What did Broncos’ last two games say about Jarrett Stidham and quarterback outlook for 2024?

LAS VEGAS — The conclusion of the Jarrett Stidham experiment wasn’t pretty.

Down 14 with 1:08 left against the Raiders, Stidham’s pass to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy fluttered inside Allegiant Stadium before it was picked off by safety Tre’von Moehrig, solidifying a 27-14 loss on Sunday afternoon.

When Stidham replaced nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson as the Broncos’ starting quarterback Russell Wilson, head coach Sean Payton hoped the move would ignite the offense. Stidham had his moments. He threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey against the Chargers in Week 17. And against the Raiders, he connected with Jeudy for a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

But overall, he wasn’t the “spark” the Broncos were searching for. Denver averaged 15 points over the final two weeks, with 14- and 17-point outings standing as the Broncos’ two lowest scoring outputs since their 1-5 start. The Broncos were knocked out of playoff contention and Sunday’s loss secured their seventh straight losing season.

Payton thought Stidham, who threw for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception, battled, but the coach didn’t provide a clear indication as to whether the last two starts were enough.

“I mean, you evaluate everything — practice snaps, training camp, preseason and regular season — for all these guys,” Payton said. “But this wasn’t about trying to get a look at Jarrett. It was about trying to win.”

Payton said the offseason will involve “a lot of work.” The quarterback position will certainly demand the most attention.

Whether Stidham showed enough to be in consideration for the starting job next season or not, he could be the best option, given the current landscape of the team. If it cuts Wilson, Denver would be forced to eat $85 million in dead cap money.

The free-agent market isn’t pretty, either. Perhaps, the best quarterback who will be available is Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins — a 35-year-old veteran who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in October.

Regardless, the Broncos likely won’t have the cap room to sign any big names.

Denver could go the route of signing someone cheap like Indianapolis’ Gardner Minshew or reunite Payton with New Orleans backup Jameis Winston. But would those players be an improvement from Wilson, who threw for 3,070 yards and 26 touchdowns?

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