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A Look at List of QBs Linked to Broncos via Trade & Free Agency

The Broncos have been tied to more than one quarterback around the NFL.

Going into the 2022 offseason, the Denver Broncos will be in what has become a pattern in recent seasons — on the hunt for a quarterback.

With the likes of Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Teddy Bridgewater (and a few others) not living up to expectations, quarterback will be a priority to find yet again.

The question is how to find one and what that means for the rest of the Broncos' offseason game plan. As things stand there, are three possible routes:

• Trade: Multiple QBs have been mentioned as potentially available for trade, though there are no guarantees here. Some QBs will command a large trade package given how they can transform a team, while others won't command as much but could be stopgaps at best.

• Free Agency: Bridgewater headlines a group of free agents in which you are likely to find average starting options at best. It's where you might find a short-term solution, but not a long-term one.

• Draft: The 2022 QB draft class isn't a strong class, though it's possible the Broncos could find one they think is worth a roll of the dice. The question there is how early they should draft one.

We're going to focus on the rumored trade market and who will be free agents, and what it means for the rest of the offseason, depending on who the Broncos acquire.

Blockbuster Trades

There are three quarterbacks who have been the subject of trade rumors in the past and may come up again. Broncos fans should be familiar with them, and in each case, you would be dealing multiple first-round picks as part of a package.

Aaron Rodgers | Green Bay Packers

There were rumblings this past offseason that Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay. No trade happened, but the Packers did renegotiate his contract, and the end result is he will carry a $46.8 million cap charge in 2022.

Because the Packers are projected to be $42.3M over the cap for 2022, they have to make a decision with Rodgers: Either extend him or trade him.

While trading him can't be ruled out, neither can an extension. Given reports that Rodgers has mended fences with the Packers, fans shouldn't pin their hopes on him being available in a trade.

Russell Wilson | Seattle Seahawks

Last offseason, there were rumblings that Wilson wanted out. During the season, Wilson's agent floated four teams (including Denver) that the veteran QB would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for. 

Going into this offseason, the Seahawks have retained general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, so it would appear that the team will move forward with Wilson.

However, a recent report indicated that Wilson would approve a trade to the Broncos. Again, there's no guarantee that Wilson will hit the trading block, so while he might come into play, fans may not want to pin their hopes on him.

DeShaun Watson | Houston Texans

The 2017 first-round pick made it known after the 2020 season that he no longer wanted to be with the Texans. However, the Texans refused to field calls for trade offers for their quarterback.

Then came multiple lawsuits accusing Watson of sexual harassment and fewer teams were interested in him. Reportedly, Watson was willing to be traded to the Dolphins, but nothing materialized there.

Indications are that Watson still wants out of Houston, but to which team he'd approve a trade remains to be seen. However, as long as the sexual harassment lawsuits remain unsettled, the Broncos might not be willing to consider Watson.

Lower-Cost Trades

For two other QBs rumored to be available via trade, they're going to come at a much lower price — certainly not with a first-round pick involved. And knowing what Broncos GM George Paton did when he traded for Bridgewater, it wouldn't be surprising if he insists upon his terms in getting these QBs, assuming he has an interest.

Note that others could become the subject of trade rumors, but for now, we'll focus on the two that have been mentioned more often than others.

Kirk Cousins | Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings will have a new general manager, a new head coach and are likely rebuilding. That means Cousins could be available.

However, Cousins is due $35M in fully guaranteed salary. It's hard to see Paton willing to take on that money, even if he was with the Vikings when Cousins joined the team.

While the Vikings may be willing to pay some of Cousins' salary, I'm not sure they'd pay a lot. I can't rule out Cousins coming to the Broncos, but it's hard to see a trade materializing here.

Jimmy Garoppolo | San Francisco 49ers

The Niners went with Garoppolo for the bulk of the 2021 season, and he has continued to start in the playoffs despite a thumb injury. With the Niners having traded up in the 2021 draft to select Trey Lance, it's almost certain they'll go with the young guy in 2022.

The Niners will hope to trade Garopppolo, despite his $24.2M base salary (which isn't guaranteed). They'll want to try to regain some of the draft capital lost from the Lance trade, even though a first-round pick is out of the question.

Given the way Paton has approached trades, I don't see the Broncos making an offer. In fact, my position on Garoppolo is the one I think most teams should hold: just wait until the Niners cut him.

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Free Agency

Now we come to the list of free-agent quarterbacks, in which there are a couple of players who will likely get a shot at starting, a couple more who might get considered but as a "last chance" type of deal, and others who are going to be considered backups or stopgaps.

Teddy Bridgewater | Denver Broncos

The Broncos got a mixed performance from Bridgewater this year. He had several good games, but plenty of bad games, too. He wasn't helped at times by play calling, but his weaknesses as a passer played a part when things didn't go well for him.

Though Bridgewater is an average QB at best, there could be a team out there who thinks they can make the playoffs with him. The Steelers have plenty of cap space and the Saints, despite their cap troubles, have shown they are willing to kick that can down the road to keep a playoff push going.

I won't rule out the possibility that Bridgewater stays in Denver, but it's a long shot, especially if Paton isn't willing to meet his salary demands.

Jameis Winston | New Orleans Saints

Winston took a one-year 'prove it' deal from the Saints and had a respectable season going, until a torn ACL ended his 2021 campaign.

While it appears Winston is most likely going to have to take a similar deal, I won't rule out that he could be a QB who gets a bigger contract from a team that wants to keep its playoff hopes alive.

If the Broncos show interest, it's likely another case in which it comes on Paton's terms. If the price gets too high, Paton may bow out.

Marcus Mariota | Las Vegas Raiders

Mariota got a generous two-year, $17.6M contract from the Raiders in 2020, but renegotiated the deal in 2021 and got $3.5M for the year.

He'll now hit free agency and might be seeking the chance to compete for a starting job. The Broncos could be a team that's willing to roll the dice on him.

However, Mariota definitely needs to be a 'prove it' type of player. If he asks for too much money, the Broncos need to look elsewhere.

Mitchell Trubisky | Buffalo Bills

After failing to prove he could be the long-term quarterback for the Bears, Trubisky opted to join the Bills as a backup. He took a one-year, $2.5M deal with incentives.

Trubisky will hit the open market again and might be looking for a team that needs a starter. It's hard to see him getting a lot, though stranger things have happened.

Once again, Paton needs to view Trubisky as a 'prove it' type of player. If the money gets too high, move on.

The Backups

With Ben Roethlisberger set to retire and Ryan Fitzpatrick likely to follow suit, the rest of the QBs clearly fall into the backup category. In other words, don't count on any of these guys landing bigger-money deals.

Of course, guys such as Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor, and Cam Newton aren't going to solve the Broncos' QB issues. It may not be worth even paying backup money when the Broncos would still have Drew Lock on the roster.

Given that Lock has a base salary of $1.35M for 2022, and isn't expected to earn any proven performance escalators, it's better for the Broncos to go with him if their choices are limited to free-agent backups, then look to the later rounds of the 2022 draft for a QB prospect.

Bottom Line

What the Broncos ultimately do at quarterback depends not only on who becomes available and at what price point, but what the new coaching staff wants in a QB. Unless the Broncos get a clear top starter, Paton will have to consider the staff's opinions.

If the Broncos do manage a blockbuster trade, the impact on the offseason game plan means the team is more likely to explore free agency, given that it will give up draft capital this and next year for that QB.

If the Broncos go with a lower-priced trade option or a free agent, it may be best for the team to sit out free agency for the most part, aside from bringing back any of their own they want to keep. Denver can instead focus on the draft to fill out the roster, perhaps trading down, while hoping for compensatory picks in 2023.

In the latter two cases, the focus would then be looking at the 2023 QB draft class to determine whether there's somebody the Broncos can build the team around. Accumulating draft capital, thus, would give the Broncos flexibility to move up the board if necessary.

And while all eyes will be on what happens at QB, the Broncos do have other roster needs to fill. It's still good to know about who is set to hit free agency at positions of need, and we'll talk about those positions in our next installments.

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