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6 Outside QBs Broncos Could Target in Wake of Lock Injury

Vic Fangio confirmed the Broncos will be looking off-roster for any QB upgrades with Drew Lock out 2-6 weeks. Here are six that could make sense.

Coming off a brutal 26-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Denver Broncos are left with a lot of soul-searching to do. Indeed, the Broncso showed a lot of heart, and plenty of grit, away from home. 

The biggest concern for the Broncos is the rash of injuries they've suffered. Unfortunately, Denver received more bad news on that front on Monday with an MRI confirming Drew Lock will miss 2-6 weeks with a ‘rotal/labrum issue in the back of the shoulder.'.

How the Broncos approach the QB situation now depends largely on how competitive the team expects to be with Courtland Sutton and Von Miller out for the year, as well as how they compensate with additional injuries to Dre’Mont Jones, Phillip Lindsay, A.J. Bouye. 

There are additional complications in terms of COVID-19 testing, with any outside addition at quarterback having to produce two negative tests over two days, before even getting into the facility, much less getting into the playbook, practicing on the field, or building chemistry with the receivers. Any addition isn’t likely to contribute much before Week 4 or even Week 5. 

It just so happens that the Broncos face the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, meaning that a new QB addition could have a solid chance of being ready to go after 10 days' rest. It's also true that the Broncos might have a variety of approaches to address their QB situation in the short-, medium- and longer-term.

Who's out there who could step in and help now and remain within the scope of Lock remaining the guy when he returns from injury a few weeks from now? 

Kyle Shurmur (Street Free Agent)

When the Broncos signed college free agent Riley Neal, I thought that the team had brought in the wrong QB from Vanderbilt. At Vandy, Shurmur —  the son of Broncos' offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur — operated the Commodores' offense at a much higher level, spreading the ball and showing better placement. 

Kyle has the school records in passing yardage (8,865), touchdowns (64), pass attempts (1,264), and completions (722), and though he went undrafted, he signed with the Chiefs before bouncing between the practice squad and the active roster when Kansas City had to shuffle its backups because of injury, though he did not see game time. Shurmur was waived in April, and is still currently a free agent, but he has been worked out by other teams across the league. 

As a street free agent, he can be signed to the Broncos’ practice squad, with Lock potentially moving to injured reserve and Brett Rypien being called up to the active roster. Such an approach would indicate that the Broncos would expect to be competitive with Jeff Driskel as the starter and that the team expects Lock to be back and making a positive contribution sooner rather than later.

Trevor Siemian (Tennessee Titans' Practice Squad)

‘Touchdown Trevor’ was thrust into an unenviable position as the quarterback who replaced Peyton Manning on a Super Bowl-winning team but as a seventh-round pick, he showed enough in camp to vanquish Paxton Lynch to win the starting job in 2016 and 2017, going on to make 24 starts for Denver. Siemian isn’t a starter in the NFL, but as a backup or spot-starter, he can be serviceable. 

It would remain to be seen how the Broncos' locker room would receive him, but it has changed considerably since 2017. Siemian stepped in for Sam Darnold in New York but suffered a terrible ankle injury. Siemian offers some mobility but will be limited by his arm and field processing, but the Broncos could do worse. 

Since he’s on the Titans’ practice squad, Siemian would have to be signed to the active roster, and he could be protected Tuesdays through to gamedays if the Titans think he could be poached.

Kyle Lauletta (Atlanta Falcons' Practice Squad)

Lauletta was one of my favorite quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class, despite his lack of arm talent and playing for the Richmond Spiders in the FCS. He was a fourth-round pick of the New York Giants in 2018, but had a traffic violation and police chase, which likely contributed to him being cut in 2019. 

Lauletta has since spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles, worked out with the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Jets, and was signed to the Falcons’ practice squad. There are some character concerns, and it remains to be seen whether Coach Shurmur would vouch for his character, but Lauletta does deserve a mention as a possible candidate. Since he’s on the Falcons’ practice squad, he would have to be signed to the active roster, and he could be protected Tuesdays through to gamedays.

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Trade: Case Keenum (Cleveland Browns' Active Roster)

Yes, Keenum signed a slightly above-average contract in Denver, because GM John Elway recognized swiftly that the Broncos were out of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes in 2018. Keenum didn’t perform as well as expected and was quickly traded following his only year in Denver, however, desperate times call for desperate measures. 

As a backup and spot-starter, Keenum is a viable stop-gap on an amenable contract, having signed a three-year, $18M deal with the Browns in the offseason. He carries base salaries of $6M in 2021 and $5.5M in 2022 with a $1M roster bonus. Keenum has experience in the scheme under Shurmur, throwing for 3,547 yards, at a 67.6  completion percentage, 22 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 15 regular-season games for the Minnesota Vikings en route to a 13-3 record and a NFC Championship Game appearance. 

For the 2017 season, Keenum had a PFF grade of 82.3, including a solid 78.1 as a passer. Shurmur incorporated a lot of moving pockets with a heavy dose of play-action. Keenum does have some chemistry with DaeSean Hamilton from his time in Denver in 2018. 

Working in the Broncos' favor are that lines of communication have been opened in Cleveland with the Andy Janovich trade. Importantly, Keenum would be under contract for two more years after this season, which would solidify the Broncos’ QB depth. 

The Browns might be loath to give up one of the better backups in the league as the only other QB on their team is Garrett Gilbert on the practice squad. It might also cost the Broncos an early Day 3 draft pick, with some conditional picks, or even a late Day 2 pick.

Trade: Andy Dalton (Dallas Cowboys' Active Roster)

Dalton was my preferred veteran QB to target this offseason for Denver, but I understand why the Broncos went the direction they did in free agency, signing Driskel to avoid the QB controversy. Everything Elway did in the offseason was with Lock in mind, and the Cowboys really got a steal signing Dalton to a one-year, $3M deal with up to $7M in incentives. 

Dalton took less to stay close to home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and might not want to leave, but he helps his value if he can get another shot at starting, and if Lock is out for eight weeks or more, there would be ample opportunity for him to do just that.

Dalton posted a respectable 81.9 PFF grade in eleven games in 2018, though he had a 66.5 grade in 13 11 games in 2019. In 2018, in 11 games, Dalton threw for 2,566 yards with a 61 completion percentage with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and a QB rating of 89.6. He regressed in 2019, but threw for 3,494 yards with a 59.5 completion percentage, and a 16-to-14 TD-to-INT ratio, adding another four rushing scores, with a QB rating of 78.3. 

The Cowboys do have 2020 seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci out of James Madison on their roster but much like the Browns, might be reluctant to trade their recently-acquired backup QB, especially considering Dallas' playoff aspirations. Based on his contract, a later-round pick would be a good price, but it would be for a rental.

Long-Shot Option: Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions' Starting QB)

High-priced QBs like Nick Foles and Jacoby Brissett were considered, but ultimately they’re being paid like starters and that goes beyond the scope of this article and what the Broncos are likely looking for. Alex Smith would be an interesting wild-card, but he hasn’t played since suffering a life-threatening leg injury in 2018.

Others, like Matthew Stafford, may become a viable trade option if their teams land a top-3 draft pick and decide to go in a different direction, and if the Broncos continue to be in QB purgatory. If, say, the Broncos finish outside of the top-5-to-10 picks, the elite QB options in the draft might be off-limits without a significant trade up, and more pressingly, the team would be entering Lock’s pivotal third year without much idea of the QB he could be because he’d be coming off two major injuries in his two years in the NFL.

Frankly, while Plan A for the Broncos should definitely be based around Lock, who has shown excellent leadership and has awesome traits, but QB is always a need until it is proved not to be. Stafford would be an excellent veteran addition and is signed through 2022, which would represent his age-34 season.

It would keep the Broncos’ current window open, but there are concerns about the salary cap limitations over the next few years, and the team's cash issues purportedly limiting its flexibility with signing bonuses and ability to finesse the cap without new ownership. A trade for Stafford would come at a significant cost, though, and it might behoove the Broncos to just hold on to their draft picks considering the cap/cash situation and more years of team-control. 

Follow James on Twitter @JamesC_MHH and @MileHighHuddle.