When the Broncos acquired Sean Payton as their new head coach this offseason, everyone wondered how the move would affect quarterback Russell Wilson in 2023. But some of Payton's most notable comments at NFL owners meetings Monday regarded another QB on his roster. Weeks after signing former Patriots and Raiders backup Jarrett Stidham in free agency, the coach called Stidham an "important" piece of Denver's offseason, adding that Wilson's new No. 2 could soon become an NFL starter.
"I think he's young, but I think he's someone that we had a good grade on coming out," Payton said of Stidham. "We like the player. I think he played well in the two starts he had (last season) -- if you study closely the San Francisco game, he's smart at the line of scrimmage. There were a couple directions, really, with that position. There were a handful of No. 2s that either I had worked with or we felt comfortable with, but in this case, I think it's a No. 2 (where) his arrow's moving in a direction where we feel like he can become an NFL starter in our league.
"So the evaluation was pretty crystal clear for all of us," Payton continued. "I think he's someone that's gonna be great in the room. He's smart. And so, quietly, that was an important (signing) for us."
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Payton, of course, has vowed to do what he can to better support Wilson, who struggled through a career-worst Broncos debut in 2022. But Stidham would appear to have a path to QB1 duties in the event of an emergency. A fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2019, he threw four touchdowns and three interceptions after replacing Derek Carr for the Raiders late in 2022. Early in free agency, he signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Denver, making him one of the NFL's highest-paid backup QBs.