DENVER — Drew Lock and all those who fervently support him should not confuse the absence of a new Broncos quarterback to date as guarantee he will have his starting job back come week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.
“I don’t know about week 1,’’ Broncos general manager George Paton said at his first-ever pre-draft press conference Thursday at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. “We’re really high on Drew. I like seeing Drew here every morning when I come in. He’s working hard. He’s trending in the right direction.
“As you know he has a lot of talent. I think he’s becoming a better pro. But we’re still going to look at the quarterback position. I’ve said since I got here we want to bring in competition, and that’s the goal and we plan on doing that.”
Competition is coming. And with the NFL Draft commencing a week from today – and a domino trade market possibly coming soon after that – competition is coming soon.
An underwhelming free-agent quarterback class drew a pass from Paton. He was in on a trade for Matthew Stafford, who instead was dealt elsewhere, and there were discussions involving Carolina’s Teddy Bridgewater while legal issues have put Deshaun Watson’s trade market on pause.
Paton has done much to address other needs on the team, particularly on defense. But the quarterback position remains a point of anxiety in Broncos Country, particularly from those who want better than what Lock gave the team in 2020.
“Yeah, I understand it,’’ Paton said. “We do like Drew Lock. What we don’t want to do is force it and bring a guy in, overpay a guy and maybe he’s not as good as the guy we have. And maybe he’s not good enough to compete. We want to get the right guy. And we still have time. There’s a trade market. We have the draft. The landscape may change after the draft. A team draft’s one, maybe that (incumbent) quarterback is on the market.
“We’re going to be patient, not force it. We do realize we want competition and I’ve said that since I’ve gotten here and that hasn’t changed.”
Other topics Paton addressed Thursday:
*The top 5 quarterbacks in this draft are Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Lawrence is going No. 1 to Jacksonville and Wilson will go No. 2 to the Jets. There is widespread expectation Jones will go No. 3 to the 49ers. Paton was asked about Fields and Lance.
“They’re different. Both elite athletes. Both really strong arms. Both really talented, smart. They have all the intangibles you want in quarterbacks and in football players. You know, they’re raw a little bit but really high ceilings for both players.”
Paton was not asked about Mac Jones, who may not go No. 3 to the 49ers.
*On trading up from the Broncos’ No. 9 overall draft pick, or trading back: “We haven’t made any calls, yet, to move up. We’ve received calls to move back.’’ Paton added if he were to move up it probably wouldn’t happen until draft day, or next Thursday.
*Paton said he wouldn’t address whether to pick up Bradley Chubb’s $12.716 million fifth-year option or negotiate a long-term contract with receiver Courtland Sutton until after the draft.
"Two of our core guys,'' Paton said. "We want them here a long time.''
Expectation? It would be a surprise if the Broncos didn’t pick up the pass rusher Chubb’s option after he returned from his ACL surgery last year and stayed mostly healthy and productive. In Sutton’s case, though, it makes sense to first see how well he recovers from ACL surgery in 2021 before committing millions of dollars past this season.
*Paton said consultant/former GM John Elway “has played a great role” in the draft process. “He’s been a great resource for me. I’ve had him watching certain positions. He’s been in this role; I haven’t. So what a sounding board for me to have John right next door.”
*Paton has been encouraged so far by what he's seen from highly-paid, rarely-played right tackle Ja'Wuan James.
"He's been here. He's been working out. He looks great. The expectation is he starts at right tackle and plays well."
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