clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No matter who wins the QB battle, John Elway got a steal

John Elway has played his cards right at the game’s most important position

NFL: Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve often said, in the NFL, roster building is all about getting more than what you pay for. Maximizing value is the ultimate goal of GMs around the league.

Can you get 1st round production from a 5th rounder? Can you get the equivalent of $15M worth of play from someone making $5M? The answers to these questions often determine who comes out on top. The perennial contenders are those that consistently get more than what they pay for, either in the draft or in free agency.

Given that, no position ties up more cap space or takes more draft capital than the QB position. Denver was lucky for the few years that Peyton Manning was under center that they got more than what they paid for nearly every season he was here. Fast forward to Peyton’s retirement and Denver’s subsequent QB search, and the price could have been much higher to find the QB of the future than what Denver has currently paid.

This really struck me when I started thinking about these past few draft classes and the amount of draft capital that teams are giving up for even a chance at the next franchise guy.

Here’s a list of what some teams have spent to acquire a QB, since Manning retired:

QB Draft Spending Chart

Who Who They Got What They Spent
Who Who They Got What They Spent
Rams Jared Goff - Pick No. 1 in 2016 » 2016 First-round pick (No. 15)
» 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 113) » 2016 second-round pick (No. 43)
» 2016 sixth-round pick (No. 177) » 2016 second-round pick (No. 45)
» 2016 third-round pick (No. 76)
» 2017 first-round pick
» 2017 third-round pick
Eagles Carson Wentz - Pick No. 2 in 2016 » 2016 first-round pick (No. 8)
» 2017 fourth-round pick » 2016 third-round pick (No. 77)
» 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 100)
» 2017 first-round pick
» 2018 second-round pick
» Byron Maxwell
» Kiko Alonso
Vikings Sam Bradford » 2017 first-round pick
» 2018 fourth-round pick (potentially 2nd or 3rd conditionally)
» $7M in 2016 cap hit
» $18M in 2017 cap hit
49ers Mitchell Trubisky - Pick No. 2 in 2017 » 2017 first-round pick (No. 3)
» 2017 third-round pick (No. 67)
» 2017 fourth-round pick (No. 111)
» 2018 third-round pick
Chiefs Patrick Mahomes - Pick No. 10 in 2017 » 2017 first-round pick (No. 27)
» 2017 third-round pick (No. 91)
» 2018 first-round pick
Texans Brock Osweiler - 2016 (no longer on the team) » $12M cap hit in 2016
» 2017 fourth-round pick (No. 142) » $9M dead money in 2017
» 2017 sixth-round pick (No. 188 overall)
» 2018 second-round pick
DeShaun Watson - Pick No. 12 in 2017 » 2017 first-round pick (No. 25)
» 2018 first-round pick
Denver Paxton Lynch - Pick No. 26 in 2016 » 2016 first-round pick (No. 31)
» 2016 third-round pick (No. 94)
Trevor Siemian » 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 250)
Dallas Dak Prescott - Pick No. 135 in 2016 » 2016 fourth-round pick
» $20.8M cap hit in 2016
» $10.7M dead money in 2017 (Tony Romo)
» $8.9M dead money in 2018 (Tony Romo)

Teams seem to more and more be opting to draft a young (cheap) QB to either start right away or eventually replace their incumbent, as opposed to signing a ho-hum veteran journeyman. Except, that strategy gets expensive.

Look at the list above. The amount of draft capital spent to trade up for guys that statistically are more likely to flame out than amount to anything at the game’s most important position is astounding.

Compared to the other teams, the fact that Denver has spent just a 1st, 3rd and 7th round pick over two years and has two potential starting QBs shows how good a job Elway has done in this area.

The only other team that comes close on that chart is Dallas who struck gold with Dak Prescott, but they are still contending with Tony Romo’s dead money and will be for two more years.

Denver is unique in that they aren’t committing a lot of cap space to the QB position, but haven’t committed a large amount of draft capital either, compared to the teams from the first chart making desperate moves.

If you take a look at the chart above taken from the Inside the Pylon Draft Guide (go purchase your copy here), you can see where Denver falls compared to the rest of the league, with the amount of cap space allocated to the QB position on the vertical axis, and the amount of draft capital spent on the horizontal.

Notice that other than the 49ers, Denver has lowest investment in the QB position in the league (since this was a snapshot before the draft, Chicago and Houston would be much further to the right now).

Denver is also unique in the fact that they are the only team on the bottom half of the graph (drafting vs. paying their QB) who hasn’t had a losing season in the last three years.

Now, all of this would be disconcerting if we didn’t feel confident in our two young QBs, but the way John Elway has been lukewarm on veterans like Colin Kaepernick and Tony Romo indicates that he and the coaching staff believe one of these guys could potentially be their QB of the future.

If it turns out that way, Denver will have gotten away with highway robbery compared to what other teams have paid, and they haven’t even had to endure a losing season to get there.