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Who will be available if the Broncos are back in the QB market in 2022?

An early look at the potential options.

Denver Broncos Free Agency Press Conference Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post

Broncos Country waits with bated breath for a quarterback to step in as the true heir to Peyton Manning. Barring a trade for Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson, the majority of fanbase waits and prays that Drew Lock can improve enough to emerge as the starting quarterback over Teddy Bridgewater; a man the Carolina Panthers traded away for a 6th round pick.

All told, there’s a pretty good chance George Paton is still looking for a franchise quarterback in 2022. After passing on everyone but Bridgewater during his first offseason, there’s a decent chance Paton is still looking for a merely competent starting quarterback.

So who could it be?

Available Veterans

The following passers are currently in the NFL and look as if they should be available.

Teddy Bridgewater

A free agent after the 2021 season, there is a distinct possibility Bridgewater is re-signed after the season. If the 32nd pick in the 2014 pick wins the Broncos’ starting quarterback job and looks passable enough, he could be retained so as to maintain competence under center while Paton tries to find an upgrade at the position.

Andy Dalton

The Red Rifle signed a one year contract with the Chicago Bears and looks set to serve as a bridge starter until Justin Fields is ready. Barring a complete meltdown from the 11th overall pick in the 2021 draft, it does not look like Dalton will stick around the Windy City past 2021.

Paton can probably do better, but will he?

Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill

It makes sense to lump these two together because whoever loses out in the Saints’ 2021 QB battle could become an option for the 2022 Broncos. Due to New Orleans shaky cap situation, there’s a chance both hit the free agent market next year.

Winston is a former first overall pick who led the league in interceptions the last time he started. Hill is an undrafted gadget player who has thrown 136 passes in his NFL career. Neither seems likely right now, but both have shown flashes that could make them appealing for a team with a desperate short-term need for a passer.

Marcus Mariota

After losing his starting job to Ryan Tannehill in 2019, the former second overall pick signed an incentive laden deal last year. While the Raiders squeezed Mariota into taking a paycut for the 2021 season, Mariota looked like a viable starter in very limited action last season. If he hits free agency after the season, there’s a chance the Broncos kick the tires.

Cam Newton

When the New England Patriots used the 15th pick of the 2021 draft on Mac Jones, it set an expiration date on Cam Newton’s run in Foxboro. Early reports out of OTAs suggest the rookie is nowhere near ready to start day one, but it looks like a matter of time before Bill Belichick’s first day one QB gets a chance at the job.

All told, I doubt Cam Newton comes to Denver. If the Broncos are searching for a veteran passer in 2022 I expect it’s with a new coaching staff in place, so the Mike Shula connection probably doesn’t work in their favor.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Best I know, the man they call Fitzmagic did not receive any significant interest from the Broncos during Paton’s first offseason before he signed a one year deal with the Washington Football Team worth $10 million. This alone does not eliminate the possibility that he could be on the Broncos’ radar in 2022, however. If Bridgewater departs and Lock flames out, the 39-year old may be an appealing stopgap or bridge to a rookie passer.

Cut/Trade candidates

The following veterans currently have contracts for 2022, but could be on the move.

Aaron Rodgers

If the Green Bay Packers decide against trading their Hall of Famer before the 2021 trade deadline, there remains a rather distinct possibility he departs during the 2022 offseason. There’s reason to believe the Broncos will intrigue him and his appeal to the Broncos is quite obvious. After all, he’s a 3-time MVP who made the 2010’s all decade team and led the NFL’s best offense in 2020.

The big hang-up with Rodgers is that he turns 38 in December and outside of Tom Brady, 40 looms large over quarterbacks. If Paton elects to make a deal, it’s probably a very short term fix.

Deshaun Watson

The 22 civil lawsuits against Watson may prevent him from playing in the NFL in 2021. Watson’s deposition won’t occur until nine days after Super Bowl LVI, and Watson’s lawyer Rusty Hardin stated there are no discussions about a settlement. It does not appear likely the Houston Texans trade Watson until there’s more clarity around his legal situation, and the quarterback is still demanding a trade.

Last week the Broncos’ Kareem Jackson spoke with Aqib Talib on Catchin’ Fades and said Deshaun Watson wants to play for the Broncos. Back in March, NFL Insider Aaron Wilson reported the Broncos did remain interested in Watson, and since the 3-time Pro Bowler has a no trade clause in his contract, he does have some say in where he winds up.

Russell Wilson

The last we heard on the Wilson front, he was dispelling any rumors about his displeasure with Seattle and committed to winning a Super Bowl in 2021.

“I think first of all, you know obviously I love Seattle. I love playing here,” Wilson said. “I’ve had a great career here so far. I’ve always wanted to play here for my whole career, obviously. I think there were some unfortunate frustrations after the season. Obviously you want to win it all and do it all, and do everything you can. I think everybody on our team does. We all want to win it. I think, unfortunately, it got a little bit blown out of proportion. I think that my ultimate goal is to win. You know I get paid to win . . . and we’ve done a lot of that over the years. The mission is to continue to do the same, but do a little bit more. I think the reality is that that’s the only thing I’m focused on is winning and doing whatever it takes to win. That’s why I wake up every day and lace my cleats to train every day. That’s what my teammates are doing, too, and so that’s what I’m looking forward to.

“In terms of the trade talks, I think anytime you play professional sports, there’s always a possibility of something happening, right? I think that’s just the reality. I think that there’s a lot of teams out there that people were saying that I was going to, or would go, that I requested a trade. I did not request a trade. I’ve always wanted to play here. The reality is I think calls were getting thrown around and this and that, and I mean that’s just a reality. But I think at the end of the day the real reality is I’m here and I’m here to win. I’m here to win at all.”

It’s worth noting that technically speaking, Wilson isn’t lying. Rather than demand a trade, in February he had his agent leak a list of preferred teams if a trade occurred. The Broncos were not on it, so even if Wilson forces his way out of Seattle it probably won’t be so he can land in Denver.

Derek Carr

Jon Gruden isn’t going to trade Carr within division, but unless he receives a contract extension the Las Vegas Raiders could cut the 3-time Pro Bowler without incurring a dead cap hit in 2022. Jokes aside, Carr is a pretty good fit for the Pat Shurmur offense if we assume Paton retains the Broncos’ current offensive coordinator.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Since the San Francisco 49ers drafted Trey Lance, there’s been rampant speculation Jimmy G could be on the move. In April the Niner’s John Lynch said it would take a first round pick to part with the veteran, which suggests he’ll serve as the bridge QB in 2021 until Lance is ready to start.

With a $27 million cap hit in 2022, I believe the cost to acquire Garoppolo will come down if he isn’t cut outright.

Prospects

The 2021 QB class was atypical in that we knew Trevor Lawrence would go first overall for the better part of the last three years. That isn’t the case with the 2022 crop, where Spencer Rattler is the early favorite among a rather crowded field. I’ve heard/read multiple times that this rookie class looks rather weak compared to the last two and more in line with what we saw in 2019, but things could change over the next few months.

For the most part, I have not yet studied the 2022 QB class at any sort of length. The following list is not in any particular order.

  • Spencer Rattler - Oklahoma
  • Sam Howell - North Carolina
  • Kedon Slovis - USC
  • Malik Willis - Liberty
  • Tyler Shough - Texas Tech
  • Desmond Ridder - Cincinnati
  • Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
  • JT Daniels - Georgia
  • Carson Strong - Nevada
  • Matt Corral - Mississippi
  • Jayden Daniels - Arizona State
  • Tanner Morgan - Minnesota
  • Brock Purdy - Iowa State
  • Emory Jones - Florida
  • Sean Clifford - Penn State
  • Jayden Daniels - Arizona State
  • Layne Hatcher - Arkansas State
  • Dustin Crum - Kent State
  • Jacob Zeno - Baylor
  • Spencer Sanders - Oklahoma State