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Russell Wilson landing spots: Ranking six potential team fits for nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback

Russell Wilson's benching for the final two games of the 2023 regular season signaled a potential split from the Denver Broncos in the coming offseason. Several factors led to that decision, but the financial aspect was undoubtedly significant, along with the veteran quarterback's mediocre on-field play in Sean Payton's first season with the team.

It isn't out of the question that Wilson ultimately stays in Denver for 2024. Payton said last week that the Broncos have not yet made a final decision regarding what to do with him. But given the no-trade clause in Wilson's contract and the hefty sum of money still left on the deal, we seem to be down to two potential outcomes: The Broncos either cut him or keep him. If the nine-time Pro Bowler is cut, he'll be able to sign with another team on what should be, thanks to off-set language, a low-cost deal, as NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport recently explained.

This sounds eerily familiar to me. And that's because it's turning out to be very similar to the situation my brother, Derek Carr, was in last year at this time. Toward the end of his ninth season with the Las Vegas Raiders, Derek was benched, and then the Raiders released him in February, allowing the team to avoid paying him over $40 million in future guarantees. As a free agent for the first time in his career, Derek was allowed to pursue the right fit for him, ultimately signing with the New Orleans Saints on a four-year contract.

If Wilson ends up on the market, he must be honest with himself about where he's at as a player. Russ is 35 years old and likely in the twilight of his career. And while I believe he can still be a starter in this league, he won't be handed the keys to a franchise like he was when Denver traded for (and extended) him in 2022.

Here are six potential landing spots for the veteran passer in 2024.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2023 record: 10-7

The Steelers have a crowded quarterback room right now, with Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph in tow. But I suspect Mike Tomlin is not over the moon about any of these options. Pittsburgh would be in a much different situation right now if he were. Tomlin wouldn’t start Rudolph -- who got on a hot streak, but also served as the third-stringer until late in the season and is the only one of the three set to enter free agency this offseason -- over a healthy Pickett if he were happy with his QB1, that’s for sure.

The Steelers have become a vertical passing team since Mike Sullivan took over as offensive play-caller. It's a system in which Rudolph has thrived; consider the deep shot he lofted to George Pickens on a 66-yard score in Week 16. This system would fit Wilson like a glove. Not only can he push the ball vertically, but he can also be the general for a team that is run-centric and has a good defense. It'd be Seattle all over again!

Wilson would need to compete with Pickett (a former first-round pick who, Tomlin says, is still the starter) for the No. 1 job, but I believe that kind of competition would get the most out of him. 

Washington Commanders
2023 record: 4-13

Whether or not Eric Bieniemy remains in Washington following the firing of head coach Ron Rivera, I could see Wilson fitting in pretty seamlessly with Sam Howell in that QB room -- even if the Commanders draft another quarterback. Howell and Wilson are similar quarterbacks whose games are built around mobility and arm talent. While Howell is more dynamic as a passer at this point in time, Wilson would bring the kind of experience Howell sorely lacks. The Commanders have a fine receiving duo (Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson) and a reliable running back (Brian Robinson). Bring on another QB competition! (You’ll see this is a recurring theme as we move through this list.)

Tennessee Titans
2023 record: 6-11

The Titans are amid a total rebuild after parting ways with Mike Vrabel. This organization is now in the business of selecting a new head coach, and it’d be wise to pick someone who can get the most out of the players on general manager Ran Carthon’s roster. Ryan Tannehill is a pending free agent, but Will Levis showed a lot of positives in his first year as a gifted, athletic passer who can rip it anywhere on the field. I see Wilson as an older version of Levis, and to me, that would make him a great guy to help Levis develop. The Titans also have decent components in the passing game with DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks and Chigoziem Okonkwo, though Carthon must retool the O-line.

If I’m Wilson, Tennessee is a second-tier option, given the overall state of the roster. But because of the chance to compete for the QB1 job with Levis, it wouldn’t be out of the question.

Chicago Bears
2023 record: 7-10

This all depends on what Chicago decides to do with Justin Fields. If the Bears use the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on a new quarterback and move on from Fields, they could use a veteran like Wilson to serve as a temporary option, giving the rookie time to develop and someone to help guide him. Wilson would be great in that scenario as an experienced player whom Matt Eberflus could trust to take care of the ball (which is what every defensive-minded coach wants in a QB). 

Atlanta Falcons
2023 record: 7-10

Atlanta is the second part of the Chicago equation. If Justin Fields becomes available, I think this franchise -- which is also searching for a new head coach after the firing of Arthur Smith -- should acquire him. He would thrive with Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson. But if the Falcons don’t land Fields, they'll need another quarterback option. Enter Wilson, whose skill set is similar to that of Atlanta QB Desmond Ridder. Again, putting the onus on Wilson to win the job would undoubtedly make him better. The Falcons' offense has no shortage of playmakers; they just need a quarterback to give them chances downfield. Wilson could do that.

New England Patriots
2023 record: 4-13

It's a new day in New England, with Jerod Mayo taking over for the legendary Bill Belichick. Wilson doesn’t necessarily fit the playing style we've seen in New England lately, but we also don't know who will serve as offensive coordinator under Mayo, or what kind of scheme that person will bring to the table. One thing seems certain: The Mac Jones/Bailey Zappe experience is over. New England has squeezed all of the juice it can out of those two. The Patriots are in position to potentially select a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick in April's draft, and Wilson -- whom Mayo actually faced on the field during his playing days -- could make sense as a bridge quarterback on a short-term basis. 

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