Zach Wilson (for grades) [608x342]
Zach Wilson (for grades) [608x342] (Credit: Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire)

Vanderbilt hoops transfer Lubin commits to UNC

On Monday afternoon, the New York Jets traded quarterback Zach Wilson and a seventh-round pick (No. 256) in this year's draft to the Denver Broncos for the Broncos' sixth-round selection this year (No. 203).

This marks the end of a tumultuous three-year run for Wilson in New York and gives him a fresh start with coach Sean Payton and the Broncos, who could use a long-term solution at quarterback after releasing Russell Wilson this past offseason. But can Zach Wilson provide that? Seth Walder dove into the deal and handed out grades for each team, factoring in on-field impact, overall value for each side, the salary cap situations, and the context of each team's short- and long-term outlooks. Plus, Matt Miller spun the trade forward to this week's draft and what it means for Denver. Let's get to it.

See more grades from NFL free agency (ESPN+)

Grading the Broncos-Jets trade for Wilson

Given how Wilson's Jets career unfolded -- he recorded a 34.1 QBR over three seasons and was benched after playing in relief of Aaron Rodgers in 2023 -- it's no surprise he was dealt for light compensation this offseason. Wilson never lived up to his promise as the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft. No matter how you slice it, the numbers were ugly. Wilson started 33 games in three seasons for the Jets, recording a minus-6% completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) in that time, per NFL Next Gen Stats data (although that did improve each year and was only minus-1% in 2023).

The basic counting numbers were just as bad. Wilson never recorded 10 passing touchdowns in a season, averaged just 5.1 yards per dropback over the past three years (second worst among qualifying quarterbacks, ahead of only the Panthers' Bryce Young), and was sacked at a very high 10% clip. It was a disaster, and it was time for all to move on.

In addition to the sixth- and seventh-round pick swap, the Jets and Broncos are splitting Wilson's 2024 compensation, paying $2.75 million each. The Jets are not getting much for their former No. 2 pick, but it's also not nothing -- especially since cutting Wilson had to be in consideration for the Jets. Now they got to move up late in the draft and any money Denver is paying is money the Jets will save.

So why is Denver making this move? There is an argument that Wilson is only 24 years old and has played in pretty awful situations in his young career. With time and better surroundings, could he grow? Given how poorly he has played, I think it's unlikely, but not impossible, that he could turn into a useful player for Denver.

And from the Broncos' perspective, why not? While most expect the Broncos to select a quarterback in this week's draft, there's no way to know how that will pan out. As it stands, Denver's quarterbacks are Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci. If the Broncos get shut out of the draft, it makes sense to roster QBs with even a sliver of upside.

This deal is a good one for Wilson. He lands in a place where it's not totally inconceivable he could be the Week 1 starter -- let alone get on the field at some point -- and gets to play under Payton, a near-certain upgrade from much-maligned Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. -- Walder

Grade for the Broncos: B Grade for the Jets: B What does the deal mean for the draft?

The addition of Wilson should not in any way change the Broncos' plans to add a quarterback in the 2024 draft. Wilson, who has shown repeatedly that he is not a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL, should be viewed as a bridge option who can compete with Stidham and whichever QB the Broncos are able to add early in this year's class.

Sitting at No. 12 in the first round, the Broncos are still contenders to select a signal-caller -- and potentially even to trade up for one -- especially if Michigan's J.J. McCarthy begins to slide down the board. Oregon's Bo Nix and Washington's Michael Penix Jr. remain in play for them, too, as they look to find a long-term franchise-level passer for Payton. -- Miller