The Denver Broncos were in on the Matthew Stafford trade back in January. Brand-new GM George Paton made an offer to the Detroit Lions but it was quickly outshined by more aggressive teams swooping in.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported in his MMQB column exactly what Paton was willing to part with to land Stafford.
The Broncos are lurking as a team that could get aggressive at quarterback. We have a few pieces of evidence indicating that. First, they made a good—but not great—offer for Stafford back in February, proposing a deal that would’ve sent the ninth pick to Detroit with the quarterback and a second-rounder coming back (they were outbid not just by the Rams, but also Washington and Carolina on that front).
The trade that never was might be old news as Stafford has been an L.A. Ram for a few months now but it nevertheless is good information from a trusted source like Breer. What does it tell Broncos fans about Paton's view of the QB situation?
My interpretation is that if Paton was ever going to move off Drew Lock as the incumbent starter, it would be only for a quarterback the GM was certain would be a proven day-one upgrade. Stafford was plausibly just that.
Carson Wentz? Not so much. Sam Darnold? Hardly.
I don't concur with Breer's read that Paton will be "aggressive" in a search for a QB, at least, not relative to the NFL draft. If so, he'd have already made a move before the San Francisco 49ers to get to pick No. 3, or a deal with the Atlanta Falcons (an opportunity still on the table) to get to pick No. 4.
The temperature on the ground? Paton and head coach Vic Fangio have to win now. A rookie QB isn't going to help the Broncos do that — outside of Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and he's completely out of reach.
On the flip side, with the benefit of a full offseason and playing in the same system in back-to-back years, the Broncos have at least some measure of confidence that they can win with Lock in 2021. A quarterback procured through the draft would be raw and still in-chrysalis, meaning a developmental learning curve would be a matter of course.
Breer goes on.
Second, new GM George Paton has been on the ground for pro days at North Dakota State, BYU and Ohio State (he had a conflict with the Kyle Fuller signing and the presser following Justin Simmons’s extension and couldn’t make it to Alabama’s), which is purposeful in a year when you can go only get eyes on so many guys, and one where every minute spent counts, this being Paton’s first in Denver. So what to make of it? Well, my sense is that Paton and coach Vic Fangio want to add competition for Drew Lock at the position. That could come via a trade for someone like Teddy Bridgewater, who Paton was a part of drafting, it could come early in the draft or it could come later. But this much is clear—we mentioned this in my first mock draft a few weeks ago and in a few other places—Denver isn’t sitting still at the position like it did a year ago in going all-in on Lock. And that to me is a pretty decent sign that John Elway has truly moved into the background.
Elway didn't exactly "sit still" at the QB position last year. While Jeff Driskel was a categorical failure when his number got called in Week 2 in the wake of Lock's sprained shoulder, Elway hedged his bet on Lock modestly by paying the free-agent QB $5 million over two years.
Brett Rypien turned out to be a far more serviceable backup than Driskel but Elway didn't exactly sit on his hands at QB, as lackluster as Driskel was. That being said, I concur with Breer that Paton will bring in some form of a veteran hedge.
Who, what, when, and where remains to be seen but as Breer said, that QB could come after the draft. Don't sleep on a potential Bridgewater-to-Denver trade, if Paton can convince Carolina to pay a good chunk of the veteran QB's $17M salary.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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