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What is it worth to trade up for a franchise QB? How far is too far?

The Denver Broncos have been rumored (key word) to be determined to trade up from the 12th pick in the NFL Draft to potentially #1 overall to secure a franchise QB, which will be costly. So how much is too much to give up?

NCAA Football: UCLA at Southern California Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

By now, most in Broncos Country who have access to social media have heard the rumors that the Denver Broncos and Sean Payton appear ready to make an aggressive move in the 2024 NFL Draft to acquire a franchise QB.

The rumor, first put into circulation by Denver Sports’ Cecil Lammey, who is present at the Shrine Bowl and has had conversations, has (as most rumors do) taken off. In some ways, it’s become a game of telephone, with one person hearing what he wants to hear telling the next person who hears what he wants to hear, etc.

Of course, given we are still months away from the draft, the rumor is just that: a rumor. In fact, the NFL Network’s James Palmer poured a little cold water on it, saying it’s far too soon to be buying anything like that. There’s too much time between now and the draft.

Still, it has fans curious.

Out of all the premature mock drafts that have been put out, very few have the Broncos taking a QB at #12. A few have Bo Nix, who is reportedly having an underwhelming bowl week performance, while others have gone so far as to suggest a trade for Tua Tagovailoa.

The mocks who have the Broncos going defense, Brock Bowers, etc. all mention the elephant-in-the-room QB problem but do not offer any solution. The most important position on the field appears to be vacant, and these geniuses have Denver going best player available with no insight as to what should be done at QB.

So why wouldn’t a rumor start (legitimate or not) that suggests the Broncos are going to trade up for former Heisman winner and USC star Caleb Williams? No one else is offering any solutions. But thanks for all those Terrion Arnold predictions, mock draft bros, it clearly will help the offense.

To get to that point, though, easier said than done.

The Bears don’t necessarily NEED to go QB with the first overall pick. Justin Fields is a talented QB who came on very strong at the end of this season. So despite the talent and potential of someone like Williams, they may be willing to listen to offers. Yet, they also aren’t necessarily in such a secure position where they can pass on Williams, so for the first pick, their asking price won’t be so lenient.

Let’s look at some of the past aggressive trade-ups for a QB where the result wasn’t exactly franchise-worthy.

  • 2021 - The San Francisco 49ers traded first-round picks in 2021, 2022, and 2023, along with a third-round pick in 2022, to move up from #12 to #3 to draft Trey Lance. Lance is now a backup with the Dallas Cowboys, just two years later, being acquired for a fourth-round pick. Luckily, Kyle Shanahan is an evil genius and managed to turn a Mr. Irrelevant pick in Brock Purdy into a Super Bowl caliber player, as he will show two Sundays from now.
  • 1999 - The New Orleans Saints and new head coach Mike Ditka traded their entire draft (eight picks) to move up for RB Ricky Williams. While Williams was a talented player, his mental health issues temporarily derailed his NFL aspirations, and the Saints never saw the fruits of his labor.
  • 2012 - the Washington Redskins (as they were then called) gave up three first-round picks to move up to acquire Robert Griffin III, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor. While he had a promising rookie campaign, injuries and style of play limited him the rest of his career. Luckily, just as his son would do nine years later, then-coach Mike Shanahan drafted an insurance policy in Kirk Cousins, the player who would end up the more promising QB.

Moral of the story? Not exactly slow and steady wins the race, but sometimes being too impatient can lead to catastrophe.

Yet, for the Broncos, since the retirement of Peyton Manning, catastrophe is a way of life. Zero playoff appearances. One winning season (in 2016). Approximately 100,000 QB experiments, none of which were successes. Nothing the Broncos have done since then have been successful, so is it so far out of the realm of logic to...roll the dice a bit?

In the words of Billy Bob Thornton’s Santa Claus character in “Bad Santa”, “You think you’re a threat? You think you can make my life any worse? Go ahead, take a shot!”

To sum everything up in a tight little package, a trade up from #12 to #1 is aggressive, risky, and will cost a lot. Yet, for the Denver Broncos, a team without a QB, who has been in perpetual mediocrity (at best) for nearly a decade, what price is too much to pay?

Leave your opinion in the comments.

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