The Denver Broncos have been linked to multiple quarterbacks throughout the offseason, yet general manager George Paton has yet to acquire one.
Paton has shown a lot of patience when it comes to the QB market. Whether it's been free agency, trades, or moving up the draft board, the cost to acquire a QB hasn't been cheap in the NFL.
However, patience can pay off, because Paton might be able to get a veteran QB on his terms — unless, of course, the Broncos draft one early.
But the question to ask is this: What price do you pay for a veteran QB at this point?
There are three QBs that have been discussed as possible trade targets. Let's look at the three and where the Broncos should draw the line when it comes to acquiring them.
Teddy Bridgewater | Carolina Panthers
Pros: Bridgewater is a solid veteran who brings a steady presence and avoids turnovers. Paton is familiar with Bridgewater, who the Vikings drafted after trading up to pick No. 32 in 2014. He'd be the ideal veteran to push Drew Lock.
Cons: Bridgewater has a $17M base salary due in 2021, of which $10M is fully guaranteed. That's a lot of money to pay for a veteran to be the backup to Lock, even if there's a chance that Bridgewater could start at some point.
How a deal may get done: If the Panthers trade Bridgewater, they would eat $5M of his $22M cap hit for 2021, but they'd have to agree to take some of Bridgewater's base salary, too. At a minimum, the Panthers need to take $5M of the guaranteed salary.
A similar situation happened two years ago when the Broncos traded Case Keenum to Washington. The Broncos took half of Keenum's guaranteed money when they dealt him. The Panthers would have to do the same here.
Also, Bridgewater would have to agree to renegotiate the remainder of his contract. The best way to do that is to convert the $7M salary that isn't guaranteed into incentives while voiding the final year of the contract, so Bridgewater will become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
Trade parameters: Panthers get a 2022 fifth-round pick and pay $5M of Bridgewater's full guarantees, while sending back a 2022 sixth-round pick.
If a deal can't be made: Wait until the Panthers cut Bridgewater, then sign him for the veteran minimum. It's hard for them to justify keeping him for much longer after the draft.
Gardner Minshew II | Jacksonville Jaguars
Pros: Minshew had a solid rookie season, outperforming Nick Foles. He would come on a low-cost deal for the next two seasons, with just an $850,00 base salary for 2021. There could be some salary escalators that will kick in for 2022, but it wouldn't be that high and still represent a cheap deal for a backup.
Cons: Some will complain about Minshew's fans, but that's not really an issue here. The bigger issue is the Jaguars might want more in return given his experience. It's possible that Minshew will want the chance to start, rather than be brought in to simply be a backup.
How a deal may get done: The best way for the Broncos to acquire Minshew is to give a conditional pick in 2022 to the Jaguars. Start it at a fifth-round pick, which can go higher depending on what he contributes.
Let's say that pick becomes a fourth if he starts six to nine games, a third if he starts 10 or more games, and a second if he starts at least 10 games and the Broncos make the playoffs. If he did meet the highest conditions, the Broncos would likely have their QB to build around.
Trade parameters: Conditional pick as outlined above.
If a deal can't be made: The Broncos, at this point, would be ninth in waiver priority, and Minshew would have to go through the waiver process if the Jaguars move on from him. It wouldn't surprise me if a team ahead of the Broncos claimed him, so if there's no trade, I wouldn't count on Minshew in Denver.
Nick Foles | Chicago Bears
Pros: Foles has shown in the past that a team can win with him under center. He is familiar with Pat Shurmur, who was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles in 2013 when Foles threw 27 touchdown passes with just two interceptions.
Cons: Foles has $4M in fully guaranteed base salary due in 2021. The Bears have already paid Foles a $4M roster bonus, so they aren't likely to take on any remaining salary in a trade. There's also $1M in fully guaranteed money due in 2022. Furthermore, Foles is the oldest of the three QBs who might get traded.
How a deal may get done: If the top four QBs are gone by the time the Broncos pick at No. 9 overall, and the Bears want to move up, the Broncos could always take Foles as part of a package, though the Bears still need to give up premium picks.
If that doesn't happen, the only other trade I would consider is a swap of 2022 late-round picks. You could do worse than send a 2022 sixth to the Bears while getting a 2022 seventh back.
Trade parameters: 2022 sixth with the Bears sending a 2022 seventh back, unless Foles is included in a draft-day package up the board.
If a deal can't be made: If the Bears don't trade Foles, and they draft a quarterback at some point, they will likely cut him. That would mean the Broncos could sign him for the veteran minimum if they want.
In two cases — Bridgewater and Foles — patience absolutely pays for the Broncos. There's no need to give up a lot to get a veteran QB, even if the Broncos need, at the very least, an upgrade over Jeff Driskel.
They can wait until after the draft because at that point, other teams who intend to move a QB on the roster will be more willing to bring down their asking prices. There may even be a chance that the team just cuts the player, meaning the Broncos can sign him for next to nothing.
On a final note, if either Bridgewater or Foles is cut, it's likely they won't be cut until after June 1, so their teams could spread out the dead money hit over two seasons. In other words, if the Broncos do sign one of the veterans after he's cut, it may not be for more than a month after the draft.
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