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Denver Broncos to Start With Jarrett Stidham With Russell Wilson on Bench

Jarrett Stidham (Credits: NFL)

The Denver Broncos, who are grappling with a crucial decision regarding Russell Wilson’s future with the team, have opted to bench the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Broncos head coach Sean Payton announced Wednesday morning that Jarrett Stidham will start in Wilson’s place, with Wilson serving as the backup.

“I understand all the speculation and everything that surrounds a move like that,” Payton commented. “I can tell you — look, we’re desperately trying to win.”

The decision to bench Wilson also has financial implications for the Broncos heading into the offseason.

Wilson stands to earn an additional $37 million in guaranteed money if he fails to pass a physical by early March. Any injury sustained by Wilson in Denver’s remaining two games of the season could trigger this guarantee.

Next season marks the first year of Wilson’s five-year, $242.6 million extension signed in 2022, which already includes $39 million guaranteed for 2024.

“Sure, in our game today there are economics and all those other things,” Payton acknowledged. “But the primary motivation behind this decision, which I’m making, is to ignite our offense.”

Following the announcement, Wilson, 35, took to social media to express that he was “looking forward to what’s next” in his career.

Denver Broncos (Credits: NFL)

The switch to Stidham also aims to inject momentum into a Denver offense that has struggled for much of the season. Despite their 7-8 record, the Broncos still hold a slim chance at a postseason berth but have lost three of their last four games.

News of Wilson’s benching caused the Broncos’ line against the Chargers to shift from 5-point favorites to 3-point favorites on Wednesday afternoon.

Currently, the Broncos rank 16th in the league in scoring (21.8 points per game), 20th on third-down conversions (36.7%), 31st in goal-to-go situations (53.6%), and 25th in passing yards per game (187.5).

Wilson has thrown 26 touchdowns this season, tied for sixth in the league, but ranks 18th in passing yards and has recorded just one 300-yard game, which came in Denver’s 70-20 loss to the Dolphins.

“Obviously, it’s a challenging situation, and all of us feel like we didn’t perform well enough,” Payton conceded.

“But when we signed Stidham in the offseason, we saw potential not only from preseason games but also from regular-season appearances. I’m eager to see him play.”

Determining Wilson’s future will be the most significant roster decision facing the Broncos in the offseason.

The team has only six draft picks in April, including no second-round selection, and would incur unprecedented dead money charges totaling $85 million over the 2024 and 2025 seasons if they were to release Wilson.

When asked about his future after Sunday night’s loss to the Patriots, Wilson emphasized his focus on the next game and playing exceptional football.

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