Denver Broncos: Evaluating the remaining competition quarterbacks

Denver Broncos 2021 free agency, Nick Foles. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos 2021 free agency, Nick Foles. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Free agency is well underway, and quarterback dominoes have continued to fall around the league. While we wait on the eventual finale of the Deshaun Watson situation and the Russell Wilson fiasco in Seattle, the other quarterbacks who have been deemed as ‘competition’ for Denver Broncos starter Drew Lock are starting to find new homes.

With few free agents left who could honestly challenge Lock, the Denver Broncos may have to engage in a trade for actual competition for the soon-to-be third-year signal-caller.

Here is where I will break down whether I am ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ on the remaining quarterbacks who could realistically push Drew Lock in the off-season, whether they are free agents or currently employed.

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

I am hot on Sammy D. While he isn’t my first choice because of the draft capital needed to acquire him, Darnold is somehow younger than Drew Lock at 23 years old. Darnold is still viewed as a player who has a lot of upside and who can still become a franchise guy.

It’s no mystery that the Jets organization did absolutely nothing to help Darnold’s development.  In his Jets tenure so far, Darnold never had a competent offensive line or much at all to throw to.

Not only that, Adam Gase was tasked with his development. Darnold will get another chance to start for an NFL team, and the Broncos make a lot of sense. Darnold was a much better college prospect than Lock, and Lock was no fluke, so it is reasonable to see why teams aren’t entirely out on the former USC quarterback.

Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars

I am boiling hot on Minshew. A former sixth-round pick, Minshew isn’t exactly how a prototypical franchise quarterback looks in today’s NFL. Minshew is shorter at 6’1”, but is built like a running back.  His arm isn’t spectacular, and his mobility is average at best.

What makes Minshew very intriguing is what he has been able to do in Jacksonville. While stats can be misleading, Minshew has managed a better than 3:1 TD:INT ratio in 23 total games for the Jaguars. His completion percentage jumped nearly six percent this year, as did his passer rating and yards per game.

On paper, Minshew is ‘developing’ how we see most quarterbacks develop in the NFL, and he’s done it playing for the crap-shoot down south.

Given that the Jaguars are about guaranteed to draft Trevor Lawrence, and given that they will surely give him a seasoned veteran backup, Minshew can be had for a day three pick, most likely.

And to me, this is why I would prefer him over Darnold, at least. Minshew has shown more than Darnold has, and he will surely be cheaper to acquire.

I fully understand that Minshew’s ceiling could be much lower than Sam’s, but I could make the argument that each of their respective situations haven’t differed much, so Minshew’s success should theoretically make him the ‘better’ quarterback.

Nick Foles, Chicago Bears

I’m not sure I could be any colder on the former Super Bowl MVP. He stinks. Foles, who has not had any success outside of Philadelphia, provides zero upside. At 32, I think of Nick Foles as a younger and slightly worse Joe Flacco. Big, immobile, giant arm, and no upside.

Honestly, that’s about it. Foles would give Lock some veteran mentorship, I guess, but in terms of actual competition, Foles offers nothing.

He makes sense given the Chicago-to-Denver pipeline that has been established, but outside of that, there is not much that excites me about Nick Foles.

Alex Smith, free agent

I am warm on Alex Smith. Smith has had a good bit of success in the league, but it was with offensive mastermind and quarterback whisperer, Andy Reid. Outside of the Chiefs, Smith is average, at best.

Alex Smith will be 37 when the new season starts and is down to the final year or two of his career. Obviously, he is coming off of a gruesome leg injury, so his mobility has been greatly limited.

Not only that, Smith wasn’t exactly playing well for the Washington Football Team in 2020. Sure, his leadership was palpable, but his performance on the field was suspect.

Although, I do think Alex Smith is the right type of player who Drew Lock can learn from and lean on, much like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. Smith does want to continue playing and would have a chance to start for the Broncos.

While I do think Lock would easily beat him out, Alex Smith would provide solid competition for Drew.

I’m not hot on Smith because he is old, his ceiling is limited, and he’ll most likely cost around $10 million, much like how much Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick recently signed for.

The Broncos could do much worse than Alex Smith, though.

Free agent quarterbacks that I am freezing cold on would be Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy, and A.J. McCarron, among a few others.

These three are the next tier down among the others previously listed. They all have been in the league for a while and are perfect as backups. None would present a sliver of competition for Lock, but, if Lock had solidified the position in 2020, these gentlemen would be perfect as QB2.

Frankly, we could put Brett Rypien in this tier, as well.

Finally, there are the sizzling hot quarterbacks, namely Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson.

I will not comment on Watson’s off-field situation, but it is no mystery how good he is at playing the position. I do think he will eventually be traded, but eventually could mean a year down the road, or the middle of the 2021 season.

As for Mr. Unlimited, I think it is a year too early for him to be traded. The Bears allegedly offered quite a bit for Russ, but the Seahawks declined.

I do believe that Wilson and the Seahawks are headed for a divorce down the road, but not this year. Seattle has made some moves along the offensive line to help Russ, and I do think the Seahawks can still compete for a Super Bowl.

But, if they fall short again, my guess would be that Russell Wilson approaches the Seahawks at the end of the 2021 season just like Matthew Stafford did with the Lions.

While him being traded hasn’t ‘officially’ been ruled out, I would not count on it.

So, Broncos Country, which quarterback presents the best competition for Drew Lock?