Denver Broncos Free Agency: What McGlinchey, Powers, and Stidham Deals Mean for Russell Wilson

    The Denver Broncos fortified their offensive line and added a backup QB during the opening hours of NFL free agency. How will these additions help Russell Wilson?

    The Denver Broncos got involved early and often in the opening hours of 2023 NFL free agency, agreeing to multi-year deals with offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, guard Ben Powers, and backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

    With new head coach Sean Payton, the Broncos’ owners — the richest group in the NFL — are flexing their financial muscle. How will these free agent additions affect Russell Wilson as he looks to right the ship next season?

    Denver Broncos Use Free Agency To Help Russell Wilson

    The Broncos didn’t mess around on Monday. Within 90 minutes of the legal tampering opening, Denver had already agreed to contracts that made McGlinchey and Powers among the 10 highest-paid players at their respective positions.

    McGlinchey received $87.5 million over five years and more than $50 million guaranteed, while Powers got a four-year deal worth $52 million and $28.5 million in guarantees.

    Injuries and ineffectiveness forced the Broncos to reshuffle their offensive line multiple times in 2022. Eight offensive lineman played at least 300 offensive snaps last season. The results weren’t inspiring, as Denver ranked 30th in Football Outsiders‘ adjusted sack rate and 20th in adjusted line yards, a measure of run-blocking efficiency.

    Elite offensive lines were a hallmark of Payton’s run with the Saints, and while McGlinchey and Powers may not be “elite” linemen, they’ll aid the Broncos’ front five in moving closer to league-average or slightly above.

    Signing McGlinchey and Powers could also signal that Denver plans to run the ball more often in 2023, especially if Wilson struggles as much as he did last season. The Broncos posted the NFL’s fifth-worst rushing attack by expected points added per attempt last year, and shoring up their offensive line could be one step toward improving that performance.

    From left to right, Denver will likely start Garett Bolles-Powers-Lloyd Cushenberry-Quinn Meinerz-McGlinchey. Nearly all of those linemen are better run blockers than pass protectors, so Payton should be able to shift his offense in a more run-friendly direction.

    Who will be running the ball for the Broncos — at least at the start of the season — remains an open question. General manager George Paton said former second-round pick Javonte Williams is “on track” for Week 1 after tearing his ACL and LCL in October. But an ESPN report suggested Williams could miss a good chunk of the 2023 campaign.

    The rest of Denver’s veteran backs — including Latavius Murray, Marlon Mack, and Mike Boone — are all unrestricted free agents, so the Broncos may need to consider adding another option, either during free agency or in the draft.

    New Broncos Backup Gives the Broncos Options

    Stidham won’t compete with Wilson for the Broncos’ starting quarterback job. But after agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with $5 million guaranteed, Stidham could come into play for Denver later in the season.

    The Broncos could theoretically move on from Wilson after the 2024 campaign. They wouldn’t save any cap space by doing so — Denver would have to make him a post-June 1 cut, and they’d absorb the same $35.4 million cap charge whether he’s on the roster or not.

    However, if Wilson is struggling later in the season, the Broncos could begin to worry about the veteran quarterback locking in future injury guarantees.

    Wilson’s 2023 and 2024 base salaries are already guaranteed, but his 2025 salary ($37 million) is guaranteed for injury only. If he’s still on Denver’s roster on the fifth day of the 2024 league year, that 2025 salary will become fully guaranteed.

    If Wilson were to suffer a serious injury that would prevent him from passing a physical in March 2024, Denver would be on the hook for his 2025 salary. Additionally, $4 million of his 2026 salary would also become fully guaranteed.

    Stidham is unlikely to save the Broncos’ season if Wilson continues his below-average play, but he will give Denver a legitimate option to turn to if the club wants to move on from Wilson. The optics of benching Wilson at his salary would still be near-disastrous, but it might be a little easier for the Broncos to start Stidham than it would have been to deploy Brett Rypien.

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