Back in March, ex-NFL general manager and long-time front-office personnel guy Michael Lombardi made some waves by reporting that the Denver Broncos came close to trading for quarterback Carson Wentz before the Philadelphia Eagles dealt him to the Indianapolis Colts.
Fast forward to April, the first few waves of free agency are in the books and Broncos GM George Paton made some momentous moves that have been roundly lauded around the NFL landscape. One move Paton didn't make was signing or acquiring a veteran quarterback.
What that means for incumbent Drew Lock, by implication, is that Paton is at least comfortable with him as the penciled-in starter for 2021, depending on how the NFL draft shakes out. However, in a recent appearance on The Irish NFL Show, Lombardi rebuts that notion, reporting that the Broncos nearly traded Lock away and that Paton is hell-bent on acquiring a new quarterback.
"I think George Paton, the new general manager, knows that he's got a real good team that lacks a quarterback. I mean, he knows that," Lombardi told The Irish NFL Show on Friday. "John Elway drafted Lock and I'm sure John's ego is bruised quite a bit from not being able to solve the quarterback problems. I mean, since he's been the general manager, other than the Peyton Manning era, he's not been able to solve the quarterback issue and I'm sure that bothers John. I think he wants to hang onto Drew. I think they had Drew traded midway, early part of free agency but they slept on it over a weekend and they backed away."
If true, Lombardi's report, or rumor (depending on how you'd want to characterize it), casts Lock's relationship with Paton in a whole new light. I know Lombardi is very plugged in around the league, so I'm at least inclined to believe that there's some kernel of truth to what he reported, even if it's not the whole story.
Perhaps that's why the Broncos missed the free-agent quarterback boat—because Paton was poised to trade Lock away and lost out in his indecision. In exchange for what or whom, we don't know. But after sleeping on it, Paton opted to keep Lock.
Why? If true, why didn't Paton deal Lock away if he had a decent offer on the table? Perhaps we should take Paton at face value when he said last month, "We like Drew Lock."
If the Broncos are indeed focused on maneuvering to land one of the top-5 QBs in the draft class, Paton's relative inactivity is conspicuous. It casts Lombardi's entire premise into doubt because we know that Paton is very active on the phones and prides himself on being "a part of every deal."
We have to assume that Paton knew about the opportunity to trade up with the Miami Dolphins to land the No. 3 overall pick, which would guarantee the Broncos either Lance or Fields. But the Broncos didn't move and to this point, still haven't.
"I think George Paton's a really good personnel guy and I think he knows just what to do," Lombardi continued. "I think [the Broncos] are all in on trying to find a quarterback. I think they're all in and I think they're concerned that now that San Francisco is at No. 3 (overall), that the choices of quarterbacks could be down to two guys. It could be Justin Fields or it could be Trey Lance, assuming that Mac Jones goes No. 3 (overall). So I do expect them to heat up into the Sam Darnold business because the Jets are going to take Zach Wilson and everyone knows it."
Wilson-to-New York might seem fait accompli but local reports on the Darnold front, again, contradict Lombardi's read, or intel, on the issue. Just this week, Denver7's Troy Renck reported that Paton hasn't moved on Darnold because the GM doesn't view him as a true upgrade to Lock.
If that's the case, unless the Jets are willing to give Darnold away, the Broncos' position is likely to be unmoving. However, there's still plenty of row left to hoe between now and draft day and as it relates to the 2021 class, opportunity still knocks for Paton but it would require a trade-up to No. 4 with Atlanta in order to make whatever capital is relinquished in such a move worthwhile.
Draft day will be here before you know it. We'll have our answers on these crucial Broncos issues sooner than later.
Still, don't be surprised if Paton doesn't trade up or draft a quarterback early. And don't be shocked to see Lock leading this team onto the field as the starter under center when the regular season opens up in September.
UPDATE: Insiders closer to home like KOARadio's Benjamin Allbright have quickly quashed the veracity of Lombardi's claim.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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