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What are Broncos’ QB options after parting ways with Russell Wilson?

The Russell Wilson era in Denver is over after the Broncos announced Monday that they will release the nine-time Pro Bowler after the new league year begins March 13. That means the Broncos are once again in the market for a starting quarterback.

From drafting Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. to a potential reunion between Jameis Winston and head coach Sean Payton, here are a few options for the Broncos:

Draft options

Bo Nix, Oregon

The numbers: 61 career games, 15,352 passing yards, 113 touchdowns, 26 interceptions

Case for: After three seasons at Auburn, Nix transferred to Oregon and became a college football superstar. He totaled 8,101 passing yards, 74 touchdowns and 10 picks in two seasons with the Ducks and was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2023. Nix displayed tremendous accuracy, completing 77.4% of his pass attempts this past season. He is also a solid scrambler and can be effective in designed runs.

Case against: Nix has received criticism for his footwork and not being able to go through his progressions. Nix also played a simplified offense that featured a ton of screen passes and run-pass options.

NFL DRAFT: Broncos post-combine mock draft: Denver tries to make use of its six picks

Michael Penix Jr., Washington

The numbers: 49 career games, 13,741 passing yards, 96 touchdowns, 34 interceptions

Case for: Penix, who previously spent four seasons at Indiana, had the best season of his college career while leading the Huskies to a national championship game appearance. He was first in the nation in passing yards (4,903) and third in touchdown passes (36).

Case against: Penix’s injury history will make it difficult for teams to make him their franchise quarterback. He’s had a clavicle injury, a dislocated shoulder and two torn ACLs, all before turning 25. He also struggles when pressured. According to Pro Football Focus, Penix completed 42.1% of his pass attempts under pressure.

J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

The numbers: 40 career games, 6,226 passing yards, 49 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

Case for: At Michigan, McCarthy was a proven winner. He went 27-1 as a starter and helped the Wolverines capture a national championship in 2023. McCarthy has shown that he can create plays outside of the pocket while being an accurate passer in the middle of the field.

Case against: McCarthy dealt with his fair share of inconsistencies in college. Not only that, but he was rarely asked to beat opponents with his arm because the Wolverines demolished opponents and had an effective run game. He threw less than 150 yards in four of Michigan’s final five games.

Free agents options

Gardner Minshew

The numbers: 49 career games (37 starts), 9,937 passing yards, 59 touchdowns, 24 interceptions

Case for: Minshew, who threw for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2023, led the Colts to a 7-6 record in 13 starts after rookie Anthony Richardson suffered a season-ending injury. He had Indianapolis in the playoff hunt until the team lost to the Houston Texans in the regular-season finale. The Broncos could get him for a reasonable price. Minshew’s estimated market value is $5.3 million per year, according to Spotrac.

Case against: Minshew would compete with Stidham for the starting job, and there’s a good chance he could win it. However, he is not a long-term answer. Minshew has proven to be a valuable backup in the league but does not get the Broncos anywhere close to being a title contender.

Jameis Winston

The numbers: 93 career games (80 starts), 22,104 passing yards, 141 touchdowns, 99 interceptions

Case for: Payton has familiarity with Winston, having coached him for two seasons in New Orleans. Under Payton’s guidance in 2021, Winston threw for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven starts before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Week 8.

Case against: Just like Minshew, a quarterback room with Stidham and Winston doesn’t move the needle unless the Broncos are banking on finding their franchise guy in the 2025 draft. Also, Winston hasn’t started more than 10 games since 2019.

Ryan Tannehill

The numbers: 155 games (151 starts) 34,881 passing yards, 216 touchdowns, 115 interceptions

Case for: The 35-year-old has experience and could be cheap. According to Spotrac, Tannehill’s market value is a 1-year, $4.9 million deal. Tannehill had a 39-24 record in five seasons with the Titans.

Case against: Tannehill has dealt with injury problems over the past two seasons. He struggled in his first six starts of 2023, throwing for 1,128 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions. Plus, Denver would be replacing Wilson with a quarterback who’s the same age as him.

Possible trade target

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

The numbers: 40 career games (38 starts), 6,674 yards, 40 touchdowns, 30 interceptions, 2,220 rushing yards, 356 carries.

Case for: The Bears have the top pick in the draft and it’s hard to see them passing up on USC’s Caleb Williams. That means Chicago could move on from Fields to increase its draft capital. Fields’ time in Chicago has been bumpy, but the talent is there. He finished ninth in MVP voting in 2022 after registering 2,242 passing yards and 1,143 rushing yards. The former Ohio State star is only 24 and has one year left on his rookie deal, plus his fifth-year option.

Case against: Fields is a high-risk, high-reward player. While his passing ability has been criticized, the right offense and coaching staff could change the narrative of his career. However, the Broncos gave up four draft picks to acquire Wilson and look at how that went. It won’t require a Wilson-type trade package to acquire Fields, but should Denver keep parting ways with draft picks?

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