To say Denver Broncos country is unhappy with their quarterback play the last two seasons is a major understatement. With a Super Bowl caliber defense, the Broncos cannot afford to waste another year with pathetic quarterback play. With that in mind, the team has a few options that they can look into this offseason in terms of solving their quarterback woes.
Denver Broncos Quarterback Conundrum
Quarterback Already on the Roster
Bronco fans probably won’t want to hear this, but there is a possibility that the quarterback of the future may be on their roster already. With a powerhouse defense, the Broncos don’t need someone to put up 350 yards and four touchdowns per game on a regular basis.
Trevor Siemian seems like a great locker room presence, and he will make a solid career out of being a backup. He is just not cut out to be a starting quarterback in this league. He often looks at his primary read and if it’s not there, he will take a sack or force the ball into the tight hole and get intercepted. He lacks the confidence and poise to be a successful NFL quarterback. The Broncos would be smart to keep him on the roster as a backup, but there is no chance he will enter next season for the third straight year as the starter.
Next is Paxton Lynch. When the Broncos drafted him, all we heard is “just wait, in a couple years this guy will be the real deal.” Well it’s been two years, and there hasn’t been much “real deal” out of him. He is physically gifted but still has not adjusted to an NFL offense. He is uneasy in the pocket and just like Siemian, he is unable to look past his first read. His athleticism makes him a bigger threat once the protection breaks down but he is not quick enough to solely rely on his feet. He has shown no ability to look off safeties and therefore, is incredibly prone to turnovers, especially when throwing across the middle of the field. I don’t think the Broncos have seen enough good out of Paxton to even think he has the potential to be a franchise quarterback. The Broncos should consider playing him the last couple weeks of the year and hope he can build up some trade value.
Now it gets interesting. If someone told me at the beginning of the season that Brock Osweiler is the only possibility of a franchise quarterback on the Broncos roster, I would think they are crazy. Osweiler will never be an MVP type quarterback, but his game against the Colts is precisely why he was able to steal $72 million from the Texans. He has a solid arm, and when he is feeling confident, he can make all the throws. The thing with Osweiler is all about confidence. When he is feeling confident he looks like a franchise quarterback. He has solid footwork in the pocket, has the ability to go through his progression and can make both precision throws in tight spaces as well as timing routes. Most Bronco fans will not want to hear this, but if there is a long-term option at quarterback on this roster, it’s Osweiler. Now since most fans wouldn’t want that, what are the other options?
Quarterback in the Draft
If there is ever a good year to need a quarterback in the draft, this year seems like it. Now the Broncos end of season success has likely played them out of the top of the draft and therefore, it seems unlikely that they will be able to draft Sam Darnold out of USC or Josh Rosen out of UCLA. However, Elway is known for making big trades on draft day and could consider moving up if he falls in love with one of these signal callers. I think Rosen is the better option out of these two. He seems to be the best pure passer coming out of college since Andrew Luck. He is not nearly as polished as Luck, but his mechanics and throwing ability will make him an incredibly productive NFL quarterback. Rosen’s only weakness (other than occasional issues with accuracy) are his intangibles. Lately there have been rumblings out of UCLA that he is not a very good teammate or leader. If the Broncos are lucky enough to somehow draft Rosen, they have leaders already in their locker room who can mentor him. Since it seems unlikely that the Broncos will be able to draft Rosen, the more likely options are Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield.
Allen is another classic college quarterback prospect. He is incredibly raw but has all the physical tools required to be successful in the NFL (sound familiar anyone… a little too much like Paxton Lynch for me). He was incredibly underwhelming at Wyoming this year, but that can be attributed to their offense losing a whole host of players to the NFL last year. He has trouble with accuracy and will definitely have trouble adjusting to a primarily pro-style offense. If the Broncos do draft Allen, he will be a two-year project and will not be ready to start right away. Since the Broncos defense is in “win now” mode, I don’t think they can afford to waste two years hoping Allen develops into a franchise quarterback.
The better option may be Mayfield. He led Oklahoma to one of the best offensive seasons in college football history. Many would think that losing Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine and Dede Westbrook would hinder the Sooners offense, but instead they put up a historic season. Mayfield’s ceiling is Russell Wilson and his floor is Johnny Manziel. That is the definition of polarizing. He has incredible improvisational skills and can throw both in and outside the pocket. He has had some issues both on and off the field which many people think will eventually lead him down the same path as Manziel. I think that his utter love for football (see his post-benching press conference) is way more evident than Manziel’s. If he lands in the proper organization, he will become a great pro. He may be undersized, but his ability to move around in the pocket allows him so see past the line and still make all the throws. He is a very good decision maker and will not force throws into tight spots. He could fit very well into the Broncos offense with the current playmakers including Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. If Mayfield is available when the Broncos are in position to draft, I think they would be wise to grab him.
Sign or Trade for a Veteran Quarterback
With a defense that is in “win now” mode, the best move for the Broncos would be to acquire an already established veteran quarterback. There aren’t too many established players on the market, but there are a couple that may be available this offseason.
Firstly, Alex Smith seems on his way out of Kansas City. Despite his incredibly hot start to the year, he had a very pedestrian five-week stretch and it appears the Chiefs are ready to move onto Patrick Mahomes next year. Smith is not the type of quarterback that will consistently win you a shoot-out, but he may be the type player the Broncos need. He plays a relatively mistake-free brand of football. When the Broncos don’t turn the ball over and put their defense in precarious situations, they tend to win games. Smith is notorious for not trying to do too much and instead, lets the playmakers on offense do their thing. The Broncos have the players on offense that can make plays as long as the quarterback can get them the ball, which has been an issue the last couple years. Smith may not excite Bronco fans too much, but he may be the type of quarterback the Broncos need to put them back in the Super Bowl discussion.
Another veteran signal caller that the Broncos will likely target if he hits the open market is Kirk Cousins. For some reason, the Redskins have not signed Cousins to a long-term contract and instead they continue to use the franchise tag on him. If the Redskins decide to let Cousins test the market this off-season, the Broncos will definitely be on his short list.
Cousins is likely the best quarterback out of anyone discussed in this article. He is very accurate, consistently flirting with a 70 percent completion percentage. He is also efficient and relatively mistake-free. He has ranked top 10 in quarterback rating each of the last three years and is on pace to have his third straight season with 4,000 yards. He will never be considered in the same category as Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady but he has shown he has the ability to be a very effective NFL quarterback.
In the last three years Cousins has thrown 78 touchdowns and 32 interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes and totaling 12,700 yards. The Broncos quarterbacks in the last three years have thrown 56 touchdowns, 53 interceptions, a 59 percent completion percentage and just 10,500 yards. Cousins would be an incredible upgrade compared to the Broncos quarterback performance throughout the last three years. If the Redskins somehow let him go, the Broncos’ Super Bowl aspirations will be revived if they can sign him.
Elway has many decisions to make this offseason and deciding the quarterback of the future will be number one on his agenda. No matter what he decides, the Broncos cannot enter another season with uncertainty at the quarterback position. This team is too good defensively and at skill positions offensively to miss the playoffs. The Broncos are a franchise that is not satisfied with mediocrity and the addition of a franchise quarterback will once again make them Super Bowl contenders.