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Broncos Rumors: Insiders Question How Eager Sean Payton Is to Take On Russell Wilson

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 9, 2023

DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 08: Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos attempts a pass during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field At Mile High on January 08, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

At this time a year ago, having Russell Wilson on a roster would have been one of the key components in attracting a head coach to a coaching vacancy.

After a miserable 2022 season, Wilson has reportedly become more of a detriment.

Mike Sando of The Athletic reported some close to Sean Payton "question how eager he would be to take on Wilson." Payton is the crowned jewel of this coaching carousel, despite teams knowing they will have to part with draft pick compensation in order to hire him while he's still under contract with the New Orleans Saints.

Wilson threw for just 3,524 yards and 16 touchdowns against 11 interceptions during his first year in Denver, becoming a source of ire in a disappointing 5-12 campaign. The Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett with two games remaining in the season, thanks in large part to the failures of the Wilson-led offense.

"You're trying to find that magic,'' Wilson told reporters after Sunday's 31-28 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. " … I know that I feel like I fell short of my own standards and my own level of expectations … I just want to recapture that."

Wilson signed a five-year, $242.6 million extension in September that essentially locks him in as Denver's starting quarterback for the next two seasons. The Broncos would take a cap hit of $107 million moving on this offseason and $85 million if they moved on in 2024. It's feasible they move on after the 2024 season but that would likely require a trade, given Wilson's $37 million base salary for the 2025 campaign guarantees the fifth day of the 2024 league year.

The Broncos' ability—and potentially their willingness—to part with significant draft compensation for Payton is also impacted by the Wilson trade. They do not have their first- or second-round pick in the 2023 draft as a result of the Wilson trade and may not be able to meet the Saints' demands.

That said, it's clear Payton has some level of interest in the vacancy. He said Sunday he has already spoken with the Broncos ownership group, though no formal interview can take place until Jan. 17.