean Payton, even if just for a brief time.

If Payton says the investment to acquire Zach Wilson in a trade was worth it based on his skill set and talent, he's more than earned the benefit of the doubt.