Russell Wilson’s next team? Strong favorite emerges

The divorce between Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos certainly appears to be a matter of when, not if.

Broncos coach Sean Payton said at the NFL Scouting Combine that “I would anticipate it being within the next two weeks,” when asked about a decision on Wilson’s future.

What’s next for the 35-year-old former Super Bowl champion is one of the biggest storylines of the NFL offseason.

With a trio of quarterback prospects atop most draft boards, that leaves a handful of quarterback-needy teams as likely potential suitors for Wilson’s services.

That list is topped by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are the -225 favorite at DraftKings to be the team that Wilson takes his first snap for next season. That’s well ahead of the next shortest odds, which belong to the Las Vegas Raiders at +550.

The short list of sensible landing spots is why remaining with the Broncos still shares the third lowest odds at +600 along with joining the Atlanta Falcons.

The sportsbook is offering odds on all 32 NFL franchises, although the list essentially stops with an extremely unlikely reunion in Seattle at +6000.

RUSSELL WILSON NEXT SNAP ODDS*

Pittsburgh Steelers (-225)

Las Vegas Raiders (+550)

Denver Broncos (+600)

Atlanta Falcons (+600)

New England Patriots (+850)

Minnesota Vikings (+1000)

Washington Commanders (+2000)

Tennessee Titans (+3000)

New York Giants (+3500)

Chicago Bears (+4000

Carolina Panthers (+4000)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4000)

*DraftKings

The Steelers spent a 2022 first-round pick on Kenny Pickett, but it was veteran backup Mason Rudolph who led Pittsburgh to the playoffs when Pickett was injured and then got the postseason start even when Pickett was healthy.

That has led many to speculate that the Steelers will be in the market for a veteran who can immediately boost Pittsburgh’s contender status.

The Steelers are also among the favorites to land Chicago’s Justin Fields (+380) and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins (+1000).

The Raiders are also likely in the market for a veteran quarterback, having finished last season with rookie Aidan O’Connell under center after Jimmy Garoppolo was benched. Las Vegas is +800 to acquire Fields and +1000 to sign Cousins.

Atlanta toggled between second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder and journeyman Taylor Heineke last season. New coach Raheem Morris has made it clear that he sees an upgrade at the position as an offseason priority.

Wilson easily has the most postseason success among the potential options, although the Falcons are currently the -300 favorite to acquire Fields. They’re also +300 to sign Cousins compared to +600 to land Wilson.

If Wilson isn’t traded or released by March 17, then $37 million in salary guarantees for the 2025 season will be locked in.

Making a trade by then doesn’t seem likely based on Tuesday’s comments from Broncos general manager George Paton.

“I haven’t heard anything from any teams so we’ll see,” Paton said.

On Sunday on the “I Am Athlete” podcast with former Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, Wilson indicated he would prefer to remain with the Broncos.

“I’ve got more fire than ever, honestly, especially over the past two years and what I’ve gone through,” Wilson said. “Whether it’s in Denver or somewhere else. I hope it’s Denver. I hope I get to finish there. I committed there. I wanted to be there. I want to be there.”

Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowl pick, was acquired from the Seahawks prior to the 2022 season for three players and five draft choices. The Broncos then gave him a five-year, $242.5 million contract extension before he even played for the club.

There hasn’t been much bang for the buck with Wilson compiling an 11-19 record in 30 starts. Wilson had 16 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions in 2022 and improved the marks to 26 and eight, respectively, last season.

The issue of bad blood can’t be overlooked after the Broncos approached Wilson’s representation in October and asked for the quarterback to push back the injury guarantee date on his contract and included a threat to bench him if he didn’t comply.

“We moved forward, we addressed that,” Paton said. “Everything we did was above board. I appreciate Russ but we moved forward. We have a lot of work to do. We’re here at the combine. We have free agency around the corner. We’re working on bettering our team and winning football games.”

Paton and Payton are both dissecting the available quarterbacks in the 2024 draft class. Denver owns the No. 12 pick and Paton said the club is open to all possibilities, while admitting there’s not enough draft capital to move up to No. 1 where Southern California’s Caleb Williams is expected to be selected.

“It’s the most important position in sports,” Paton said. “So it’s important — whether it’s from within. That’s why this is taking a long time, this decision is very important. If you’re going to draft one, that’s obviously very difficult. … There’s more mistakes it seems at quarterback, especially in the first round.”

Payton is looking forward to evaluating the draft-hopeful quarterbacks.

“I think we’ll be really good at this and to some degree we’re glad that a lot of people aren’t,” Payton said.

The Broncos (8-9) missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season in 2023.