ENGLEWOOD - They are a team with many needs and yet there may be but one need.
There is no way Broncos general manager John Elway would want a quarterback competition for a third training camp in a row. He is expected to make finding a no-doubter-starting quarterback a priority this offseason.
Not that Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler were the primary problem with the 2017 Broncos.
They would have played much better had there been stronger protection on the right side, more consistency from his receivers, running game and kickers, and a more dependable defense.
There are so many issues confronting the Broncos as they take a season-crushing, six-game losing streak into their game today against the Oakland Raiders, their team slogan should be: Wait till the year after next!
It’s just that an elite quarterback can be the No. 1 solution. An elite quarterback can mask deficiencies. An elite quarterback is the shortcut to the Broncos rebounding in 2018.
No more training camp uncertainty. The Broncos must know their starting quarterback no later than Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft.
I say there’s an 85 percent chance the Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2018 is currently not on their roster.
The best bet is Elway tries to sign one of The Big Four potential free agents: Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins or Alex Smith.
If he strikes out there, he could have a top 5 draft pick and try, try again to get the right guy.
Here’s a breakdown of where the Broncos will find their 2018 starting quarterback this offseason:
Veteran QB not on roster (55 percent)
Elway just went two seasons trying to win while developing young quarterbacks. It hasn’t worked out.
The natural reaction is to go back to an established quarterback. No one other than Tom Brady is more established than Drew Brees. I’d be surprised if Brees, who turns 39 in January, is not Elway’s first choice.
It worked with Peyton Manning. Brees is close thing to No. 18, although he would be three years older than when Manning signed up with the Broncos in 2012.
With Matthew Stafford the highest-paid quarterback with an average salary of $27 million a year, the Broncos may have to offer $30 million a year, for at least three years, to land Brees, who may or may not be allowed by the New Orleans Saints to reach free agency.
But if he gets there, Elway should go after him.
Free agents (51 percent): Jimmy Garoppolo (end of rookie contract), Drew Brees ($13 million in 2017 cash), Kirk Cousins ($23.4 million), Alex Smith ($13.3 million), Sam Bradford ($18 million), Teddy Bridgewater (end of rookie contract), Josh McCown ($8 million), and Jay Cutler (Noooo! $10 million) are among those who are about to hit the market, providing they don’t receive an extension with their current clubs. (Smith has one year left on his contract, but even he has stated he doesn't expect to return to Kansas City next year after the team drafted Patrick Mahomes II in first round this year).
The Big Four would be Brees, Garoppolo, Smith and Cousins. The Broncos would have to be in play for one of those.
Trade (4 percent): Brady (two more years, $30 million), Philip Rivers (two more years, $31 million), Eli Manning (two more years, $33 million), Ryan Tannehill (three more years, $18.6 million average) would be worth a look.
Why not dream big? Brady will be 41 next year. New England czar Bill Belichick has a history of getting rid of his better players a year too soon. I think Brady is a year away from year-too-soon consideration but, you know, in case Belichick drops an offseason stunner, Elway is already on record saying he believes Brady is the best quarterback of all-time.
Top 10 draft pick (30 percent): If the Broncos land Brees, Cousins, Garoppolo or Smith, they probably wouldn’t take a quarterback with their top 10 pick. They could go offensive tackle again, pass rusher or cornerback.
If they don’t land one of the Big Four free-agent quarterbacks, then Elway, top lieutenant Matt Russell, scouting consultant Gary Kubiak, head coach Vance Joseph and college scouting director A.J. Durso would have no choice but to take advantage of their high-draft standing and attempt to take the correct quarterback.
Any lower than a top 10 and the Broncos are not likely to go there as they just tried with Paxton Lynch at pick No. 26 and he didn’t come along as quickly as hoped.
We’ll see if he can change the thinking in the final six games of the season.
But at this point, the Broncos are virtually certain to get a top 10 pick.
Keep in mind, a 6-10 record picked 8th overall last year (Carolina, Christian McCaffrey) and one of the 7-9 teams picked 10th (Buffalo, although it was traded to Kansas City, which took quarterback Patrick Mahomes II).
The Broncos at 3-7 are currently tied for the league’s fourth-worst record. And they are trending the wrong way.
The top 10-caliber quarterback pool includes USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and possibly Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, who has got a chance to become either the next Deshaun Watson or DeShone Kizer.
I love Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, but the Broncos already have a fiery, winning prospect on the relatively short side in Chad Kelly. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is terrific but he could be one of those college-system guys. Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson and Washington State’s Luke Falk are also high-round prospects.
Paxton Lynch (9 percent): He’s got the ball and he’s a first-round draft pick who would be entering his third season, so he does have a chance.
His competition in these final six games is not Siemian or Osweiler, but Brees, Cousins, Rosen, Mayfield … you get the idea.
Even if the Broncos do sign a Brees or Cousins, it would make sense to keep Lynch as a backup and let him continue to develop for his fourth or fifth seasons.
Trevor Siemian (5 percent): He has one more year left on his contract at a team-favorable, $705,000 salary, so he could return as a quality No. 2 if he’s not traded. And he would have much better value than where he was selected with the seventh-round, No. 250 overall pick in 2015.
If the Broncos wind up with a first-round, top 10 pick rookie quarterback, they might not want to start him right away. In this scenario, there is a chance Siemian could start the season.
Brock Osweiler (1 percent): A free agent after this season and the chances are slim the Broncos would re-sign him. He gets the slightest of odds, though, in case the Broncos decide to move on from both Lynch and Siemian after they take a first-round quarterback.
Chad Kelly (0 percent): After essentially redshirting his rookie season to recover from wrist and knee injuries, Kelly won’t be under consideration to start next year, but he will have a chance to compete for the No. 2 or 3 role.
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