There is little doubt the NFL is a passing league. A franchise either has a passer they’re comfortable with, are trying to acquire one, or they just signed Andy Dalton.
Which brings us to George Paton and the Denver Broncos.
From his first press conference and every moment since, the Broncos’ new general manager has made it clear he would be looking at signal callers this offseason.
“The quarterback is the most important position in sports. If you don’t have stability at quarterback, you’re going to have a hard time sustaining winning. So, very important, but I don’t think the focus should be taken off the defense just because you want a franchise quarterback. I think we all want the franchise quarterback, and that’s the number one goal is trying to draft and develop or acquire any way you can. When I was in Minnesota, I think we went to the playoffs with six different quarterbacks if I’m not mistaken. That’s not ideal, but you can still win if you don’t have the franchise guy. You can still win, but obviously we’re looking.”
It should come as no surprise that the Denver Broncos are evaluating quarterbacks in 2021. However, their odds of acquiring one is dependent on a myriad of factors. Unless George Paton is waiting to trade for Deshaun Watson, the best road forward is trade for another team’s disappointment or draft a rookie passer if he wants to upgrade on Drew Lock.
With Watson’s status a huge question mark due to the current investigation into sexual assault allegations against him, I thought it best to look beyond him to the other alternatives. What follows is a team-by-team QB breakdown. For clarity’s sake I set the format similar to a mock draft so as to present where each team is located on the board in relation to the Broncos. My hope is that this helps illuminate who stands in the way if Paton is chasing a QB while also shining a light on who may be willing to wheel and deal with Denver if the Broncos want to use a rookie prospect as a way to move down the board.
Current depth chart: Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton
There are bettors who would make a ton of money if Trevor Lawrence is not a Jaguar.
Career accurate pass % from top Draft-eligible QBs:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 15, 2021
Trevor Lawrence - 61%
Zach Wilson - 57%
Justin Fields - 64%
Trey Lance - 47%
Mac Jones - 68% pic.twitter.com/TwLFArMI49
Current depth chart: Sam Darnold, James Morgan, Mike White
For all intents and purposes, the draft starts at two. Most expect Joe Douglas to take Zach Wilson and find a trade partner to move Sam Darnold. If Douglas decides Darnold is the wagon to hitch his fortunes to, it would make a ton of sense for the Jets to move down and acquire extra picks.
Asking around on Sam Darnold, and the sense I get from scouts, coaches, and executives is that the perception of him among fans and some in media is significantly higher than of those inside the league.— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) March 17, 2021
“He stinks, bro” says one offensive coach. #Jets #NFL
Current depth chart: Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Finley
I don’t feel I know anywhere near enough to even try to speculate on the allegations against Deshaun Watson, so I won’t. What we do know is that he wants to be traded and that Nick Caserio said in January that he wouldn’t be moved. If the Texans move on from Watson, there is little doubt they would be back in the quarterback market.
As for the third overall pick, Miami acquired it in the Laremy Tunsil trade. With Tua already atop the depth chart, it seems unlikely they’ll take a QB if it isn’t Watson. If the Jets are locked into Wilson, the Dolphins become then become a potential trade partner for any team looking to jump the Falcons and Eagles.
Current depth chart: Matt Ryan
It’s Terry Fontenot’s first year as general manager, so they’re a bit of a wildcard. The Falcons restructured Matt Ryan’s contract last week which means it would now cost more than $40 million to move him in 2022. While there remains a real possibility Arthur Smith takes this chance to grab a quarterback to groom behind the veteran, it looks unlikely. Right now I expect Atlanta to chase the top non-QB on their board. They could also be a trade down candidate.
This is how #MattRyan closed out the 2020 #NFL season...— Ryan Michael (@theryanmichael) March 21, 2021
90 of 128 (70.3%)
Out-played #TomBrady and #PatrickMahomes.#Falcons went 0-3 as the D gave up 30.6 PPG.
The future HOFer is underpaid, underrated and under-appreciated. pic.twitter.com/qsGE6vaQfJ
Current depth chart: Joe Burrow, Kyle Shurmur
Joe Burrow’s rookie season didn’t go as hoped, but there’s no indication Cincinnati will chase a replacement. It’s worth noting that the notoriously frugal Bengals could be a trade down candidate.
Current depth chart: Jalen Hurts, Khalil Tate
The Eagles’ owner has reportedly told his front office and coaching staff to prioritize making Jalen Hurts successful in 2021. They also recently signed Joe Flacco to a $3.5 million deal to backup Hurts in 2021. I’m going to venture a guess and say they’re out of the rookie QB race.
Despite all that, it’s hard to ignore that they’re a prime spot for a QB. Hurts was a second round pick and didn’t light the world on fire as a rookie. If they don’t take a passer, it’d make a ton of sense for Howie Roseman to move down the board in an effort to collect extra ammo to rebuild his tattered roster.
Current depth chart: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough
The Lions’ approach to free agency suggests they’re set to tank the 2021 season. It would make a ton of sense for Brad Holmes to catch a sliding QB if an opportunity should present itself or at least use him to move down. It may be a weird fit with the current roster now that Detroit has made it harder to move on from Goff.
The Lions have converted $20M of Jared Goff’s salary into a signing bonus, creating $15M in cap space for 2021.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 24, 2021
This move will add $5M cap charges to Goff’s deal over the 2022-2024 season, while Detroit gets operating room for the rest of this offseason.
Current depth chart: Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Will Grier, Tommy Stevens
Last week Joe Person reported that the Panthers see Watson as their “plan A, B, and C” and that’s worth remembering. If those plans turn to ash, I expect them to be very aggressive in an effort to upgrade on Bridgewater.
The Eagles, Panthers, Jets, Dolphins, 49ers and Broncos are all still interested in a potential trade for Deshaun Watson despite his pending lawsuits, per @AaronWilson_NFLhttps://t.co/ldM9y3PyuD pic.twitter.com/bm8135JVZ6— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) March 22, 2021
9. Denver Broncos
Current depth chart: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel
If for whatever reason Paton’s left at nine without a QB prospect he sees as worthy, Denver looks like a prime slide down candidate. Dallas could also compete for offers if any team is looking to move up, which could complicate a potential trade down.
ITS FINALLY COMPLETE— Zach Segars (@Zach_Segars) March 20, 2021
Every notable QB since the passing boom of 2011 through their first 10-25 starts in terms of EPA+CPOE composite
Green/yellow (sorry I’m colorblind): > Lock
White: comparable to Lock
Red: worse than Lock
Out of the W/R 26 quarterbacks I see 2-3 I like pic.twitter.com/hTk3GFs6NF
10. Dallas Cowboys
Current depth chart: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci
Prescott just signed a $160 million extension. They’re probably chasing a defensive player.
Longest average TD pass (yds), active QBs— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) March 20, 2021
1. Dak Prescott - 22.6
2. Tyrod Taylor - 21.9
3. Nick Foles - 21.4
4. Patrick Mahomes - 21.0
5. Daniel Jones - 21.0
1. Mitchell Trubisky - 13.6
2. Gardner Minshew - 14.2
3. Baker Mayfield - 15.2
4. Drew Lock/Carson Wentz - 15.6
11. New York Giants
Current depth chart: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon, Clayton Thorson
Dave Gettleman has never traded down in the NFL Draft and Jones is entering year three. They’ll pick at 11 or move up.
Current depth chart: Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Rosen, Josh Johnson
It’s no secret the 49ers want to upgrade on Jimmy G. They could wind up with Watson or taking a swing to move up the board. It’s also possible they sit at 12 and take Mac Jones. I don’t expect them to trade down, but it can’t be ruled out.
Current depth chart: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
Herbert just won OROY, and if not for Gettleman or the Charger’s lack of fans, Tom Telesco’s draft strategy would earn him flak.
Current depth chart: Kirk Cousins, Jake Browning, Nate Stanley
In his most honest moment, I bet Rick Spielman would tell you he wants to find an upgrade on Cousins. If anyone has had that kind of talk with Spielman, it’s George Paton. Both surely know Cousins’ contract makes moving him ruinous for the current roster. It’d be shocking for Minny to chase a rookie passer, though they could be a trade down candidate if someone slips.
Andy Dalton, Jared Goff and Kirk Cousins six times next season pic.twitter.com/4RqvxjJ6pG— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) March 16, 2021
Current depth chart: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Jacob Dolegala
Belichick has never drafted a quarterback in the first round of an NFL draft until now. Newton is on a one-year deal and the style of offense Josh McDaniels used to maximize his skillset in 2020 could make a ton of sense for Trey Lance. Mac Jones has been compared to Tom Brady, and while I think that’s a stretch, he could make sense in Foxboro. Add up the Pats very aggre$$ive free agency and they look like prime trade up candidates.
It’s also worth remembering that Belichick has been doing this so long that he’s taken just about every other approach you can think of in the draft. New England is a true wildcard.
Current depth chart: Kyler Murray, Chris Streveler, Cole McDonald
Steve Keim did take first round quarterbacks back-to-back, but I can’t see the Cards grabbing a passer here. With only five picks in the draft thanks to the Deandre Hopkins trade, they do look like a prime candidate to move down if an opportunity should arise. Keim has shown a willingness to wheel and deal in both directions.
Current depth chart: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nate Peterman, Kyle Sloter
Back in Februrary, there was talk that Carr was heading for a contract extension and if that happens, Gruden is probably done chasing expensive QBs for a hot minute. Until then they remain in play for Russell Wilson, a dark horse candidate for Watson, and a potential dance partner for a rookie passer.
18. Miami Dolphins
Current depth chart: Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett, Jake Rudock, Reid Sinnett
Touched on the Dolphins at 3. I suspect they’re in an either/or with Watson and Tagovailoa.
Picture a post-draft Dolphins offense that looks like this at the skill positions...— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) March 18, 2021
Devonta Smith/Ja'Marr Chase
Najee Harris/Javonte Williams
Current depth chart: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Steven Montez
Fitzmagic turns 39 in November and Taylor Heinicke has thrown 121 passes in his NFL career. It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t take a quarterback. What’s tough to suss out is the price Martin Mayhew would pay to go and get one in the first year of his second stint as a general manager.
20. Chicago Bears
Current depth chart: Andy Dalton, Nick Foles
Desperation hits everyone a little differently.
Ryan Pace offered the Seahawks three first round picks, one third round pick, and two players in exchange for Russell Wilson. Jon Schneider and Pete Carroll said no. Pace responded by signing Andy Dalton to a one-year deal after he promised he’d be the starter. There is belief in some corners that Nick Foles will be on the move. There remains a possibility da Bears aren’t done with their attempt to deal for Wilson.
.@AdamSchefter when asked if we should stop paying attention to a potential Russell Wilson trade:— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) March 19, 2021
"No ... I'm told that the Bears still are paying attention to Russell Wilson and have not abandoned hopes." pic.twitter.com/YpEcQr6C0M
Current depth chart: Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, Jalen Morton
It only feels like Wentz has been a Colt for a month, and he didn’t don the two until last week.
Carson Wentz looks hella mad Pittman didn’t give up 11. pic.twitter.com/SdGNBXz8og— Crocky (@eric_crocker) March 19, 2021
22. Tennessee Titans
Current depth chart: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, DeShone Kizer
We’re about to find out how Tannehill looks sans Corey Davis, Arthur, and Jonnu Smith.
23. Seattle Seahawks (New York Jets)
Current depth chart: Russell Wilson, Danny Etling, Alex McGough
It sure looks like the Seahawks are headed for a messy divorce with Russell Wilson. The teams he’s reportedly interested in make a potential deal quite complicated because few return a pick that would set Seattle up to chase a quarterback. As it currently stands, they don’t pick until 56 thanks to the Jamal Adams’ trade.
As for New York, it’s hard to imagine they wait until 23 to take a passer when they have a shot at everyone but Trevor Lawrence at two.
Current depth chart: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
2021 is going to be a Big Ben retirement tour on a cap-strapped roster. Kevin Colbert’s contract extension only runs through the 2022 draft. Barring untold faith in Haskins, it would be prudent to chase a successor to Roethlisberger. With that said I expect them to chase immediate help so the last hurrah makes it past the eight win mark.
Sanders: "I've been fortunate to play with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger & Drew Brees, so now I'm going to try to help Josh Allen be the best he can possibly be." #Bills— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrownBills) March 19, 2021
25. Los Angeles Rams (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Current depth chart: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins, Devlin Hodges
Trading Goff for Stafford ensures Les Snead won’t do first round picks anymore. and Urban Meyer didn’t come out of retirement to wait until 25 to take his QB.
Here for a reason.— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) March 18, 2021
Welcome to LA, Matthew Stafford! pic.twitter.com/6glHAnVJGY
26. Cleveland Browns
Current depth chart: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Kyle Lauletta
Early last season Mayfield had a couple shaky games, but there’s little reason to believe Andrew Berry is chasing a replacement. Odds are they’re chasing the BPA at a position of relative need here, but don’t rule out a trade down.
Watching all these Andrew Berry offseason moves pic.twitter.com/f4TqlfDLnB— McNeil (@Reflog_18) March 18, 2021
27. Baltimore Ravens
Current depth chart: Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley
“Two sources said Jackson and the Ravens have started talking about a contract extension, but the sides are far apart. One problem for Jackson is that he still has two years left on his deal and is only making $1.77 million in 2021.”
Current depth chart: Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian
There’s an increasingly vocal part of my brain that says Wilson eventually lands with Sean Payton. Before you say the math won’t work, remember that Micky Loomis is a magician. If there’s a way to make it happen, he’ll find it.
It’s easy to picture Mac Jones playing point guard in the Drew Brees offense, but I don’t think they’re burning multiple drafts to move up for a prospect. Rookie contracts are their best path out of cap hell.
Taysom Hill’s contract numbers this year include a $9.686 million signing bonus, a $1.439 million guaranteed roster bonus and a $1.034 million guaranteed base salary, plus incentives, per source. https://t.co/Ooy7akgPlv— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2021
Current depth chart: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love
Doubt they give up on Love so soon.
If you can extend Aaron Jones the year after you drafted a third-string developmental running back in the second round, you can absolutely play with Aaron Rodgers' contract and pretend that Jordan Love never happened— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) March 14, 2021
30. Buffalo Bills
Current depth chart: Josh Allen, Mitch Trubisky, Jake Fromm, Davis Webb
Allen looks like a 25-year-old MVP candidate and Trubisky’s short-term insurance for a Super Bowl contender.
There will be no hype video for Andy Dalton by the way.— DaWindyCity Productions (new account) (@dwcburner) March 16, 2021
I have somehow made hype videos for Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel, and even Nick Foles.
I can’t do it anymore
Current depth chart: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Jordan Ta’amu, Anthony Gordon
Mahomes looks like a 26-year-old MVP candidate, and Henne is short-term insurance for a Super Bowl contender.
Career postseason passing yards:— Farzin Vousoughian (@Farzin21) March 3, 2021
Chad Henne: 66
Derek Carr: 0 pic.twitter.com/bfE46GtcHG
Current depth chart: Tom Brady
Brady looks like a 44-year-old MVP candidate.
One year ago today, news broke that Tom Brady would sign with the Bucs. He has since entered the wrong , forgotten 4th down, won his seventh , thrown the Lombardi off a , gotten obliterated by tequila and given out his number. We are all witnesses to this man’s undoing. pic.twitter.com/oeMQEwCj5V— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) March 17, 2021