The Denver Broncos have been linked to every conceivable quarterback rumor swirling around the NFL. It is quite understandable since the team has swung and missed on a mountain of quarterback options since the retirement of Peyton Manning.
Some of these rumors have validity and some don’t, but the Broncos will have options at the quarterback position. Those options range from incredible to downright awful.
Today's list will shed some light on that by ranking the options.
First, let’s remove any options that are unrealistic. The Broncos are looking for a starter. It can be a one-year, stop-gap player or one that could be around for multiple years.
Even though the Broncos will be in desperation mode, they'll need a player who can start all season and there are some options that just would not fit the bill. The free-agent pool is subpar. As such, there are a few unrestricted free agents that can be scratched off the list.
The recognizable names of Nick Foles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, and Jacoby Brissett are the names pre-scratched-out. Age, injuries, subpar play, or a combination of all three make these players, non-viable options. They have been tried before many times, but aren’t the answer and can’t be relied upon even for one season.
When it comes to trade rumors, Baker Mayfield, Matt Ryan, and Deshaun Watson aren’t options either. The Cleveland Browns would be absolute fools to part with Mayfield. He has taken them from a team that won four games in three seasons to a perennial playoff threat. Plus, the Browns have no replacement plan.
Ryan is almost 'untradeable' with his contract. A pre-June 1 trade would leave Atlanta a dead cap of $40 million. At 37 years old, is there a team that would trade enough draft capital for the Atlanta Falcons to eat that contract? Highly doubtful.
Watson has too much that is clouding his future with his off-field legal trouble centered around highly concerning allegations. Although Broncos GM George Paton had Watson high on his list prior to the legal issues, he's since been scratched off it.
Fortunately, there are several options left for the Broncos, ranked from worst to best based on ability and cost. Let's dive in.
12: Mitchell Trubisky | Buffalo Bills
A highly-drafted bust who is going to be an unrestricted free agent, Trubisky didn’t cut it in Chicago and became the backup in Buffalo this season. A desperate team may take a chance on him turning it around, but the Broncos should not be that team. There has been quite the hubbub about Matt Nagy being to blame for Trubisky's failure to launch since he was just fired, but that doesn’t mean that the QB should be absolved of all issues completely. It's an extremely risky proposition to go into 2022 with Trubisky as the starter.
11: Teddy Bridgewater | Denver Broncos
Bridgewater is going to be an unrestricted free agent when the offseason starts. He played above his norm with the Broncos, but we all watched what he was capable of on the field. He is not the answer for the Broncos.
With all the potential in the skill players surrounding him coupled with the full support of coaches, Teddy still could not get the job done against good competition. If he had a smaller price tag, he would rank higher, but with the reports that he wants to sign a long-term contract in the $25M range, his pay would not match his production.
10: Drew Lock | Denver Broncos
There could be more interest in Lock with a new head coach, but it feels like his days in the Mile High City are numbered. Both the Broncos and Lock should move on and it would probably benefit the player.
Lock flashed a few times, but his 2020 season adjusted for era was one of the worst all-time. He also didn’t show much improvement when he did get a chance after Bridgewater went down with an injury in 2021.
The good news is, if the team hangs onto Lock, he is still on his rookie deal. If the Broncos had to start him in 2022, he would not be expensive and the team would have salary-cap money to spend elsewhere to bolster the team.
9: Jimmy Garoppolo | San Francisco 49ers
This is a trade scenario based on some rumors. Garoppolo is a shade above Bridgewater in talent, but that doesn’t mean he should be a starter. With a good team around him, Garoppolo is serviceable, but that isn’t going to get the Broncos to the big dance.
Unlike Ryan, Garoppolo has a tradable contract from the Niners' perspective. However, the Broncos would be on the hook for a one-year contract that isn't commensurate with what Garoppolo brings in production. The Broncos would also need to fork over some draft capital, but with Trey Lance waiting in the wings, it may not be costly.
8: Kirk Cousins | Minnesota Vikings
Cousins is one of the quarterbacks who gets destroyed by fans, but undeservedly so. He is a solid quarterback who is a solid notch above Bridgewater and Garoppolo. He's not elite, but the draft capital it would take to get him might be borderline worthy of the tag.
That would be a mistake by the Broncos as would taking on Cousins' massive contract. His abilities do not equal elite-level quarterback play, but that is what the Broncos would be paying for and getting for one season. It would be a tough pill to swallow, but he would be far and away the best quarterback the team has had since Manning.
7: Gardner Minshew | Philadelphia Eagles
Minshew isn’t a bad quarterback. He isn’t elite, but he is a lot of fun. Under the right coach, he could lead an offense quite well and easily be a one-season starter until the Broncos could find a long-term answer.
To get Minshew would not require significant draft capital and the final year on his contract is very inexpensive at under $1M. At the very least, he would bring some excitement back under center.
6: Andy Dalton | Chicago Bears
Dalton is the anti-Minshew. He would be a boring choice, but would bring solid starting experience. During his time in Cincinnati, Dalton was never given his due. He was a very solid, but unspectacular quarterback who did well when coached by Marvin Lewis.
Dalton's time with the Bengals came to an end and was unfortunately saddled with Nagy in Chicago after a brief spell in Dallas. As a one-year fill-in, Dalton could be a starter on the level of Bridgewater, but significantly cheaper. It would not be a surprise to see him sign a one-year deal for less than $10M.
5: Marcus Mariota | Las Vegas Raiders
It's tough to talk yourself into Mariota, but the more you look at his career, the more you think he could be a decent starter. He had a good season while being coached by an underwhelming Mike Mularkey. Mariota lost his job to Ryan Tannehill and at the time, that looked like a big slap in the face, but Tannehill turned out to be a darn good quarterback.
This ranking is dependent on who the Broncos hire as a head coach and offensive coordinator. If the Broncos could be creative with Mariota, he could be a weapon with his legs and serviceable with his arm. Sitting behind Derek Carr could have done him some good and it makes him an intriguing free agent that would not come with a huge price tag.
4: Jameis Winston | New Orleans Saints
After watching Winston throw the ball to the other team as often as he threw touchdowns, placing him in the No. 4 spot in the past would have been unthinkable. However, he got lasik eye surgery and suddenly could see the opposing team’s jersey color.
Winston was having a very good season in New Orleans before his injury. In fact, he was looking like a top-10 quarterback before being lost for the season. There was no doubt that he could sling the rock, but in 2021, he had curbed his interceptions, throwing only three in seven games but that was under Sean Payton's guidance.
It's a guess where Winston will end up on the salary range, but my guess is that he won’t break the bank because he will want to show that the first seven games this season weren’t a fluke.
3: Derek Carr | Las Vegas Raiders
This one seems unlikely, but with all the turmoil in Las Vegas and a new head coach on the way, the Raiders could move on from Carr for the right price. Trading him would give the Raiders $20M of cap savings with zero dead cap.
The Raiders are in decent shape with the salary cap, so trading Carr isn’t a necessity. It'd be a long shot to get him via trade, but Carr can be one of the top quarterbacks in the league if teamed up with the right coach and placed in the right offense.
People can point to his record and say he is terrible, but the Raiders teams he has played on have been abysmal for the most part. Of the top-three options, the price tag to get Carr would be the least expensive.
2: Russell Wilson | Seattle Seahawks
Wilson is an elite quarterback and it will take a haul to get him away from the Seahawks. However, he'd be worth it and would immediately make the Broncos a Super Bowl contender.
The reason he isn’t No. 1 on the list is largely due to his 2021 season. It was not up to Wilson's typical elite standards. It could chalked up to many reasons, but it isn’t a stretch to think that the wear and tear on his body from the hits he has absorbed in his career are starting to take their toll.
At 33 years old, Wilson has some elite seasons left in him and Paton is smart enough to get him a good offensive line for protection. If this trade were to happen, it would be huge for the Broncos and for the fans champing at the bit to get back to the franchise’s winning ways.
1: Aaron Rodgers | Green Bay Packers
The best quarterback in the NFL coming to the Broncos? How fast can they sign that deal? It wouldn’t be fast enough. Rodgers is still playing at an MVP level even at his advanced age.
He would also make the Broncos an immediate Super Bowl contender and has the ability to carry the team to the title game if needed. The cost to get Rodgers would be considerable, but it would be worth it. There are maybe two teams in the NFL that wouldn’t trade the quarterback they currently have to get Rodgers.
Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasHallNFL.
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