ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos are benching quarterback Russell Wilson, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Jarrett Stidham will start for the Broncos on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It’s a remarkably similar situation to last year when Stidham started the Las Vegas Raiders’ final two games after the team benched Derek Carr and sent him home in a business decision.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not publicly addressed the situation. Coach Sean Payton was scheduled to meet with reporters later on Wednesday after practice.
The person said this circumstance in Denver differs from the Raiders’ situation a year ago because the Broncos will dress Wilson, who could theoretically get into the game Sunday.
If Wilson doesn’t play another down this season, however, the Broncos will have kept open their options in 2024.
His $39 million salary for next season is already guaranteed but if he’s on the roster March 17, his 2025 salary of $37 million also becomes guaranteed. Because injured players cannot be cut, the Broncos would have been on the hook for that 2025 salary were Wilson to get hurt in the final two weeks and been unable to pass a physical in the spring.
That’s the reason the Raiders sent Carr home a year ago.
The person who spoke to the AP said no determination has been made about Wilson’s future in Denver and that his benching was more of a football decision than a financial one: the offense needs a spark and Payton, who has been vocal about the team’s offensive struggles of late, wants to see what he has in Stidham.
By losing three of their past four games, the Broncos (7-8) are in jeopardy of extending their playoff drought to eight years despite a bounce-back season from Wilson, who ranks in the top 10 in almost every passing category this season.
The Broncos are 12th in the AFC standings and the top seven make the playoffs. However, there’s still a chance the Broncos could win the AFC West if they win out and free-falling Kansas City loses its last two games.
Wilson has thrown for 3,070 yards and 26 touchdowns with eight interceptions a year after he had 16 TD throws and 11 interceptions.
But he’s just 11-19 as Denver’s starter since the blockbuster trade brought him over from Seattle last year for four draft picks and a package of players.
Wilson signed a five-year, $245 million contract extension last year that kicks in next season.