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As Russell Wilson, Broncos divorce, where will he land next? NFL voices weigh in – and on another key question

As the Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson each issued their divorce statements Monday afternoon, the long-expected answer to their shared future spurred a series of questions about their individual paths.

Whom will the Broncos find as their next starting quarterback? Where will Wilson play in 2024? Will Wilson start? And how long will it take for any of these answers to arrive?

“Very, very interesting and rare situation,” one NFL agent texted Monday.

It’s rare enough for a team to release a quarterback before even one year of a five-year extension pans out. The Broncos are choosing to saddle themselves with $85 million in dead salary-cap space over the next two years rather than continue forward with a nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback who was healthy enough to play the entirety of last season.

Wilson completed 66.4% of pass attempts for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in 2023, his first season working with head coach Sean Payton. He was the eighth-most efficient quarterback in the league, his 98.0 passer rating up 13.6 points from his 27th-slotted mark a year earlier.

None of this stopped Payton and general manager George Paton from releasing a statement on Monday, the move scheduled to officially hit the books March 13 as the NFL league year turns over.

“We are excited to improve this offseason and will have the flexibility to get better through the draft and free agency,” the statement read, in part.

NFL agents and execs weighed in on Russell Wilson's future. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
NFL agents and execs weighed in on Russell Wilson's future. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) (RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images via Getty Images)

The veracity of the Broncos’ statement is worth questioning. We’ll save that for another time. For now, let’s stick to the future of a quarterback who still seems to have gas left in the tank. Where will Wilson land and when? Yahoo Sports asked NFL executives and quarterback agents what they expect.

Timeline for next Russell Wilson move may reveal team’s intention

Perhaps as interesting as where Wilson lands is when that move will crystallize. With free agency beginning next week and the draft just over seven weeks out, Wilson may need to decide: How much does he want to let roster outlooks settle before signing with a team? Would he rather try to convince a team to make him its answer before it otherwise invests substantial resources at quarterback?

Wilson’s price will be a huge allure, the quarterback expected to play for a veteran-minimum $1.21 million. (The Broncos will take an offset cap hit for the remainder of Wilson’s salary, a cost he’s no doubt eager to levy.)

His locker room presence, meanwhile, could create challenges for a team concerned with culture. Will his talent and playmaking trump a perceived lack of authenticity and individual-rather-than-team habits for which he has been criticized?

“Russ is easy to sign cuz he’s at the minimum,” one agent texted. “Russ is hard to sign cuz he’s Russ.”

Opinions split on when a deal will close.

One quarterback agent thought Wilson would be signed “in the next couple weeks” so he could begin working toward success at his next team, while another thought waiting for the draft to shake out would allow him to suss out a team with a “young and suspect QB” against whom he could compete more easily, especially in 2024.

An AFC executive thought Wilson might wait until a team suffers an injury at quarterback and thus will more seriously need and want him in a starting role.

“In almost all cases, the sooner the better so he can get the system [and] the reps,” one NFC executive said. “I assume he’s still attractive to players, so you’d want him in place earlier. So I’d feel decent that it’s done quickly, if starting.

“If he’s a backup, then all bets are off, because there’s not the same amount of urgency.”

NFL sources weigh in on Wilson landing spots

With that context, where might Wilson land? Agents and executives weighed in from their perspective of league trends and dealings rather than from inside knowledge about Wilson’s specific conversations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made one agent and one executive’s list each, perhaps Wilson’s best chance to both start and be competitive. The Atlanta Falcons also made two lists, Wilson able to satisfy an immediate need without needing to be the answer long-term.

“Unless they want to trade the farm for [an] unknown rookie, why not take Russ for literally nothing ($1m) and wait to find [a] young guy later,” an agent texted. “Unless one of the top guys somehow falls to them at #8, which is unlikely in my opinion.”

The Las Vegas Raiders seem like a good fit for Russell Wilson, and vice versa. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and New York Jets intrigued sources, the last desperately needing to pair Aaron Rodgers with a backup quarterback not named Zach Wilson.

But the top answer from executives and agents alike wouldn’t require Wilson to move far — geographically nor by division.

Two agents and two executives each believed the Las Vegas Raiders and Wilson could make the most sense. Wilson could allow the Raiders to stay put with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, grabbing a quarterback like Bo Nix, Michael Penix or maybe J.J. McCarthy (if he’s still available) to learn from Wilson at the start. Wilson could team up with star receiver Davante Adams and possibly running back Josh Jacobs, whose free-agency price projects to be more tenable amid a dipping running-back market and a veteran quarterback on the books for a whopping $1.2 million. It won’t hurt if the Raiders remind Wilson he’ll get to face Payton and the Broncos twice a year.

“[Antonio Pierce] will want to upgrade at all costs and be as competitive as possible,” an agent said of the Raiders’ first-year head coach. “Easy to sell to management / ownership because it’s ‘free’ [and] wouldn’t prevent them from taking a young guy.”

Wherever Wilson goes, he said Monday in a statement that he’s “excited for what’s next.”

“Tough times don’t last,” Wilson said, “but tough people do.”