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Broncos roster review: Quarterback Josh Johnson

If Russell Wilson has to miss time, how confident are you in Josh Johnson as QB2 for the Broncos?

NFL: Denver Broncos OTA Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

So, I’m guessing that you didn’t realize that there are three other Johnson’s on the Broncos other than Josh (Brandon, Zack and Jamar). Extra points if you can name the position that each of those three play....

Josh Johnson

QB #11
Experience: 8 years
Height: 6-2
Age: 36
Weight: 201 lbs
College: San Diego

The Broncos signed Josh Johnson to a one-year veteran minimum contract with a total cap hit of almost exactly one million on March 21st of this year. This was the week after the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson. So Johnson was brought in specifically to be the backup for Russ.

I have been following the career of Josh since his days at University of San Diego, which plays in the FCS conference called the Pioneer League (where Davidson, my alma mater also plays). The Pioneer League is one of the two conferences in the FCS that does not give out scholarships for football. Up until a few years ago, the conference champions from the Pioneer League and the Northeastern Conference (the other non-scholly conference) did not get an automatic bid to the playoffs. For those who don’t know, the FCS has a playoff that involves 32 teams to determine the national champion (the FCS, D2 and D3 have all done this for as long as I can remember). Only the BCS has been late the playoff party.

When Josh was at USD (with Jim Harbaugh as his head coach), he was almost an unstoppable force. He has a great feel for the pocket, but he is also a very capable runner when he needs to be. Playing against mostly non-scholarship opponents during his college career, he put up some outrageous numbers. His numbers were enough to lead the Tampa Bay Bucs to select him in the 5th round (160th overall) in 2008. At this time it was exceedingly rare for Pioneer League players to get drafted (it is still quite rare, but a little less so now). He was the 8th QB chosen in that draft that included Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chad Henne and Matt Flynn. There were 13 QBs taken in that draft and four of them are still in the league (Josh and the first three mentioned in the last sentence). Five of the thirteen QBs taken in that draft never took an NFL snap and three other who did, had so few that it’s almost comical.

  • Brian Brohm - 56th pick - started two games and appeared in one other. He threw 52 passes in his NFL career.
  • Kevin O’Connell - 94th pick - played in two games, throwing six total passes in his NFL career
  • Dennis Dixon - 156th pick - played in four games (3 GS) throwing 59 passes in his NFL career

Josh has had a much longer career than either of those three. He has had the fourth best career of the 13 QBs picked in 2008 (behind Ryan, Flacco and Henne). That being said, Josh has made a career of being a backup QB. He has only started nine games in his career and most of those starts came in two blocks: a four game clock with the 2009 Bucs (Bucs lost all four) and a three game block with Washington in 2018 (one win and two losses - the win was against the Jags). That win against the Jags was Josh’s best career start. Josh threw one of his thirteen career TD passes during the game.

Josh’ record as a starting QB is not very good, but he has shown that he is at least capable of stepping in and doing a decent job if he is forced to start. Even at the ago of 36 (yes, Josh is older than Russ), Josh still has the ability to be an effective runner if he is forced to run. His best season as a rusher in the NFL was in 2018 when he ran for 120 yards on 23 carries with one rushing TD. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry for his career.

One of the reasons that Josh has had such a long career is his is extremely intelligent and he also is quick to make reads so even with his limited arm, he can usually get the ball to the right receiver. Josh actually has more professional QB experience than shows on his NFL resume because he spent a year as a starting QB in the Alliance of American Football (RIP) and the XFL (RIP?).

The takeaway for me is that Josh is a good fit as the backup for Russ and Josh is extremely cheap relative to other backup QBs in the league, particularly those who has been in the game as long as Josh. Let’s look at the contracts of some of the other backup QBs around the league - all values in millions.

Baker Mayfield will have a cap hit of $10.6 in 2022 and Sam Darnold will have a cap hit of $5.5. So whoever wins the job in Charlotte, the Panthers will be paying the backup fairly handsomely. Same for the 49ers with Trey Lance $7.8 and Jimmy Garopolo $27.0.

Some other backups:

  • Marcus Mariotta $4.3
  • Teddy Bridgewater $6.5
  • Tyrod Taylor $2.7
  • Case Keenum $2.8
  • Joe Flacco $3.4
  • Jacoby Brissett $4.7
  • Nick Foles $2.6
  • Chad Henne $3.3
  • Chase Daniel $2.0
  • Trevor Siemian $1.7
  • Andy Dalton $3.0

So looking at who some of the other backups are and how much they cost? Would you rather have them at those prices or Josh?