When John Elway passed on Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson in the 2018 Draft he gave a huge vote of confidence to the newly signed Case Keenum and embattled “franchise” QB Paxton Lynch. The selections of Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton and Royce Freeman are a sure sign that Elway is serious about contending now and that he believes Case Keenum is the QB to take Denver back to the Superbowl.
But what if the wheels fall off again?
What if the Keenum is the player who threw all of 24 touchdowns over the length of his 7-year career before 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings and not the guy who pulled off a Minnesota Miracle? After all, Josh McCown once had a pretty magical run in relief of Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 33 touchdowns for the 2015 New York Jets. I’m rooting for Keenum’s success as much as the next guy, but incredible career seasons from journeyman quarterbacks aren’t as rare as you’d think.
If Elway is left looking for a QB once again in 2019, what options are in front of him?
The Veteran Market
The reigning Super Bowl MVP and current NFL darling may find himself starting in relief of Carson Wentz once more this fall as the Eagles franchise QB could hit a snag or two in his recovery from injury. Such an opportunity could be a mixed blessing for Foles, who’s stock is sky high right now. Still, starting on a loaded roster is a pretty good way to cash in on a contract year.
The former Minnesota Viking may yet find himself on this years market with the New York Jets selection of Sam Darnold. Bridgewater was once considered a rising star before a gruesome leg injury caused him to essentially miss the last 2 seasons. At just 26 years old he could still yet develop into an answer for someone. His 2015 season was pretty spectacular, when he led the league in Pro Football Focus’ Adjusted Completion Percentage.
There’s a history with Gary Kubiak and Taylor that can’t be ignored. When Taylor came into the league he fell to the 6th round of the draft because he was considered a run first QB who couldn’t read coverages, only to himself a home in Baltimore while Kubes was the OC. Once his rookie contract ended he wound up in Buffalo on one of the most team friendly deals in the league, only to find himself benched for a rookie Nathan Peterman, who threw 5 interceptions. Taylor was then traded to the Cleveland Browns for a 3rd round pick and looks likely to play stopgap for their new franchise guy, Baker Mayfield.
Theoretically, the 2018 Browns present a great opportunity for Taylor. Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon are legitimate targets, something that can’t be said for the 2017 Bills receiving corps. and a coach in Hue Jackson who was once considered a QB whisperer. Still, we all know how these things play out in reality. The first time Cleveland has a losing streak (and the Jackson-era Browns have won 1 game since 2015) the calls for Baker will start. Chances Taylor is starting into November are pretty slim, so Elway could find a huge bargain next spring.
Fitzpatrick is far from my first choice, but the current Buccaneers backup QB has significant playing experience and could be a (very) short term option if Elway’s left looking under rocks for a thrower.
Potential cap casualties
When the Baltimore Ravens grabbed Lamar Jackson, Joe Flacco was (finally) put on notice. The 33 year old has been overrated for ages and basically cashed in on the worst play I’ve seen a Bronco make since I became a fan.
Since then, Flacco has been mediocre at best but his (deal) left Ozzie and the team hamstrung until now. If the Ravens decide to cut Flacco after the ))) season they’ll save (((( against the cap.
As far as his fit with the Broncos? I don’t like it, but he the kind of tall big armed passer that Elway routinely falls for so it wouldn’t really shock me.
There was a time when rumors suggested that the Broncos were interested in trading for the highly paid journeyman. No doubt Bradford has had his moments, such as when he completed 84% (!) of his passes for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns opening day against the New Orleans Saints last season. The problem is that those moments are stretched over an injury marred resume. In the last 5 seasons, he’s missed 42 games. He’s played in just 38.
Could the younger Manning come to Denver? It seems unlikely given the rumblings surrounding Peyton’s exit, but if Keenum flaming out is the sole reason the Broncos are in the 2019 QB market, next years roster could offer an appealing supporting cast if Eli wants to try to go out on top.
He’s far from my first choice, but the current New York Giant could do some serious damage with the Von Miller led defense on the other side of the ball. Both of Manning’s Super Bowl runs with the New York Giants were with him playing a secondary role to a dominant pass rush.
There are corners of the NFL that have long thought Dalton held 2011-2015 Bengals back. He’s basically the definition of a league average starting QB, but if the alternative is Paxton Lynch?
Everywhere you look the word is how special the 2018 crop of prospects was. Those same people are speculating that 2019 will be pretty disappointing by comparison. Still, noone thought Baker Mayfield was a first round pick a year ago, much less first overall. Who could fly up boards this Autumn?
If you liked Josh Allen, you’ll probably love Drew Lock. He offers a similar package but comes battle tested in the SEC. In fact, if I was a betting man, I’d lock in this Missouri Tiger as next years first overall pick now. The 6’4” 21 year old is a toolsy gunslinger who threw for 44 touchdowns to 13 picks a year ago.
The junior does come with some questions. While his completion percentage has improved each season, he still hit just 58% of his passes last year. Josh Allen proved once again that tools trump accuracy, but history has proven few collegiate passers significantly improve in this area once they hit the league. There’s a reason accuracy has been the golden ticket to love from the analytics community as far back as FootballOutsiders.com has existed. You can either hit the broadside of a barn, or you can’t.
If you’re pulling for Lock landing in Denver, pray he tightens this up.
Another wild cat, the Northwestern signal caller doubles as evidence that quarterbacks should stay under center after he tore his ACL catching a 24 yard pass in the Music City Bowl. He is currently participating in spring practice but coach Pat Fitzgerald refuses to give a timetable for the senior’s return.
While his 2017 numbers are a bit underwhelming, there is reason to believe a lackluster supporting cast was partly to blame. Despite this, Thorson lead the Wildcats to a 10-3 season and has displayed strong short to medium range accuracy.
Shea Patterson - Michigan via Ole Miss
There’s some reason to believe that Shea Patterson had a better April 27th than Sutton or Freeman. After a fairly tumultuous transfer from Ole Miss to Michigan, the 21 year old was declared eligible for the upcoming college football season and is expected to compete for a starting job under Jim Harbaugh.
It may seem unlikely that Patterson would declare now, but a big year under the coach who brought Alex Smith back from the dead, and Colin Kaepernick to a Superbowl could be enough to vault the former 5-Star prospect into first round consideration.
““He’s got a lot of special qualities,” Harbaugh said. “There’s plenty of attributes he has in the arm talent department. I mean, he is really talented when it comes to throwing the ball. He’s really good and elusive and has a really good feel for the game.”
Broncos fans who relish irony may want to root for this one: after initially redshirting his Freshman year, Patterson found his way to the field when starting Rebel Quarterback Chad Kelly tore his ACL.
Jarrett Stidham - Auburn
Another transfer, this Auburn Tiger left Baylor following the Art Briles sex scandal and lit the SEC on fire upon his first opportunity. Another SEC stud, the 6’3 Junior’s Georgia and Alabama tape where he led the Tigers to victories while completing 73% of his passes for 451 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions is divine.
What’s even better? His surgical precision is closer to the norm than an aberration. The 21 year old has completed 67% of his career attempts to date.
Yet another transfer, the former Florida Gator has already garnered some attention from the NFL Scouting community. Told he would be no better than a 2nd round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Grier returned to West Virginia for his senior season. He’s an accurate passer likely to put up video game numbers in the Holgorsen offense with a large number of deep throw opportunities to showcase his arm.
He does come with a couple of questions, the obvious one being the PED suspension at Florida that NFL teams are likely to overlook. The second is one that could hold him back: he needs to improve his performance under pressure. According to PFF Grier was just 24-for-70 (34.3 percent) for 581 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions when he was under duress. That’s not just bad, that’s awful.