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Broncos free agency: Drew is QB Lock — at least until next week

New Broncos General Manager George Paton figures to at least add a proven veteran QB as competition.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos headquarters belongs to Drew Lock.

He is the quarterback, and nothing but. By all accounts, he shows up early, leaves late, gets his workout in -- and it’s still the early part of the offseason.

Drew Lock is the man with the quarterback swag.

The question is: Will he be the man and still have his swag come next week?

The answer: Lock will lose zero swag – his confidence, whether warranted or not, is unshakable. However, he most likely will have to re-earn the right to be the man.

New general manager George Paton promises to either trade for, or sign, a veteran quarterback with starting experience to compete with Lock. At the very least, Lock will have to compete for his starting job in 2021. He simply didn’t play well enough in 2020 to keep it without a threat.

As a second-year quarterback in 2020, Lock was given every chance. Even when he wasn’t playing well, head coach Vic Fangio never pulled him. It was Lock or bust in 2020. But the Broncos finished 5-11 and Lock wound up ranked No. 32 in passer rating among qualified quarterbacks.

It won’t be Lock or bust in 2021. Paton already tried to acquire Matthew Stafford in a trade but Detroit sent him to the Rams instead. It may be Lock to start. But if he busts, the Broncos want a proven alternative to play instead.

With the free agency negotiating period beginning Monday, 9NEWS concludes its Broncos free-agent series with a look at its quarterback situation.

Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel, from right, watch during the NFL football team's practice Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Englewood, Colo.

What they have: Backup Brett Rypien did well enough in putting up 37 points while winning his NFL starting debut against the Jets that he should have got another look. He may not be very big, or have a big arm, or great mobility. But he could have improved the offense’s snap-to-snap operations through huddle management, pre-snap reads and audible checks.

Jeff Driskel was signed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the idea of being Lock’s no-threat back up. But if/when the Broncos do add another quarterback this offseason, Driskel may be vulnerable.

Credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) passes against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston.

The unknown: Star quarterback Deshaun Watson is demanding a trade out of Houston but so far the Texans are not accommodating him. And here it is a few days away from the start of free agency. If Watson is placed on the trade market, the Broncos figure to make their pitch and Watson figures to listen. But that’s nothing but talk until Watson actually becomes available.

Watson aside, the Broncos’ great unknown in 2021 is, ‘Can Lock improve to a middle-of-the-pack (14th to 18th best) NFL starting QB in 2021?’

Possible free agent help: Teddy Bridgewater is available for trade and so might Jimmy Garoppolo and Sam Darnold. The free-agent market includes the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Jameis Winston, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton and Alex Smith.

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