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9 quarterback options for Broncos in 2022

One guess as to option No. 1. But a "bridge" QB and drafting a quarterback with the No. 9 overall pick is also a possibility.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Now that Nathaniel and the No Names (apologies to Tyrone Wheatley and Dom Capers) have moved in to become the Broncos’ new coaching staff, focus upstairs at team headquarters turns to giving them a better roster to coach.

Contrary to the oft-stated, oversimplified narrative, quarterback hasn’t been the Broncos only problem the past six years. Peyton Manning was the 35th ranked passer (out of 35) while throwing just 9 touchdowns against 17 interceptions in 2015. And the Broncos still won the Super Bowl.

It says here Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater could have all been more successful with a little more talent around them. Still, if the Broncos are to climb out of their five-year, 30-51 rut, upgrading the quarterback position is a good place to start.

Broncos general manager George Paton, with help from his GM assistant Darren Mougey and head coach Nathaniel Hackett, has three ways he can go with the quarterback position.

One, he can go big and make a blockbuster trade for a superstar who is capable of carrying a team.

Two, he can go for an above-average/not great quarterback who wouldn’t require such a sacrifice in draft picks.

Three, he can acquire a veteran “bridge” quarterback while using his No. 9 overall draft pick on one of the top 3 quarterback prospects.

As you'll see, standing pat is not an option.

The three categories, as we see it, provides 9 different options for Paton and the Broncos, Nathaniel and the No Names.


Credit: AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Aaron Rodgers reacts after throwing a touchdown pass during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Dec 25. 2021.

1. Aaron Rodgers

While this may be the most preferred option, it may not be the most likely. Rodgers has to first decide he wants to be traded. If he chooses to stay in Green Bay on a reworked contract, the Broncos move instantly to option 2 (which seems even more far-fetched, as you will read).

Paton is methodical and collaborative when it comes to making big decisions and he could talk himself out of pursuing a Rodgers’ trade if he first considers the Broncos’ roster needs significant repair before it’s ready to compete for a Super Bowl, not just at the quarterback position. And if that’s the case, is it wise to give up, say, two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks, and possibly Pat Surtain II or Jerry Jeudy for a quarterback who turns 39 with six games remaining in the 2022 season and would cost $45 million a year?

Then again, Paton may have no choice because Rodgers is really the only passer who could give the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes a run as the AFC West’s best quarterback. This division also includes the Chargers’ ascending star Justin Herbert and the Raiders’ consistently top 12-caliber Derek Carr. The Broncos need Rodgers just to make it a fair fight, especially against Kansas City, which has won 13 in a row against Denver, a run that dates back to week 2 of the 2015 season.

And regardless of Rodgers’ age, he is at the top of his game, winning the league’s last two MVP awards and throwing – get this -- 136 touchdowns against 15 interceptions the past four seasons. Compare that to Drew Lock, who has 18 touchdown passes against 17 interceptions the past two seasons.

If Rodgers decides to leave Green Bay he’d likely have a say in where he wants to finish out of his career. While he would no longer be lured to Colorado because of his Boulder-connected fiancé Shailene Woodley – the couple reportedly have broke off their relationship – the Broncos do have Nathaniel Hackett, a coaching favorite of Rodgers the past three years at Green Bay.

Hackett is bringing the Packers’ West Coast offense to Denver, meaning the old quarterback wouldn’t have to learn a new offense here, as Rodgers would if he went somewhere else.

Bottom line, if Rodgers requests a trade, Paton has to go all-in. If Rodgers stays in Green Bay, it’s on to option 2 for Paton.

Credit: AP Foto/Chris Szagola

2. Russell Wilson/Tom Brady/Deshaun Watson

At the moment, there has been no buzz about Wilson wanting a trade out of Seattle, as was briefly the case last offseason. But after Rodgers, Wilson is the QB who could sit in behind Mahomes as the division's second-best QB. And at 33, he would give the Broncos a longer-term solution than Rodgers. 

There is very little indication Tom Brady will abruptly end his retirement and return to play at 45 years old. And even if he did, he is still under contract through the 2022 season with Tampa Bay.

And there also isn’t much indication Deshaun Watson will resolve the 22 cases of sexual misconduct levied against him in civil court. The Broncos nor seemingly any other team will consider acquiring Watson from Houston until the disturbing cases against him are resolved in a manner that would be satisfactory to league and team officials. And even if Watson resolves his cases tomorrow, it’s unlikely the Broncos would pursue him without consent from their owner – who is currently an unknown investor and at least four months away from having an agreement in principle to buy the team.

All the option 2 quarterbacks have longer odds than option 1, which is why the Broncos have to make a bold move on Rodgers provided he becomes available.


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 31, 2017.

3. Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers quarterback is separated from the others in this category because Garoppolo is the most assured of going on the trading block after San Francisco traded up to the No. 3 draft slot to take Trey Lance. Garoppolo has one more year and $25.55 million left on his contract. While he’s not a top 10 quarterback in part because he’s struggled to stay healthy, Garoppolo has posted a 37-16 career record that includes four playoff wins.

He possibly could be had for a second- and third-round draft pick – which the Broncos have extra in each round thanks to their Von Miller trade on Nov. 1.

4. Kyler Murray/Jalen Hurts/Jordan Love

These are younger quarterbacks who would be considered long-term solutions should they become available. Which again, is very much in doubt in each case. Murray is a sensational talent who can singlehandedly dominate a game, but is also erratic with his passing accuracy. And, yes, he’s small by NFL quarterback standards.

Hurts has a chance to eventually become a top 12 QB but he, too, has experienced growing pains. He would only become available if the Eagles draft a quarterback with either their No. 15 or 16 overall selections. And even then, the Eagles may keep Hurts for another year as a bridge.

Love, the Packers’ controversial first-round selection in 2020, would only become available if Rodgers decides to stay in Green Bay on a two- or three-year, fully guaranteed contract extension. Love’s offensive coordinator the past two years was Hackett, and the Broncos’ new head coach has shown through his staff hirings that he prefers to work with people he’s worked with before.


Credit: AP
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

5. Baker Mayfield/Kirk Cousins

Mayfield suddenly is more likely to be traded than Cousins -- Mayfield because of reported tensions with his head coach Kevin Stefanski while Cousins should be energized by the Vikings replacing old-school defensive-minded Mike Zimmer as head coach with much younger, offensive-minded Kevin O’Connell, who comes directly from the Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams and their offensive head coach Sean McVay.

Mayfield and Cousins are vulnerable to a possible trade because they are entering the final year of their contracts – Mayfield will receive $18.86 million as a fifth-year option; Cousins will get a whopping $35 million guaranteed.

Mayfield had a good third season in 2020 while leading the Browns to an 11-5 record and first-round playoff win but struggled last year while playing through a left shoulder injury that was repaired by surgery a month ago.

Cousins has always been a .500 quarterback with nice stats – he is 59-59-2 lifetime with 223 touchdown passes against 91 interceptions. Cousins will play at 34 years old this season.

Both of these quarterbacks would give the Broncos renewed excitement for 2022 but you wouldn’t give either the keys to your future. You would have them start in 2022, but use that No. 9 pick on a quarterback who would develop for a year.

Credit: AP
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) warms up before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

6. Jameis Winston/Teddy Bridgewater

These are the top two quarterbacks in free agents. Winston, still only 28 years old, was on his way to resurrecting his career with New Orleans last year, posting a 5-2 record with 14 touchdown passes – 5 in a season-opening 38-3 rout of Rodgers’ Packers – against just three interceptions. However, Winston suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee early in the Saints’ game 7 win against Tampa Bay.

He was very good through a 3-0 start in which he completed 76.8 percent of his passes with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. But he wasn’t the same after suffering a first-half concussion in game 4 against Baltimore. A second concussion knocked him out of the final three games of the season. It is unlikely Bridgewater would return in light of the Broncos’ near complete overhaul of their coaching staff.


Credit: AP
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) passes against Clemson during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

7. Kenny Pickett

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Pickett has the most prototype NFL quarterback build of the top three prospects. Had a great, fifth-year senior season at Pitt, going 11-2 with 42 touchdown passes against just 7 interceptions before making a business decision to skip the bowl game.

But it’s a bit tricky evaluating a fifth-year senior who turns 24 in June compared to someone like Sam Howell, who is coming out after his true junior season and doesn’t turn 22 until mid-September. But that’s why the Broncos pay Paton the big bucks.

Credit: AP
Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (7) sets up to pass against Mississippi during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Willis is set to lead Liberty against Eastern Michigan in the Lending Tree Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

8. Malik Willis

After transferring from Auburn, where he was a two-year backup, to Liberty, where he was a two-year starter, Willis made the most of his opportunity by becoming the top pass-run quarterback prospect in the draft. Threw for 47 touchdowns against 18 interceptions in his two seasons at Liberty while rushing for a combined 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns. On the smallish side at a tick above 6-foot, 220. 

Credit: AP
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell (7) plays in an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

9. Sam Howell

He has been watched closely by NFL scouts since his superb true freshman season of 2019, when he threw for 3,641 yards, 39 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. But that turned out to be the best of Howell’s three seasons for the Tar Heels. He missed his 1-2 running back punch of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams in 2021 as North Carolina finished a disappointing 6-7. Although Howell’s passing numbers slipped to 24 TDs and 9 INTs, his rushing production increased dramatically to 828 yards and 11 touchdowns. On the smallish side at a tick above 6-foot, 221.

Others: Drew Lock, Carson Wentz, Matt Corral/Desmond Ridder/Carson Strong

Lock got his chance with 21 starts for the Broncos and while the potential is there for him to one day click into a consistently good NFL starter, it’s hard to believe Hackett won’t want his own quarterback.

If Frank Reich couldn’t get Wentz to the playoffs, it’s unlikely anybody can. Corral, Ridder and Strong could each come into play with the Broncos’ No. 40 overall pick in the second round.

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