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What is the Broncos’ best option at QB in 2022?

Maybe prayer?

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In the days following the Broncos’ disgusting 31-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, it seems like anyone and everyone has an opinion on Teddy Bridgewater. The complaints usually start with the veteran quarterback’s poor attempt at tackling Darius Slay after the cornerback scooped up a Melvin Gordon fumble as it gave Slay an open runway for six, and 82-yard touchdown ultimately served as the nail in Denver’s chances last Sunday.

The grievances begin to snowball in all directions from there, some more rational than others. Bridgewater’s a central figure in the Broncos’ struggles converting third downs, and Teddy’s to blame for Mike Shula’s horrendous redzone play calling. It’s also Bridgewater’s fault the Broncos’ defense can’t stop the run and struggles to rush the passer without blitzing. Tom McMahon would also look like a competent special teams coordinator if the Broncos only gave Drew Lock the starting job... you get the idea.

Bad jokes aside, I get the gnashing teeth over Teddy Bridgewater. He’s a limited quarterback who has made his fair share of mistakes during the Broncos’ 2021 season. Lest we forget, I considered Bridgewater the eighth best option in front of George Paton last March, behind starting Drew Lock for another season, and wondered if the first year general managers QB decision would go on to define his tenure.

Over the last week or so I’ve begun my preliminary digging into the upcoming quarterback options, and I’ve got to say, Paton’s going to need to pull a rabbit out of his hat if he aims to please Broncos Country in year two.

The 2022 QB Class

As far back as last February when rumors began to crop up about the Broncos’ willingness to give Drew Lock a chance to prove he wasn’t a bust in 2021, I’ve been concerned about this year’s QB crop. If the 2021 class of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones is akin to grade A filet mignon, the 2022 class is the mystery meat they stuff into gas station cheese burgers.

That may sound harsh, but it’s an opinion that every national draft analyst seems to be warming to. The truth is this, upcoming class is equal parts weak and deep with a long list of C and D tier quarterbacks who could develop into quality backups in the NFL, but no one coming close to the kind of prospect you’d feel comfortable calling a franchise passer.

From Pro Football Focus to ESPN and everything in between, national analysts appear down on this upcoming class. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler put it eloquently:

“It is rare for there to be more quarterbacks drafted on Day 2 than Day 1 (it has only happened once over the last 13 years). However, it could happen this April because while it is easy to like some of the quarterbacks in the 2022 class, it is hard to love them.”

After Spencer Rattler’s disappointing season at Oklahoma, the top spot in the upcoming QB class looks like a bit of an open question. Most see Ole Miss’ Matt Corral as the best option, while others prefer Liberty’s Malik Willis because of the upside and breathtaking athleticism. There’s also Kenny Pickett, Carson Strong, Desmond Ridder, and Sam Howell. They all look like they’re fighting for an opportunity to become the first quarterback selected in April, and yet none look like they’ll be able to step in as a starting quarterback from day one.

What about Russell Wilson?

After tensions mounted following the Seattle Seahawks’ disappointing 2020 season, Wilson’s agent Mark Rodgers told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that his client was not forcing his way out of the Pacific Northwest, but that there were four teams Wilson would waive his no trade clause for: the Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and New Orleans Saints.

Note that the Denver Broncos were not on this list.

In the weeks and months since, we’ve watched the Cowboys extend Dak Prescott and the Bears draft Justin Fields. There remains open questions about the long-term quarterback situations in Las Vegas and New Orleans. Even if one believes Wilson will try to divorce Pete Carroll this offseason, it’s a longshot to conclude he’ll don orange and blue. At present, there is no reliable source reporting Russell Wilson would waive his no-trade clause for any other teams. Until that changes, it’s foolish to count on or plan around.

What about Deshaun Watson?

Nothing appears to have changed with Watson and the Houston Texans. The three-time Pro Bowler is still demanding a trade from the only NFL franchise he’s ever played for, and 22 lawsuits still hang over him.

While the Broncos have said publicly they are not interested in Deshaun Watson, there’s been persistent reports suggesting the contrary. Last March we learned the Broncos were still interested in Deshaun Watson despite 22 allegations of sexual misconduct. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has recently reported the Broncos are still interested.

“Multiple teams are still interested in trading for Deshaun Watson. I know there was a report earlier in the week about the Dolphins, they are not alone. Among the teams that have been discussed over the past several months, the Panthers, the Broncos, the Eagles and some others. His legal situation is still as of right now unsettled. Still of course the civil and criminal allegations of sexual misconduct. I’m told there are still teams interested in trading for him despite the fact that this is still unsettled. Watson also has a no trade clause. The belief is he would waive it for Miami, unclear as of now what he would do for the others.”

Watson’s sworn deposition will occur nine days after this year’s Super Bowl, which means there is a possibility he’s cleared of all wrongdoing. This doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly wind up on the Broncos, mind you. NFL Insider Aaron Wilson reported in October that Watson will waive his no-trade clause for the Dolphins and has preferred them throughout the process since requesting a trade in January. He has not given an indication that he’ll do the same for the Broncos.

What about Aaron Rodgers?

Since the first day of the 2021 NFL Draft, there’s been a notable part of Broncos Country clinging to the hope that Aaron Rodgers would force his way to Denver. Yours truly spent the whole summer with “R-E-L-A-X” in his Twitter header as a sort of personal reminder, and we’re now 10 games in to the Teddy Bridgewater experience. All this to say, forgive me if I’m quick to pump the brakes on the rumors about Paton’s plan to “aggressively” pursue Aaron Rodgers in 2022.

Lost amidst the constant smoke and rumors are some rather sobering facts. While Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that Brian Gutekunst and the Packers agreed to trade Rodgers after the 2021 season if he wishes, all reports suggest the Packers do not have to honor any sort of handshake agreement because nothing is in writing.

If we assume for a moment that Rodgers and the Packers do agree to part ways, things could turn quickly. With a long list of expiring contracts and few onerous deals on the books, Paton’s maintained financial flexibility in 2022. He also traded Von Miller to acquire extra day two picks, so the Broncos could stand out as the perfect AFC team with enough cap space and draft capital to deal away the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer. Then again, so could the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There’s always free agency, right?

Looking past the potential trade options, there’s a distinct that Paton elects to keep all his draft picks and sign a veteran passer to serve as the starter. Whether the Broncos draft a rookie signal caller from the ‘22 class or give Drew Lock yet another chance to prove he’s put it all together with a full offseason, another proven arm makes a ton of sense. At least until you look at the list of QBs who look set to hit free agency:

  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Taysom Hill
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Andy Dalton
  • Nick Foles
  • Cam Newton
  • Tyrod Taylor
  • Jameis Winston
  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Marcus Mariota
  • Joe Flacco
  • Mitchell Trubisky
  • Geno Smith
  • Colt McCoy
  • Brandon Allen
  • Teddy Bridgewater

From the list above, only Roethlisberger, Winston, Bridgewater, Taylor, and Fitzpatrick broke training camp as their teams starting quarterbacks. Roethlisberger and Fitzpatrick have missed time in recent years and both will pass 40 by the season opener in 2022. Taylor’s only recently returned from the hamstring injury that knocked him out of week two, while Winston’s out for the season after a torn left ACL. The Broncos’ QB1 is the only looming free agent quarterback who has started every game for his current club this year.

Perhaps Paton overlooks Big Ben’s withering arm and embraces the the 39-year-old’s Super Bowl experience. Perhaps Paton’s enamored with the 123 passes Taylor’s thrown since 2018. Or maybe Jameis Winston’s torn left ACL and his last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t enough to dissuade the general manager from pouncing on the former first overall pick.

I personally doubt it. Right now it looks like the Broncos’ future at quarterback will look a lot like the present.

Poll

Who do you hope the Broncos QB1 is in 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Matt Corral
    (213 votes)
  • 5%
    Malik Willis
    (168 votes)
  • 6%
    Kenny Pickett
    (182 votes)
  • 1%
    Carson Strong
    (57 votes)
  • 1%
    Desmond Ridder
    (30 votes)
  • 1%
    Sam Howell
    (45 votes)
  • 16%
    Russell Wilson
    (475 votes)
  • 11%
    Deshaun Watson
    (325 votes)
  • 17%
    Aaron Rodgers
    (507 votes)
  • 0%
    Ben Roethlisberger
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Taysom Hill
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Ryan Fitzpatrick
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Andy Dalton
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Nick Foles
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Cam Newton
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Tyrod Taylor
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Jameis Winston
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    Jacoby Brissett
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Marcus Mariota
    (74 votes)
  • 0%
    Joe Flacco
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Mitchell Trubisky
    (51 votes)
  • 0%
    Geno Smith
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Colt McCoy
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Brandon Allen
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    Teddy Bridgewater
    (97 votes)
  • 16%
    Drew Lock
    (472 votes)
  • 1%
    Brett Rypien
    (54 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (please comment)
    (86 votes)
2922 votes total Vote Now