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Zach Wilson trade grades: Jets trade QB to Broncos days ahead of 2024 NFL Draft

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By Cody Benjamin

Almost exactly three years after selecting him No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets are officially parting ways with quarterback Zach Wilson, trading the much-maligned signal-caller to the Denver Broncos, CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones confirms.

Wilson, 24, had been on the market since the start of the 2024 offseason, with general manager Joe Douglas openly indicating the team would look to move the former first-rounder. Now, he's headed to Denver along with a 2024 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2024 sixth-rounder, per NFL Media, with the two sides agreeing to split Wilson's guaranteed roster bonus for training camp.

The Broncos had been in dire need of quarterback reinforcements, releasing veteran starter Russell Wilson ahead of free agency and approaching the draft with Jarrett Stidham atop the depth chart. Denver could still be in the market for an early-round investment at the position in the 2024 draft, owning the No. 12 overall pick.

The Jets, meanwhile, effectively signaled the end of Wilson's career when they signed journeyman Tyrod Taylor to serve as Aaron Rodgers' top backup earlier this offseason. Rodgers was acquired from the Green Bay Packers last offseason, replacing Wilson after just two seasons with the BYU product under center. And even though Rodgers missed most of 2023 with an Achilles tear, Wilson would later be demoted as the replacement.

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 17: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets looks to pass during the first half of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 17, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Megan Briggs / Getty Images

Well-regarded for his off-script athleticism coming out of college, Wilson struggled to find rhythm as a starter with the Jets, completing just 57% of his passes, with 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions, across 34 total games. In Denver, he'll be tentatively slated to compete with Stidham for the top job, though the Broncos' upcoming draft-day decisions could affect his place in the pecking order.

Here's how we'd grade the Wilson trade at this juncture:

Broncos: C+

Look, swapping late-rounders isn't giving up much, so as a low-risk, high-upside bet, there's not much to critique here. Denver needed quarterback help in the worst way, and while Wilson projects more as a developmental reserve, he at least adds some theoretical upside to a mostly barren room. But if this move in any way steers them away from a full pursuit of an actual long-term answer in the 2024 draft, then we've got bigger problems. Maybe Sean Payton can squeeze some juice from Wilson's lively but erratic arm, but then again, maybe they should've also just paid this price -- or more -- for a more proven castoff like Justin Fields.

Jets: D+

They weren't going to go back to Wilson again, and everyone anticipated his eventual exit, a la Mac Jones and Sam Howell earlier this offseason. So getting literally anything in return is a "win." But still, on these deals, the dealing team can hardly be credited. This makes two straight quarterbacks the Jets have drafted in the top three and then dumped three years later. Is that a case of two sour signal-callers, or a sour organization? Probably a little bit of both, but either way, New York just needs Aaron Rodgers to pan out so they can forget all about it.  

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