Here's Why Broncos Should Start QB Brett Rypien on TNF at Jets
There's not much you can say after the Denver Broncos' 28-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, resulting in an 0-3 start. The three I's — injuries, inexperience and inconsistency — piled up and resulted in the Broncos' situation as it stands.
The Broncos have a short week to prepare for the Jets, who may be a worse team, but New York doesn't have the injury issues to the extent the Broncos have. Still, it's clear the Broncos need to get a win Thursday or it's going to be time to do a lot of evaluating of everyone in Dove Valley.
Head coach Vic Fangio was noncommittal after Sunday's loss about naming a starting quarterback, but it's clear to me that it can only be one man: Brett Rypien.
This isn't simply because Rypien put together a good drive in the fourth quarter, even if it ended with an interception on fourth down. It isn't because it's time to build the team around him — we all know that Drew Lock still deserves his shot once he's healthy.
The reason to start Rypien is to find out if he has a long-term future as at least the backup quarterback.
Blake Bortles is only here to provide a veteran presence if absolutely necessary. Bortles has no future with the team and may very well be cut once Lock is healthy.
Jeff Driskel had his moments but doesn't have long-term viability, either, even as a backup. He has no guaranteed money after this season and his contract is just for two years, so even if he stays in 2021, he's certainly gone after that.
With Rypien, who went 8-of-9 for 53 yards and an interception in relief of Driskel in Week 3, if he proves he can be the future backup, the Broncos would have him under cost control for the next three seasons. That's because Rypien spent his rookie season mostly on the practice squad and, therefore, never accrued a season toward free agency.
A player doesn't accrue a season unless he's on either the active roster or injured reserve for six weeks. A player who spends his rookie season on the practice squad thus starts a different path than one who doesn't.
Assuming the Broncos go with Rypien and keep him on the 53-man roster for the rest of the season, he would enter the exclusive rights free agency tier for the next two seasons. This means the Broncos have him on a cheap contract for less than $1M per season, much cheaper than the typical veteran backup QB gets.
If Rypien sticks around for three seasons, he would then be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023. The Broncos would have the option of tendering him, which means he'd get a contract that's in line with what a typical veteran QB makes.
By no means do I suggest that the Broncos need to go 'all-in' on Rypien. But they need an idea about whether or not he can be a suitable backup.
When Lock is healthy, he should start again, and then the Broncos let the chips fall where they may. But getting the questions answered about Rypien's worthiness as the backup should take priority over rolling with a veteran, whether it's Driskel or Bortles.
The Jets are a bad football team and, unlike the Broncos' first three opponents, they have no pass rush. While the Broncos want to win, they shouldn't fall into the trap of 'we need the veteran guy to win.'
Rypien showed some promise on that final drive, even if it ended on a sour note. Give him the chance to show he can be the backup.
The Broncos shouldn't waste their time starting a guy who either clearly or likely has no future. Go with the QB who might stick around and see what he can do.