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NFL insider expects big Denver Broncos quarterback trade before 2021 NFL Draft

The Denver Broncos quarterback situation this spring is unsettled, with new general manager George Paton exploring all avenues for a potential upgrade over Drew Lock. After striking out on a Matthew Stafford trade and with a draft-day trade up unlikely, it seems Denver might have its eye on a target.

Paton is looking for someone who can challenge Lock, the No. 42 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, for the starting job next season. With John Elway ceding control over decision-making for the 53-man roster, many have expected the Broncos to overhaul their quarterback room this offseason.

Denver made a run at Stafford, but its offer fell well short. While Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold also became available this springer, Paton never made a real push for either shaky quarterback. The Broncos had significant interest in a Deshaun Watson trade, but his ongoing legal issues have wiped out any chance of a deal this summer.

Related: 2021 NFL Mock Draft – Big trades, 5 QBs in all-offense top 10

The 2021 NFL Draft could offer Paton a chance to draft his own quarterback to build this team around. But it seems he might have something else in mind, which could still produce a draft-day trade.

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote that he would be very surprised if Teddy Bridgewater isn’t traded to the Broncos by draft weekend. There is reportedly growing buzz around the possibility of a deal and Denver’s interest is seemingly known throughout the league.

Related: Denver Broncos could ‘get aggressive’ for quarterback upgrade

Paton does have a history with the Carolina Panthers quarterback. When Bridgewater was selected with the No. 32 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Paton was the team’s assistant general manager and played a key role in draft-day decisions.

Based on what the Broncos are looking for, Bridgewater could be an intriguing fit for this offense in 2021.

Examining Teddy Bridgewater’s fit with Denver Broncos

Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63 million contract with the Panthers last offseason and immediately became the team’s starting quarterback. While he played relatively well, Carolina sought an alternative this offseason who could provide more upside and do more in an aerial attack.

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

Circumstances for the 6-foot-2 quarterback weren’t perfect in Carolina. While he played in a great system, with plays designed by future head coach Joe Brady, All-Pro weapon Christian McCaffrey missed a majority of the 2020 season. Still, Bridgewater was fairly effective in 15 games.

  • Teddy Bridgewater stats (2020): 69.1% completion rate, 248.9 passing yards/game, 92.1 passer rating, 7.6 ypa, 3,733 passing yards and 15-11 TD-INT ratio.

He carries a $22.91 million cap hit this season, but any team acquiring him could cut him next offseason with only a $5 million dead cap charge. Essentially playing on a one-year contract, Bridgewater has generated plenty of trade interest.

Lock and Bridgewater are very different quarterbacks. The Broncos would certainly give their former second-round pick the edge in any competition for the starting job, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if he got the hook early this season. A busy offseason has built a strong defense, putting this team in a position to be competitive. That’s why decision-making and turnover-free football will be crucial at quarterback. As the stats from NFL’s Player Profiler show, that pushes things in Bridgewater’s favor.

  • Teddy Bridgewater stats: 25 danger plays, 21 interceptable passes, 7.9 accuracy rating (first in NFL), 78.9% catchable pass rate (seventh-best in NFL)
  • Drew Lock stats: 44 danger plays (second-most in NFL), 27 interceptable passes (sixth-most), 6.7 accuracy rating (33rd in NFL), 69.8% catchable pass rate (42nd in NFL)

Another important element, especially since Denver hasn’t strengthened its offensive line this spring, is how quarterbacks handle pressure. Bridgewater received a 49.3 PFF grade, which was significantly higher than Lock’s grade (26.0).

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

We’d expect Lock will be the Broncos’ quarterback in Week 1, but he wouldn’t hold down the job for long if his poor decision-making doesn’t get corrected. Denver has everything in place to make the playoffs in 2021, it will take improved quarterback play for that to happen. If Bridgewater is the starter, reaching the postseason might be more likely.