Zach Wilson Trade Details: Is Denver Out of the First-Round QB Market?

The Jets finally found a taker for Zach Wilson, sending the ex-No. 2 pick to the Broncos on Monday. Will Denver still be interested in a Round 1 QB?

At long, Zach Wilson is no longer a member of the New York Jets. Gang Green traded the former No. 2 overall pick to the Denver Broncos on Monday, giving Wilson a new home a few days before the start of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Let’s break down all the fallout from the Wilson trade. What did the Jets get in exchange? How are the two teams dividing Wilson’s salary? And is it safe to remove the Broncos from this year’s QB draft frenzy?

Will the Broncos Still Draft a QB After Trading For Zach Wilson?

Denver is taking a no-risk chance on Wilson by acquiring him for pennies on the dollar. Here are the terms of today’s trade, per NFL Network:

  • Broncos acquire: QB Zach Wilson and a 2024 seventh-round pick (No. 256)
  • Jets acquire: 2024 sixth-round pick (No. 203)

Meanwhile, most reports had suggested that New York would have to eat a portion of Wilson’s salary in order to get a draft pick in return — and that’s precisely what happened. The Jets and Broncos will divide Wilson’s guaranteed training camp roster bonus, according to NFLN.

The Broncos had been discussing a Wilson trade with the Jets for weeks, per Dianna Russini of The Athletic. Some of Denver’s decision-makers believe he “still has tons of talent and potential.”

Will Denver’s Wilson acquisition take Sean Payton and Co. out of the running for a first-round QB? It’s hard to say.

On one hand, the Broncos should hardly be counting on any production from Wilson. Among the 29 NFL quarterbacks to attempt 900 passes since 2021, Wilson ranks dead last in passer rating, yards per attempt, passing success rate, and touchdown rate. He’s the only QB to post a negative EPA + CPOE composite score (-0.010) during that span.

With Wilson, Jarrett Stidham, and Ben DiNucci as its top-three QBs (in some order), Denver could still be a player in the first-round signal-caller conversation.

Whether that means trading up for Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy or sitting tight at No. 12 and choosing Michael Penix Jr. or Bo Nix, the Broncos don’t have a quarterback on their roster that would prevent them from taking a shot at a Round 1 passer.

On the other hand, the 2024 campaign is already shaping up as a reset season for Denver. The Broncos chose to take the brunt of Russell Wilson’s dead money — $53 million — this year, signaling that they don’t necessarily expect to compete.

As such, dropping a rookie quarterback onto Denver’s roster might not be the best idea. Even if the Broncos think they have the offensive infrastructure to support a Year 1 QB, Denver might blow through 40% of their rookie’s cost-controlled contract without ever fielding a competitive team.

MORE: Will the Broncos Trade WR Courtland Sutton?

Wilson probably won’t become the Broncos’ long-term answer under center. But there’s no reason a quarterback whisperer like Payton shouldn’t take a no-downside risk on a former No. 2 pick.

Denver can get through the season with a combination of Stidham and Wilson at quarterback, allowing the club to use the 12th pick on the best available player or trade back.

If Wilson delivers on any of the promises that made him the No. 2 choice in 2021, great. If not? No harm, no foul.

Wilson’s Contract Details

The Broncos didn’t give up very much to acquire Wilson from the Jets — and they won’t have to pay much of his salary, either.

Wilson is due to collect roughly $5.5 million in cash in 2024. Denver and New York will split that total down the middle, with each team picking up $2.75 million each, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

(Technically, Wilson’s guaranteed base salary and roster bonus are worth $5.453 million, so we’ll have to wait for more details on how exactly the Jets and Broncos are dividing his 2024 payout).

Barring any restructures, Wilson’s cap charge in Denver will be $3.805 million. Stidham’s 2024 cap number is $7 million, while DiNucci makes the league minimum. Denver has one of the NFL’s cheapest quarterback rooms (not accounting for Wilson’s dead money hit).

KEEP READING: Which Teams Need a QB in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Meanwhile, Wilson’s exit from New York will leave roughly $7.5 million in dead money on Gang Green’s books. His cap number was $11.184 million, so the Jets are saving over $3.5 million in cap space by trading Wilson.

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