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Broncos' 2023 Season Could be an Evaluation Year for Sean Payton

Mile High Huddle on FanNation 3/13/2023 Dylan Von Arx
© Provided by Mile High Huddle on FanNation

What is Sean Payton's ultimate outlook for the coming Denver Broncos season?

Sean Payton is settling into his new role as head coach of the Denver Broncos, and many fans are optimistic about a quick turnaround. Two significant factors hint towards an 'evaluation year' rather than an aggressive push to compete immediately for a Super Bowl. 

It’s not as far-fetched as one might think. What kindling started the fire behind this theory? Time to dive in.

Rumor from the NFL Combine from NBC Sports' Mathew Berry is that Payton may see current starting quarterback Russell Wilson as a “one-year audition.” Here's the full quote.

Speaking of big name QBs coming off down years, more than one person mentioned to me that Russell Wilson is basically on a one-year audition. There's no way Denver can cut him this year, but next year, while the dead cap hit would certainly be bad, it could be spread out over two years and wouldn't be franchise crippling. Said one source “I don't think [Sean] Payton likes Russ. He's got one year to prove himself or Payton will move on.” This source pointed out that Payton has said multiple times in public, on the record, how Russell keeps “bothering Drew Brees.” Payton tries to play it off for a laugh, but my source doesn't think Payton actually think it's funny.

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If Berry and his sources are correct, throwing all your resources at a guy who may not be leading the offense after the season doesn’t make sense. Payton understands you can’t hitch your wagon to the wrong horse.

It would be wise to let Wilson prove that he's the man to lead Denver back to the playoffs instead of jumping the gun as the team did with his extension. Denver will likely have a high draft pick to take his replacement if he fails to prove himself.

The new league year is almost upon us, and while Denver might want some shiny new toys, buying up top free agents may be outside the cards. While the Broncos have freed up some money by cutting the likes of running back Chase Edmonds, corner Ronald Darby, and offensive lineman Graham Glasgow, they aren’t in a position where spending big on a few top talents would be beneficial.

With an estimated $33 million to work with and many holes on the roster, the Broncos could spread much of the wealth to lower to mid-tier free agents to fill out a depleted roster. Dre’Mont Jones wouldn’t be walking out the door if Denver felt that spending big money on more prominent free agents was the way to go.

Expect a few bargain-bin deals instead of a grand shopping spree. That means guys like Cameron Fleming might be preferable to the Orlando Browns of the world. Less talented players don’t scream, “we’re trying to make a push.”

Signing more prominent free agents would also jeopardize possible compensatory draft picks, which Denver desperately needs as it has been working on digging itself out of a draft-capital deficit.

As much as Broncos Country wants its team to make deep playoff runs as soon as this season, it might have to wait one more year. It would be beneficial to let the talent already on the roster prove they're worthy of dawning the Orange and Blue before Denver puts all its chips on the table. 

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