Denver Broncos could ‘get aggressive’ for quarterback upgrade

The Denver Broncos twice struck out on potential quarterback upgrades this spring, falling short on a Matthew Stafford trade and then not offering enough for Sam Darnold. It seems general manager George Paton isn’t ready to give up on the pursuit of competition for Drew Lock.

There are still plenty of alternatives on the trade market. The Carolina Panthers are shopping Teddy Bridgewater and Denver is a potential destination. While the San Francisco 49ers say they are committed to Jimmy Garoppolo, drafting Mac Jones at No. 3 overall would indicate the possibility of other plans.

NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote that Lock’s hold on the starting job heading into the 2021 NFL Draft is tenuous. It comes after a 2020 season that saw the second-year quarterback complete less than 60% of his passes and threw nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns.

  • Drew Lock stats (2020): 2,933 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 57.3% completion rate and 75.4 passer rating.

Related: 3 Denver Broncos quarterback options after missing out on Sam Darnold

Lock was drafted by John Elway, who was serving as general manager at the time. But Elway is stepping away from making decisions on the 53-man roster. This is Paton’s gig and the Broncos have been busy scouting the top quarterback prospects this spring.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer believes Denver is lurking as a team that could be very aggressive to upgrade at the quarterback position, specifically regarding the upcoming NFL Draft.

Related: 2022 NFL mock draft – Top prospects in exciting 2022 draft class

While it’s possible the Broncos could take a conservative approach, targeting a quarterback like Garoppolo or Bridgewater, it seems far more likely that the aggressive move will be for a rookie quarterback.

Evaluating Denver Broncos’ quarterback options

Denver Broncos
Jan 1, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) and head coach Ryan Day celebrate after defeating the Clemson Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting at No. 9 overall, Paton could decide to play things out. Standing pat could still net the Broncos a rookie quarterback and it would save them from spending multiple Day 2 picks and a potential 2022 first-round selection to grab their guy.

If Denver decides to stay put, its quarterback options will be limited. Justin Fields is extremely unlikely to make it past the No. 7 pick, even with the recent talk about a draft-day slide. If Fields is the Broncos’ preferred target, they must be willing to move up for him.

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They could still land a quality quarterback without moving up. If Jones isn’t drafted with the third pick, he is a candidate to slide. While he is one of the most advanced quarterbacks in this draft class, his lack of upside and physical talents could push him down the board.

There’s a slight chance Trey Lance is available at No. 9 overall. He is the most athletic quarterback in the draft and his arm strength is outstanding. But he played in just one game last season and will be making the jump from the FCS to the NFL. Given those concerns, he may slide past the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers.

Denver Broncos mock draft: 7-round 2021 NFL Draft projections with trades

Denver shouldn’t be afraid to get aggressive. Paton addressed this team’s defensive needs in free agency, extending Justin Simmons and later signing Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller. The Broncos’ secondary is now one of the team’s greatest strengths and it already has weapons in place on offense.

The Falcons are open to trading the No. 4 overall pick and are thinking about a potential heir to Matt Ryan. Packaging Lock, the 9th pick and multiple Day 2 selections in 2021 and 2022 might entice Atlanta to move down.

If the Broncos are serious about becoming a contender, now is the perfect time to upgrade over Lock. If they hit on the right quarterback, they could contend for the playoffs in 2021.