The Denver Broncos are on the hunt for a new quarterback in 2022. First, GM George Paton has fish to fry, so to speak, in hiring the right head coach after Vic Fangio was dismissed last Sunday.
The Broncos have 10 interviews lined up with prospective head-coach candidates and completed their first sit-down on Thursday with Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Once this team's 18th head coach is hired, there will be an ownership transfer as the Broncos are going up for bid with legendary figures like Peyton Manning and John Elway vying for the team.
From there, Paton will set his sights on solving the quarterback conundrum. On Thursday, we learned that the Broncos have their sights set on four different veteran quarterbacks, with Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers as "Plan A" and Seattle's Russell Wilson as "Plan B."
9NEWS' Broncos insider Mike Klis joined the Stokley and Zach Show on 104.3 The FAN and detailed the QB priorities for Denver this offseason, floating two additional names that are apparently on Paton's radar.
"The Broncos are looking at Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson. I think there's a 'Big Four'. Those two, with Rodgers being head-and-shoulders Plan A, Wilson Plan B, [Jimmy] Garoppolo and [Kirk] Cousins in that next group, also," Klis told fill-in hosts James Merilatt and Mat Smith. "I guess the reason why you'd sell yourself on Garoppolo and Cousins is they're still a step up from what you've got but you wouldn't have to give up all your assets to get him."
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has been a long-rumored target of Denver's dating back to 2018. This is the first we've heard the name of San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo being tied to the Broncos by a reputable source, however.
If Paton swings and misses on either Rodgers or Wilson, the focus will turn to Garoppolo and Cousins. Although neither name is likely to excite Broncos Country, Klis explained the pragmatic allure to those two signal-callers.
"Aaron Rodgers—you're going to have to give up two first-round draft picks and two second-round draft picks and Drew Lock—if the Packers want Drew Lock," Klis told The FAN. "Maybe the most valuable commodity—I said this last year—the most valuable commodities for the Broncos last year were Jerry Jeudy. This year, it's Pat Surtain or Javonte Williams because they're second-year guys, their bonus is already paid and they're making minimum. So, do you want to do that for Aaron Rodgers, who's 39? I think most people would say yes but I think maybe I'd say yes and I'd really hesitate to give up so much for Aaron Rodgers at 39 years old. And so you wouldn't have to give that much up for Garoppolo or Cousins."
It'll cost a pretty penny to pry Rodgers off of Green Bay's hands — if the Packers indeed play ball and acquiesce to a trade. Green Bay's brass reportedly told Rodgers that if he'd end his hold-out last summer, and show up for the start of training camp, the team would be open to looking at his situation at season's end — if the three-time MVP still wants out of town. Rodgers led the Packers to secure the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed and has a strong path to the Super Bowl.
If the Broncos hire Rodgers' offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as head coach, and scalp his QBs coach Luke Getsy as Denver's OC, it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of really pushing the veteran QB out of Green Bay, regardless of how the playoffs unfold. The Broncos are scheduled to interview Hackett this weekend and he's currently viewed as the co-favorite for the head-coaching job alongside Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Obviously, Hackett's head-coaching candidacy is an issue Rodgers is closely monitoring.
The Wilson situation, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have the same momentum as Rodgers. The Seahawks opted to retain head coach Pete Carroll, so it would seem keeping the band together and running it back with Wilson is that team's Plan A. I'll be surprised if Wilson departs the Emerald City.
Garoppolo could be interesting for Denver because the Niners drafted his replacement high in the first round last year in Trey Lance. Still a little too rough around the edges to start, Lance could be tapped by Kyle Shanahan to be The Guy in San Fran next year which would make Garoppolo expendable.
Garoppolo carries a $26.9 million cap hit in 2022 and as Klis postulates, wouldn't cost nearly as much to acquire via trade, unless he leads the Niners to some spectacular finish in the playoffs. Perhaps a pair of Day 2 draft picks gets Garoppolo in Denver.
Cousins, however, would come with a mind-boggling $45M cap hit in 2022. If there's an inside track here, though, it's Denver's past interest in acquiring Cousins and his history with Paton in Minnesota.
Fans will continue to wonder about Houston's Deshaun Watson. But as Klis said on Thursday, until his off-field allegations are resolved, Watson might as well be radioactive to the Broncos.
"Right now, he's not [a target of Denver's]. He's got to get things cleared up," Klis told The FAN. "I mean, let's get his things cleared up here. He's so removed from everything right now but as long as he has these off-field problems—they're so serious—they have to be resolved."
The common denominator among the four quarterbacks Klis mentioned is that each one is under contract with another club in 2022. That makes forecasting an acquisition to Denver very murky as one must factor a third party into the equation.
Unlike an unrestricted free agent where a team need only negotiate with the player — while competing with other suitors — a trade requires the player's current team to sign off on a move. In that sense, the Broncos are dependent on factors outside their control when it comes to acquiring any of these four veterans.
But if there's a path, Paton will find it. Buckle up, Broncos Country, because 2022 is poised to provide some unprecedented offseason fireworks.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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