The NFL rumor mill continues to pump out buzz connecting the Denver Broncos to every quasi-available quarterback. From trade speculation involving Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, to free-agent buzz on veterans like Andy Dalton, word on the street is that new Broncos GM Geoge Paton seems to be a man of his word and a part of "every deal."
So far, Paton hasn't pulled the trigger on a monumental quarterback deal. And he's had several opportunities, starting with the Matthew Stafford situation in Detroit before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Rams. The Broncos have also reportedly received "opportunities" to trade away Drew Lock, according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport.
In an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Rapoport was asked if all the QB smoke surrounding the Broncos means Paton has already decided to move on from Lock.
"No and they've had opportunities to because teams—as all the calls have happened, Goff and Stafford—teams have called about Drew Lock because the potential is there," Rapoport told host Pat McAfee. " The Broncos haven't come close to trading him and I honestly doubt that they will because here's the problem; let's say the Broncos trade Drew Lock, and then what he did the last like four games of the season, let's say that's what he does for 16 games. Well, then it's like, 'Why did you trade that guy?' Look, if Deshaun Watson becomes actually available, if Russell Wilson becomes available, I would imagine the Broncos would be interested because they're always going to be interested. Otherwise, I think it's going to be Drew Lock and then maybe you draft someone, maybe bring in a good backup. Drew Lock has potential and it's scary to trade a guy before you see whether he's going to do it or not."
Rapoport's remarks on Lock adds up because unless Paton is lucky enough to land a massive fish like Watson, the Broncos' incumbent is the guy to give the team the best chance of winning in 2021. That might sound counterintuitive considering Lock's 4-9 record as a starter last year, but he's getting his No. 1 receiver back in Courtland Sutton and will benefit from having the same offensive system in back-to-back years for the first time since his sophomore-to-junior seasons at Missouri.
The Broncos are terrified that Lock will pop somewhere else if the team jumps the gun and moves on too soon. As Rapoport said, the kid showed marked improvement down the stretch and not just the final four games.
Lock showed immense progress from Week 11 on. There were still a few face-palm moments but he really turned the ship around. If the Week 12 mask snafu doesn't happen, the Broncos' 2021 campaign might have ended in a very different way because Lock finally started to build momentum.
He finished strong but it wasn't enough to forestall another losing season, which saw John Elway relinquish the GM role at year's end. Paton arrived in January and said that he likes Lock's traits and potential, emphasizing that he just needs to "develop."
The Broncos very much have to win now. Vic Fangio is in a put-up or shut-up year and a rookie quarterback, regardless of whether he's a top-10 pick, won't save him from the guillotine.
Barring a quick-fix in the form of a Watson trade, the option that gives the Broncos the best chance to win in 2021 is Drew Lock. And the beautiful part of rolling with Lock in 2021?
The Broncos won't have to mortgage the next three years and give up every premium round pick in the ensuing three drafts. Paton will have all those picks to maneuver and fill the Broncos' roster holes, which are deep, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
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