Barring a blockbuster deal for disenchanted Texans superstar Deshaun Watson, the Denver Broncos are prepared to preserve the status quo under center.
NFL Network's James Palmer reported Wednesday that although Denver will be "aggressive" in its pursuit of Watson, the team is not intrigued by the second tier of presumably available quarterbacks — and if a Watson trade cannot be consummated, incumbent Drew Lock likely will remain the starter in 2021.
"There's a top group of quarterbacks that really alter your franchise. They were in on Matthew Stafford and made an offer. Perhaps Russell Wilson becomes available; they would look there. That group, they're interested in being aggressive. The next group down, I've heard some things along the lines of — they're not interested in Carson Wentz, they're lukewarm on the rest of that group. And what does that tell you? They don't believe that group is that much better, perhaps, than Drew Lock is in their mind. It also shows you they may think Drew Lock is on a trajectory into his third season that could be better than the one we saw," Palmer said.
"Obviously, people in the building believe he had his ups and downs this past season. But they think at the end of the year, he played pretty well. He had two of his highest passer ratings of the season, he had seven touchdowns to two interceptions in those final four games. Things started to change for him. Maybe they'd like to see him with Pat Shurmur, with a full offseason for the first time, as he's always had new offensive coordinators. They are looking at other quarterbacks, obviously, but they don't believe this affects his confidence, either. He's still been in the building regularly, working out, and they don't think this will affect him by any means."
Indeed, while Lock struggled through a disappointing 2020 campaign — in which he was hamstrung by the COVID-19 pandemic, injuries to his supporting cast, and questionable offensive coaching, among other third-party factors — the Missouri product appeared to progress as the year wore on by cutting down on his turnovers and generally making better decisions.
He demonstrated this in Denver's Week 10 victory over the Panthers (21-of-27, 280 yards, four touchdowns) and the club's Week 17 loss to the Raiders (25-of-41, 339 yards, two TDs), peppering flashes of brilliance in between. It wasn't enough to earn a slam-dunk endorsement from new general manager George Paton, who indicated that Lock requires further refinement, nor stave off the ever-increasing speculation about his job security, but it was enough, apparently, to keep himself squarely in Paton's future plans.
“I liked Drew coming out of the draft—big arm, athletic, playmaker. ... I’ve watched enough tape to know he’s talented and he can develop," Paton said during his Jan. 19 introductory press conference.
Whether he's Plan A or Plan B, however, is a decision the brain trust has yet to finalize, and it likely won't be until (or if) the Watson domino falls.
If that domino doesn't land in the Mile High City, the Broncos seem content to pair Lock with a mid-tier free agent such as Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Nick Foles before potentially blowing up the position altogether in 2022.
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