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Are the Denver Broncos built to win the Super Bowl next season?

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The Denver Broncos pulled off a franchise-altering trade early in the NFL offseason, acquiring star quarterback Russell Wilson and a mid-round pick for four early-round selections and three players.

It was a move general manager George Paton had to make in order to return Denver to relevance after missing out on the playoffs each of the past six seasons.

Led by former chief decision maker John Elway, the Broncos had existed in quarterback purgatory since Peyton Manning’s retirement following the 2015 season. Despite boasting one of the better defenses in the NFL during this span, an inability to compete with the big boys has impacted the Broncos.

Now, with Wilson in the mix, there’s every reason to believe that Denver has an opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl in 2022. Here’s why.

Related: Winners and losers from Russell Wilson blockbuster trade

Russell Wilson isn’t a mere difference maker for the Denver Broncos…

russell wilson gives denver broncos super bowl qb
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He’s a game changer. It’s pretty much that simple.

Prior to Wilson’s arrival with the Seahawks as a third-round pick back in 2012, that organization had earned seven playoff appearances in nearly a quarter century. That 24-year span also saw Seattle win double-digit games three times.

All Wilson did since coming from Wisconsin to the Pacific Northwest was lead the Seahawks to eight playoff appearances and eight double-digit win seasons.

Some will point to the presence of Pete Carroll in Seattle. Others will conclude that John Schneider built some solid draft classes early during his tenure as the Seahawks’ general manager. But Wilson was the one common denominator on the field.

He ends his Seahawks career having posted a 104-53-1 record in 10 seasons. For a Broncos organization that has won 49 games over the past six seasons, this is a game-changer in the truest definition of the term.

Related: Russell Wilson and NFL’s top QBs of 2022

It’s always been about the quarterback position in Denver

the denver broncos just went from drew lock to russell wilson
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After John Elway led the Broncos to the Lombardi in his final two NFL seasons (1997-98), the organization found itself in quarterback purgatory for the better part of the next 13 years. The likes of Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow got their chances under center.

The end result during this span was five playoff appearances and just one trip to the AFC Championship Game. Enter into the equation the addition of Peyton Manning ahead of the 2012 campaign.

In four seasons with Denver, the Hall of Fame quarterback led the team to two Super Bowl appearaces and a Lombardi Trophy. Following Manning’s retirement, it’s been pretty much a repeat of the post-Elway era in Mile High.

Denver Broncos quarterback stats 2016-21

  • 2016: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch (3,914 yards, 20 TD, 11 INT, 83.9 rating)
  • 2017: Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler (3,668 yards, 19 TD, 22 INT, 73.0 rating)
  • 2018: Case Keenum (3,930 yards, 19 TD, 15 INT, 82.1 rating)
  • 2019: Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen (3,401 yards, 16 TD, 10 INT, 84.1 rating)
  • 2020: Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien (3,673 yards, 21 TD, 23 INT, 72.5 rating)
  • 2021: Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock (3,856 yards, 20 TD, 9 INT, 91.7 rating)

That’s a whole lot of pedestrian right there. It’s almost as if the Broncos’ front office went into the lab and cloned the likes of Griese, Plummer, Orton and the legendary Tebow.

It’s not a coincidence that this organization had success with two Hall Of Famers in Elway and Manning. To expect anything different under yet another soon-to-be gold jacket wearer would be akin to burying your head in the sand.

The Denver Broncos offense is built to win now

NFL: Denver Broncos-Training Camp
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General manager George Paton knew this when he hired former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett to be the Broncos’ next head coach. At least initially, the idea was to land two-time reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in a trade with Green Bay. Once this became a mere pipe dream, Paton turned his attention to Mr. Wilson.

For good reason.

Denver has a strong pair of young wide receiver weapons in Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. Sutton recorded 1,112 yards as a sophomore back in 2019 before suffering a torn ACL early in the 2020 campaign. He returned to haul in 58 catches for 776 yards while catching passes from the likes of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock this past season.

As for Jeudy, he did miss seven games to injury as a sophomore in 2021. Despite this, the former top-15 pick from Alabama did see his catch rate increase from 46% as a rookie to 68% in 2021. Catching passes from a more-accurate Wilson will only prove to be a boon for him. Add in Tim Patrick (53 catches in 2021) and Wilson will have the necessary receivers to succeed in 2021.

Sure moving off leading receiver Noah Fant (68 catches in 2021) hurts the Broncos. However, they also have another pretty solid young tight end in Albert Okwuegbunam to pick up the slack. The former fourth-round pick from Missouri caught 83% of his 40 targets as a sophomore in 2021.

Related: Denver Broncos 2022 opponents

Meanwhile, youngster Javonte Williams will take over a lead back role after a solid rookie season. The North Carolina product tallied 1,219 total yards and seven touchdowns at a clip of 5.0 yards per touch as a rookie in 2021.

Sure there’s some issues along the offensive line with these Denver Broncos. That can’t be ignored. But for a quarterback in Wilson who was sacked more than any other player (427 times) during his 10-year run in Seattle, there’s more building blocks in Denver.

It’s all about the defense, baby

NFL: Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos
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Denver boasts studs on all levels of its defense. And in reality, this has been the case despite the team missing out on the playoffs each of the past six seasons. As the Broncos’ quarterback situation remained a complete trainwreck, this unit was doing its part to keep the boat afloat.

Back in 2016 when the Broncos went 9-7, this unit finished fourth in points allowed. That started a stretch in which Denver’s defense ranked in the top-10 in points allowed four times during a six-year span.

There’s absolutely no reason to believe that this iteration of the Broncos’ defense will be any less. Edge rusher Bradley Chubb joins defensive backs Patrick Surtain II and Justin Simmons as Pro Bowl-caliber players on this unit. That’s a nice trio to build with moving forward. Heck, franchise legend Von Miller could end up returning to the Broncos after a mere 12-game stint with Los Angeles following an in-season trade in 2021.

Related: Russell Wilson and NFL’s highest-paid QBs

Bottom line: These Denver Broncos are legit Super Bowl contenders

NFL: Denver Broncos-Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett Press Conference
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Giving up two first-round picks and two second-round selections would seem to handcuff a team once the NFL Draft comes calling.

That won’t be the case for Denver. Notice how we mentioned the Von Miller trade? Well, these Broncos received second and third-round picks in 2022 from Los Angeles for the future Hall of Famer.

This will give general manager George Paton ample opportunity to mix in some youth with some of the veterans Denver might want to add during free agency.

That’s our final point when drawing this determination. Russell Wilson is a game-changer for the Denver Broncos. That will include veterans wanting to join him in Mile High as a way to compete for a Super Bowl. It’s no different than when Tom Brady turned in his New England Patriots jersey for Tampa Bay Buccaneers gear ahead of the 2020 season.

Wilson comes with a mere $24 million cap hit in 2022. This leaves Denver with a projected $26 million to spend under the cap. It can save another $28-plus million by restructuring the contracts of Garett Bolles, Justin Simmons and Courtland Sutton. Heck, re-working Wilson’s deal will save another $12 million or so.

Paton has wriggle room. He has a franchise quarterback. The general manager still boasts capital in the 2022 NFL Draft. Barring some sort of a meltdown from a front office standpoint, these Broncos are set up to compete for a trip to next year’s Super Bowl.

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