Russell Wilson Rumors: 'Skepticism' Broncos QB Can Be 'Salvaged' by Sean Payton

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 3, 2023

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 04: Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos drops back to pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
G Fiume/Getty Images

People around the NFL are reportedly unsure if the arrival of head coach Sean Payton can get Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson back on track.

According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, there is "skepticism" that Wilson can be "salvaged" by Payton after the veteran quarterback had a nightmarish first season with the Broncos under Nathaniel Hackett in 2022.

League sources told Howe that Wilson wanted "too much say" in the offense with the Seattle Seahawks and Broncos in recent years, favoring a pocket-passing system that limited his mobility and featured more deep passes than underneath concepts.

Howe's sources believe Wilson will "need to be open to a run-heavy offense" that features read-option principles to return to his past glory.

With nine Pro Bowl selections and one Super Bowl win in 11 NFL seasons, the 34-year-old Wilson is likely a future Hall of Famer, but he didn't look the part in 2022.

He completed a career-worst 60.5 percent of his passes and threw a career-low 16 touchdowns, and his 11 interceptions tied for his second-most in a season.

He also threw for just 3,524 yards, had his third-lowest rushing total with 277 yards and posted a career-worst record of 4-11 as a starter.

After watching Wilson go 104-53-1 with eight playoff appearances, two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl win in Seattle, the Broncos went all-in on acquiring him from the Seahawks via trade last offseason.

Denver sent first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, second-round picks in 2022 and 2023, a 2022 fifth-round pick, tight end Noah Fant, quarterback Drew Lock and defensive lineman Shelby Harris to Seattle for Wilson and a 2022 fourth-rounder.

The move paid instant dividends for the Seahawks. They accrued several future assets and made the playoffs with journeyman-turned-Pro Bowler Geno Smith as their starting quarterback.

The Broncos were one of the worst teams in the league, however, and they fired Hackett after less than one season on the job.

This week, Denver hired Payton, who took a year off from coaching after 15 seasons as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. He went 152-89 with nine playoff appearances and one Super Bowl win with the Saints.

The combination of Payton and quarterback Drew Brees gave New Orleans one of the best offenses in the NFL on a perennial basis. The Broncos front office clearly hopes for similar synergy between Payton and Wilson.

Denver agreed to trade the Saints the No. 30 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft and a 2024 second-round pick for Payton, who was still under contract with New Orleans, and a 2024 third-round pick.

The Broncos have a ton of draft capital invested in Wilson and Payton, so they need the relationship to work, but making noise in an AFC West division populated by the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders won't be easy.