The Denver Broncos may have tampered with its future quarterback.
Longtime Broncos insider Woody Paige recently reported that Denver has "spoken to" impending free-agent graybeard Ryan Fitzpatrick as the team seeks a veteran signal-caller to pair with incumbent third-year starter Drew Lock.
"I recently tweeted that I believe Lock would be back with a veteran free agent signed. My choices were Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick. They have spoken to Fitzpatrick," Paige said Thursday.
Some were quick to question the veracity of Paige's hearsay; his "source" on Fitzpatrick could well be a five-year-old report by ESPN's Adam Schefter that connected the Broncos to Fitzpatrick — a report that Paige, knowingly or not, reshared.
"Broncos-Ryan Fitzpatrick had initial conversation, price more than Denver wants to spend at this time, and they could revisit talks later," Schefter wrote on March 13, 2016.
But Paige's speculation appeared to receive a modicum of confirmation from 104.3 The Fan's John Clayton, who echoed Fitzpatrick as an ideal QB target while the Broncos dutifully wait out the Deshaun Watson saga in Houston.
"Their biggest advantage is that time and patience is on their side because of Lock. And adding a veteran like Fitzpatrick to challenge him could strengthen their team in 2021, while not eliminating them from a potential blockbuster for Watson in August," Clayton wrote Friday.
"What we’re seeing around the league is adjustments are being made right now by teams, including the Broncos. If you can’t pick up a quarterback in a trade that makes sense, what can you do to bring in some talent to compete for your quarterback position? In Denver’s case, providing a challenge to Drew Lock. Stay tuned, things are shaping to get interesting but at the moment the trade movement is slowing down."
A 16-year pro who's played for half as many NFL franchises, Fitzpatrick intends to test the open market following a two-season stint with the Miami Dolphins. He started 15 games in 2019 and opened 2020 under center before then-rookie first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa took the reins.
Fitzpatrick has 34,977 passing yards, 223 touchdowns, and 169 interceptions to his name since 2005, adding 2,623 career rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. When he's good — "Fitzmagic" — his teams win. When he's bad — "Fitztragic" — he single-handily loses games. There's often no middle ground. He's the definition of Hold-The-Fort Guy, only with a proclivity of usurping his younger mentees.
Whether the Broncos bring his three-ring show to town remains to be seen prior to the March 17 start of free agency. Entering his age-39 campaign, Fitzpatrick should require a deal comparable to the two-year, $11 million pact he inked with Miami, which included $7 million fully guaranteed.
Boasting $47.708 million in available salary cap room, fifth-most in the league, Denver has also been linked to fellow second-tier QBs Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, and Nick Foles.
Of course, the organization's pursuit of such Plan Bs is entirely contingent on its ability to acquire Watson, who reportedly has threatened to skip the 2021 season if not traded by the Texans.
Follow Zack on Twitter @KelbermanNFL
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!