Denver Broncos: Marcus Mariota an option as backup QB?

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans warms up before the game against the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans warms up before the game against the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos could be in the market for a backup QB in 2020, and Marcus Mariota is a possibility for the right price.

The Denver Broncos don’t have a coaching search to talk about, nor do we have to figure out who the starting quarterback is going to be for the 2020 season.

It’s borderline weird.

Even though the Broncos have some of their key pieces in place, the 2020 offseason is still going to be fascinating and one of the areas this team needs to address is the backup quarterback position.

It doesn’t seem like Joe Flacco is going to be sticking around at his massive 2020 cap number. It also doesn’t seem to be a certainty that Brandon Allen is the top choice to backup Drew Lock going forward either after completing less than 50 percent of his passes in a handful of starts.

The Broncos don’t necessarily need the most high-profile choice at the quarterback position, nor do they need to go the least expensive route just to save money and attack other positions.

The Broncos would be winning by coming in under $20 million total on the quarterback budget, and since Joe Flacco is going to count $13.6 million against the 2020 cap if he’s cut along with Drew Lock counting over $1.5 million, the Broncos probably don’t have a ton of room in the 2020 cap to spend on the quarterback position, but a safety net behind Lock is definitely necessary.

Who could be available for the right price that would not only be willing to take a backup role for the time being but also be able to help the team in case Lock is injured?

How about Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota?

Mariota was benched this year for Ryan Tannehill and has certainly fallen out of favor in Tennessee. The former Heisman winner went from budding NFL star in 2015-16 to backup in a matter of three seasons, and with his contract expiring and the Titans focused on Tannehill as their long-term option, it seems likely that Mariota will be searching for a new home in 2020.

He could certainly opt for a situation with a bit clearer path to a starting role than in Denver. Perhaps the Los Angeles Chargers would come calling, and then Mariota would be able to be close to his home state of Hawai’i.

Maybe another team closer to the West Coast than Denver would want Mariota as a backup or bridge starter. Who knows?

I know John Elway and I have had some similar taste in quarterbacks through the years. We both wanted Peyton Manning (who wouldn’t have, though?) but I wanted a number of other guys in the 2012 NFL Draft over Brock Osweiler.

We both wanted Drew Lock (to varying degrees) but I wanted nothing to do with Joe Flacco. If we’re being honest, I wanted nothing to do with Case Keenum in the 2018 offseason, either, but Elway and the front office disagreed there.

Regardless of whether or not we’ve seen eye-to-eye on every QB situation, I think it’s important that the Broncos don’t just throw someone into the fold as Lock’s backup QB and make an intentional decision about a player who could not only help the team but perhaps help themselves in case they did get a chance to play.

Mariota needs to do some rehab of his image in the NFL. Taking a backup job is a tough pill to swallow for any player but especially one of Mariota’s age and talent level.

Why would this be a solid move for Denver?

For one, Mariota has playoff experience. He and the Titans went into Kansas City a couple of years ago and won a playoff game before the Tannehill-led Titans went into New England and got the job done.

Another reason is that Mariota’s all-around skillset could make him a nice fit in Rich Scangarello’s offense. He’s a smart dude with a good arm and excellent athleticism, but he’s faltered in recent years and could benefit from a change of scenery and perhaps some new coaches at the position.

The Broncos have done some great things for Drew Lock in terms of mechanics at the position, and perhaps they could pitch that as a way to ‘fix’ Mariota.

As far as the cost, that’s where things could get tricky. What do you pay a guy like this?

Teddy Bridgewater was the highest-paid backup in the league last year at $7.25 million AAV from the New Orleans Saints. With Drew Brees’ injury, that ended up being a good investment for them.

Beneath him, the highest-paid backups were Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor at $5.5 million AAV.

I don’t think it would be terribly unfair for Mariota to ask for what Bridgewater has gotten, but then again, he’s been playing pretty poorly the past couple of years and may need to simply take a ‘prove-it’ deal to get some good preseason tape out there and hope a team trades for him or hope he gets a shot to show something in regular-season action.

While there are hurdles to making something like this happen, namely the financial aspect of it as well as Mariota’s willingness to take a backup job without an open training camp competition, this could be the best option for the Broncos among the current 2020 free agent options.

dark. Next. Improvements needed from offensive playmakers

Other veteran options simply don’t excite me. Too many teams have backup quarterbacks who really aren’t capable of doing much. I think Mariota could excel in a new environment and in this type of offense, and perhaps simply showing a willingness to be a backup in Denver, showing some good things in preseason play, and taking advantage of any opportunities he gets could lead to a bigger opportunity down the road.