The wait for the NFL draft just became a bit less painful as the Denver Broncos kick off 'Draft-mas Eve' with a bang. While the Broncos were heavily rumored to be pursuing a quarterback to compete with incumbent starter Drew Lock in 2021, GM George Paton stood back and watched as the quarterback market passed him by.
However, on Wednesday, the Broncos have made a QB splash, acquiring a veteran who has been long-rumored to the Mile High City. Denver has landed Teddy Bridgewater from the Carolina Panthers.
"The Panthers are trading QB Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos for a sixth-round draft pick, per source," NFL Network's Tom Pelissero tweeted.
Bridgewater has been a middling-level quarterback since his near-catastrophic knee injury in a 2016 practice while playing for the Minnesota Vikings. However, he drastically raises the floor of the Broncos’ quarterback room heading into the upcoming season.
While Bridgewater has bounced around the league, now joining his fourth team in just seven seasons, many key Broncos’ decision-makers have some level of familiarity with the former first-round pick from the University of Louisville. Denver’s offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was the Vikings’ tight ends coach and later offensive coordinator during Bridgewater's final two seasons in Minnesota while he was recovering from his knee injury.
Furthermore and perhaps most importantly, Bridgewater was brought to Minnesota during Paton’s tenure as the Vikings’ assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel. No doubt, Shurmur and Paton’s comfort and relationship with Bridgewater may have had an influence on the Broncos’ decision to pull the trigger.
As part of the deal, the Panthers have reportedly agreed to eat $7 million of Bridgewater’s 2021 cap hit, leaving the Broncos responsible for the remaining $3 million. A big deterrence for obtaining Bridgewater in the eyes of many fans was the cap hit he would carry. At just $3M against the cap, he's now a relative bargain.
What does this mean for the Broncos’ in the draft? According to Adam Schefter, this does not preclude Denver from taking a quarterback early in the draft. If one of North Dakota State's Trey Lance, Ohio State's Justin Fields, or Alabama's Mac Jones falls to pick No. 9, or within striking distance to where Paton feels comfortable moving up, don’t be surprised to see Denver select a signal-caller.
Paton released a statement confirming the trade and touching on what Bridgewater brings to Denver.
“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room," Paton said.
This Broncos team is built to contend for a playoff spot in 2021 if the team can manufacture average quarterback play. While Drew Lock (or a rookie draft pick) would likely provide a higher ceiling than Bridgewater, protecting the football, driving the offense, and being a game-manager should be good enough for this roster to win some games next year.
The floor of the quarterback room has been significantly raised with this move. What will Paton and the Broncos do now in the draft, if anything at all?
Time will tell. Either way, Paton has Broncos Country on the edge of its seat to see what comes next.
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