One way or the other, the Denver Broncos seem assured of emerging from Cleveland next week with a new quarterback in tow.
If Denver opts against using its top pick on a rookie passer, its sights could shift toward adding a veteran like *checks notes* the Carolina Panthers' Teddy Bridgewater, whose speculative acquisition is among the likeliest trade deals to be consummated during the upcoming Draft, according to Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton.
Based on the passing numbers, Bridgewater had a better 2020 season, and he could take over the huddle if Lock struggles through the 2021 term. Denver should be able to acquire him from Carolina with a fifth-round pick.
Because of Bridgewater's experience and his role as a full-time starter this past season, he'll probably garner more trade buzz than Gardner Minshew II if teams scramble to acquire a veteran quarterback during the draft. The 28-year-old ranks second among players potentially on the move.
An increasingly rumored Broncos target due to his familiarity with general manager George Paton — they crossed paths in Minnesota — Bridgewater was granted permission by the Panthers to seek a new NFL home after the team traded for ex-Jets No. 3 overall choice Sam Darnold, the presumed 2021 starter.
"[The] Broncos at very least, [are] expected to express interest in Bridgewater. But there would be wrinkles to iron out [the] acquisition price and his current salary. In theory, Denver could add Teddy and still draft QB in round one and move on from Lock. A lot of options to consider," Denver7's Troy Renck tweeted on April 6.
With Alex Smith announcing his retirement, the QB pool is all but dried up. Should the Broncos want experienced insurance for or depth behind incumbent Drew Lock, their options consist of Bridgewater, Chicago's Nick Foles, and Jacksonville's Gardner Minshew.
Considering his playstyle, Bridgewater is the safest trade bet — but he's also the most expensive, scheduled to earn $17 million in base salary and count nearly $23 million against the salary cap next season.
9News' Broncos insider Mike Klis intimated on April 8 that Paton will not pull the trigger on Bridgewater unless Carolina first agrees to eat a chunk of his salary, an apparent non-negotiable prerequisite.
“I really think most teams are interested in Bridgewater if Carolina releases him," Klis said on 104.3 The Fan. "The Broncos would be interested in Bridgewater competing with Drew Lock. Either Carolina has to pay some sort of guarantee, or release him.”
At the cost of a fifth-round choice, as Moton suggested, Bridgewater certainly would be a worthy flier for the Broncos. But the 2014 Pro Bowler remains a distinct Plan B as Paton wrestles with the farm-selling temptation of landing his QB-of-the-future prospect (Justin Fields? Trey Lance?) in what'd represent a franchise-altering transaction, unlike yet another short-term stopgap that may or may not move the proverbial needle.
The answer, mercifully, arrives in eight days.
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