The Denver Broncos, despite many attempts, have not had a franchise quarterback since Peyton Manning retired at the end of their Super Bowl season in 2015. They’ve tried everything, from throwing money at the problem in free agency to trading for veteran options and even spending a first-round pick on Paxton Lynch back in 2016.
Still, they have not made it back to the playoffs since 2015. With that said, the Broncos have built a solid foundation on defense and have even more weapons on offense for whoever their future quarterback is. What we do know, is that he’s not currently on the Broncos roster.
Teddy Bridgewater is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and he hasn’t shown enough to stick around as a starter for a team with playoff aspirations. Selected in the second round in 2019, Drew Lock‘s career completion percentage is just 59% after leading the NFL in interceptions during the 2020 season. Though, Lock is still under contract through 2022.
So, who will be the starting quarterback for Nathaniel Hackett’s Denver Broncos in 2022? Here are five candidates we’ve identified.
Can Jimmy Garoppolo get the Denver Broncos back to the Super Bowl?
- Denver Broncos trade: Second-round pick (40th overall), fifth-round pick
- San Francisco 49ers trade: Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo will be traded at some point this offseason, it’s not a matter of if, it’s when. While Jimmy G surely is not the top option on general manager George Paton’s list of available quarterbacks in 2022, he might be one of the most attainable.
It’s rare for everyone to agree on trade values, but the recent rumors suggest Garoppolo isn’t expected to cost a first-round pick. In the first year under coach Hackett, there will be some pressure to win, which is why an experienced mind like Jimmy G could work out. But even if he’s not able to bring them to the playoff next year, the Broncos still have their future assets intact and could chase a QB when the draft class is expected to be stronger in 2023.
Garoppolo’s contract pays him $24.2 million in base salary, which will be the last year of his deal. He may not be the solution Broncos fans have in mind, but he might be the best quarterback they’ve had in several seasons and he wouldn’t cost all that much.
Worst case scenario, they’re back at the table in 2023 with cap space and draft picks to go after the top quarterback on the market. If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t leave GB this offseason, maybe this places the Broncos back in the lead once again next year.
Drafting and developing a rookie, Broncos select Carson Strong
If the Denver Broncos wanted to look to the 2022 NFL Draft for their QB of the future, this may not be the year to do so. Most analysts don’t expect a quarterback selected in the top-five, or possibly even top-ten. Yet, that could also work in general manager George Paton’s favor.
The Broncos can afford to wait until the quarterback they prefer is on the clock, instead of having to move up the draft board and select him. One prospect they likely have their eye on is Nevada’s Carson Strong, whose arm is an accurate representation of his namesake.
Strong may have, well, the strongest arm in the 2022 draft class, and it’s not like he’s out there gambling on every throw. During his senior season at Nevada, Strong’s turnover-worthy throw rate ranked sixth-best in college football.
Thanks to his ability to throw the deep ball, playing in Denver at Mile High, the Broncos could employ an entirely different offensive attack, frequently going down the field if they had Strong at QB. It’s the best way to take advantage of the explosive athletes the Broncos have in their receiving corps.
Interestingly enough, Strong is currently projected to land in the second round, which gives the Broncos a chance to address some other needs first. It’s too early in the draft process to say whether that’s where Strong ultimately goes, but for now, he’s a QB to keep your eye in if you’re a Denver Broncos fan.
Kirk Cousins reunites with his offensive coordinator in Denver
- Denver Broncos trade: Second-round pick (40th overall), 2023 second-round pick
- Minnesota Vikings trade: Kirk Cousins
With the Minnesota Vikings undergoing an entire regime change, the future of Kirk Cousins is up in the air. He currently has just one year left on his contract, a deal that was done with George Paton in the Minnesota front office. The Broncos also hired Klint Kubiak, who spent three years total as his QB coach then as his offensive coordinator.
Cousins could very well be available, and the Broncos have two key members who have great familiarity with him from their days in purple. The Vikings could save $35 million by moving Cousins, which could be an attractive option for their new GM. Especially if a team like the Broncos comes along with an enticing offer.
For Denver, Cousins would immediately be the best quarterback on the roster, giving them a chance to win week in, week out. Whether he is enough to elevate them past the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers in the AFC West is another story, but he’s lightyears ahead of Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum and anyone else who’s been under center for the Broncos for the past several seasons.
Russell Wilson gets his wish
- Denver Broncos trade: 2022 first-round pick (ninth overall), 2023 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick (40th), 2022 third-round pick, Albert Okwuegbunam, Drew Lock
- Seattle Seahawks trade: Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson‘s name has remained in the NFL trade rumor mill for the past few offseasons. 2022 could be the year all that comes to an end, by finally getting a trade out of Seattle. There has even been a reported list of strong suitors Wilson would consider dropping his no-trade clause for, and the Denver Broncos were one of them.
Since called a “non-story” by Wilson as he continues to publicly say all the right things. Still, it would be hard for Russ to not like what he sees from the Broncos, outside of the QB position behind the scenes.
He’s struggled to overcome the dysfunctional defense of the Seahawks the past few seasons, but Russ likely wouldn’t have the same issues in Denver. As mentioned, he would also have a potent cast of receivers to go along with a developing running game led by Javonte Williams. The other benefit for Russ in Denver is a slightly better offensive line, which they could continue to build.
The Seahawks may be intrigued by a haul of draft picks they can immediately use to replenish their team. Without a trade, they won’t even have a first-round pick to use in 2022 after trading it for Jamal Adams. It’s a big loss considering it would have been the 10th pick. This is why the following trade package could appeal if they’re faced with a Russell Wilson trade demand.
Broncos pull in another future Hall-of-Fame QB with Aaron Rodgers
- Denver Broncos trade: 2022 first-round pick (ninth), 2023 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick (40th), 2022 second-round pick (from Los Angeles Rams), 2023 fourth-round pick, Tim Patrick
- Green Bay Packers trade: Aaron Rodgers
If the draft doesn’t present a top prospect the Broncos front office prefers, then the franchise will need to turn to the trade market for a better starting quarterback in 2022. Should Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers choose to go their separate ways this offseason, you can bet GM George Paton will do everything in his power to acquire the three-time NFL MVP. The Broncos still have one of the better rosters in the NFL, they just need an elite quarterback.
AR12 would immediately have one of the best groups of receivers he’s ever had, throwing to Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Noah Fant, and Albert Okwuegbunam. Rodgers has proven capable of elevating his team, year after year and with the Broncos, they already have a sturdy foundation to work from.
The biggest obstacle remains, what would the Broncos have to trade for Rodgers?