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If Drew Lock is out for the year, do the Broncos need to consider quarterback in 2021?

If Lock’s season is over, there’s more questions than answers.

Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

I’m cautiously optimistic Drew Lock could develop into a starting caliber quarterback you can win with in the NFL. That said, he hasn’t shown more than hints. Flashes. Anyone who’s honest with themselves will also admit he still shows plenty of warts that could trip him up over a full slate of games as defenses get more film on him.

So there is no doubt in my mind that if the worst comes to pass and Drew Lock’s injury is a season-ending one, John Elway has to pursue all options at quarterback in 2021.

This isn’t because Lock has failed at quarterback. Rather, it’s because Elway has done too good a job building the rest of the team to enter next season without some degree of certainty at quarterback.

While there’s been some griping about the “same old Broncos” this season, the reality is with such a young offense and the Von Miller injury, Elway knows the roster is at least a year away. The Broncos have shown since training camp that they are willing to save some 2020 cap space in order to roll it over into next off-season.

It makes a ton of sense. Due to covid-19, most teams look like they will enter next spring with a need to trim cap space. Having no fans in the stands hurts revenue and the salary cap will reflect that. Carrying cap over should give Elway a chance to strike while others scramble to shed talent.

Losing Drew Lock casts that in doubt, as this entire season was something akin to an extended trial for him. Pat Shurmur gave him an experienced play caller who’s had success with passers. Drafting Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler helped to beef up the weapons and explosiveness around him. If Lock failed, the thought had to be at least that Elway eliminated every excuse.

Not knowing is worse. If Lock can’t play the rest of this season, he’ll have thrown 194 passes. His most ardent defenders can cling to his 4-1 stretch to end 2019. Critics can point to issues with deep passes this year or the fact he’s still learning how to be an NFL quarterback.

What we do know is the Broncos currently look to have the 6th most cap space next year. They have a Pro Bowl receiver in Courtland Sutton. Noah Fant is having a breakout year. The defense is littered with veteran talent. Meanwhile, Kansas City is currently $22 million over the cap. There’s a chance to try to close some of the gap next year.

Veteran options

It probably doesn’t make sense to sign an Andy Dalton or Jacoby Brissett to be more than an upgrade on Jeff Driskel. Philip Rivers is either going to resign with the Indianapolis Colts or retire to coaching high school football. It makes little sense to chase a Mitchel Trubisky. Bigger names like Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott won’t be available if they continue to play as they are right now.

The season is young enough that there’s a good chance someone falls from grace and is cut, but the most likely option may be a trade. If the New York Jets continue to look like the most hapless team in the NFL this year, they’ll find themselves the winner of the tank for Trevor Lawrence sweep stakes. I haven’t studied Sam Darnold enough to tell you it’d make sense to give up on him with that wretched situation, but Joe Douglass may elect to take what looks like a sure thing as he makes his mark on the franchise.

The Draft

If the Broncos continue to lose the war of attrition as they have the last month, it’s entirely possible they fail their way to the first pick in the NFL Draft. I do not believe it’s likely, but it could happen. If it does, John Elway has to take Trevor Lawrence.

Things become more murky if the Broncos are competitive enough to stay out of the quarterback hunt. Again, it’s very early, but as of now most expect Lawrence and Justin Fields to both go at the very top. There’s questions about Trey Lance and if North Dakota State plays a shortened season, but they’ll probably remain.

Final Thoughts

Like all of you, I really hope Lock’s injury isn’t serious. I want to see him get back on the field and show Broncos Country what he can do in the Pat Shurmur offense. I’d love to see him connect with Hamler and Jeudy on long bombs and hit Jake Butt for a touchdown. I also believe John Elway needs to see more games and growth before he knows Lock is a franchise quarterback.

Lock can’t be the guy if he isn’t on the field.