The Denver Broncos have a new general manager in George Paton, who came over from the Minnesota Vikings. Having spent 14 years in Minneapolis, Paton will certainly be able to give important insight into whether or not the Broncos should be involved in the sweepstakes for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Stafford, the number one overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft out of Georgia, has spent his entire pro career with the Lions and according to multiple reports, the Lions and Stafford have mutually agreed to part ways in the 2021 offseason.
Stafford will be 33 in the 2021 season with two years remaining on his contract. Those two years will cost an acquiring team cap hits of $20 million in 2021 and $23 million in 2022.
The Denver Broncos would certainly have the cap space to acquire Stafford, but will that be the move George Paton decides to make in his first year on the job as general manager?
If he’s really using John Elway as a sounding board, it might come to pass.
The most likely teams to pursue Stafford, besides potentially the Denver Broncos, would be (in order of draft position) the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Washington Football Team, Indianapolis Colts, and perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The going rate for Stafford is almost undoubtedly going to cost a first-round draft choice, especially if there is competition for his services from multiple teams. Stafford is still a highly impactful player and he’s been around the NFL long enough that learning a new system and developing chemistry with new players shouldn’t be an issue.
Which situation presents the best situation for Stafford?
It’s hard to argue against a team like the Colts, which made the playoffs, but there is some turnover on their coaching staff (offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni left to be the Eagles’ head coach), and left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired. The Colts’ offensive weapons also don’t really hold a candle to the weapons Denver has, at least not in my opinion.
The San Francisco 49ers have a very compelling situation with Kyle Shanahan as the head coach and playmakers like George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk.
The Denver Broncos also have a very intriguing situation themselves.
Denver’s weapons offensively are the best of any of the teams mentioned and all of the players are both young and on the rise. The Broncos have a defensive head coach in Vic Fangio and a number of veteran players on that side of the ball who might be more amenable to coming back at a reduced price with a player like Matthew Stafford on board.
The Broncos also have some convincing recruiters on their side in John Elway and Peyton Manning, though Manning could — in theory — also recruit for the Colts.
Just because the Broncos weren’t able to stay healthy in 2020 doesn’t mean they don’t have arguably the best situation for Stafford to walk into.
At his introductory press conference, George Paton said the Broncos will be involved in “every deal” and while they will obviously do what’s best for the future of the team, he called this roster a “sleeping giant”.
Who knows if what he meant by that had anything to do with upgraded quarterback play, but you have to think that Fangio would be more than open to the idea of adding Stafford considering his job is likely on the line in 2021.
Ultimately, will the Denver Broncos be in on a Matthew Stafford trade? It would be crazy not to at least call on the price and inquire. Will they make a competitive offer? That is possible. George Paton was part of an aggressive Sam Bradford trade in Minnesota as well as the move to go and get Kirk Cousins in free agency.
Combining John Elway’s history of going after veteran quarterbacks with Paton’s history of going after veteran quarterbacks as well as the Broncos’ present roster and the urgency of the coaching staff, I think they will be serious players for Stafford and if Stafford has any say in the matter, I think the Broncos would be interesting to him as well.
This situation feels very similar to the way the Broncos’ roster was constructed after the 2011 season when they scratched and clawed to eight wins and a division title before Peyton Manning took over in 2012 and all of the young offensive weapons exploded.
The Denver Broncos will have to be aggressive without being reckless in 2021 free agency. Who should be on their wish list?
With that in mind, expect the Broncos to be involved, and probably to a fairly aggressive degree.