For what seems like the 100th time, the Denver Broncos will be in search of a new starting quarterback this offseason as they are heavily expected to part ways with 35-year-old Russell Wilson after two years as the starter. Many have discussed whether or not the Broncos should look to the draft for a long-term replacement or potentially in free agency for a short-term fix. However, the 2024 Super Wildcard Weekend gave us a pretty good idea of how Denver should address their quarterback position for the future.
If the Broncos want to rebuild a dynasty and return to elite status, it's going to have to start with the quarterback position. Just take a look around the NFL. Quarterback is by far the most important position in football and is detrimental to a team's success. This has been proven true time and time again by teams who prioritize trading the farm for an available quarterback or even trading up to select one in the draft. However, the route the Broncos have yet to attempt in their franchise's history is moving up in the draft.
In the history of the Denver Broncos franchise, the organization has never selected a quarterback within the first 10 picks in the NFL Draft, despite selecting in that range a total of eight times. In fact, the Broncos have only selected four quarterbacks in the first round in 63 years since the franchise was established in 1960. The Broncos actually traded up for three of the four quarterbacks including Jay Cutler, Tim Tebow, and Paxton Lynch -- none of which panned out.
While the Broncos have never traded up into the top 10 picks and especially top five picks to select a quarterback, they have a clear opportunity to do so this April. Broncos head coach Sean Payton, who's known for his aggressive tendencies to trade up in the draft, could find a quarterback that he falls head over heels for. If Payton and Denver's front office collectively decide on a quarterback they are "in love with" in this class, they should absolutely pull the trigger and not look back.
Too often do teams stress over the thought of losing draft capital in a sacrificed attempt to move up and acquire their quarterback of the future. Push comes to shove, the Broncos trade up and select a top quarterback who's a developmental prospect like Jayden Daniels and may take time to adjust to the NFL scene. However, after the top three prospects including Drake Maye, Caleb Williams, and Jayden Daniels, I believe there is a significant drop off to the remaining prospects such as Michael Penix Jr., J.J. McCarthy, and others.
In the 2024 Wildcard playoffs, we witnessed a C.J. Stroud led-Texans and Jordan Love led-Packers team pull off massive victories despite obtaining two of the youngest rosters in the NFL. Of course, both coaching staffs in Green Bay and Houston are highly stout and regarded however, so is Denver's. While the Broncos' roster does present concerning holes from top to bottom, it is truly a quarterback away from competing for a Wildcard spot in the postseason.
Of the 14 teams that made the NFL playoffs this season, seven of them feature starting quarterbacks who were selected within the first 10 picks of their respective drafts, and 11 of them were first-round picks. Nowadays, it is very rare that teams nail quarterback selections outside of the first 10 picks of the draft. If the Broncos 'love' a quarterback in this class, they have to do whatever it takes to acquire said player, regardless of the haul.
Of the 14 starting quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL playoffs, just two signal-callers including Browns quarterback Joe Flacco and Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield were acquired via free agency last offseason. Therefore, signing a free agent like Ryan Tannehill, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Jameis Winston will most certainly not get the Broncos anywhere in the foreseeable future. If anything, the Broncos need to embrace youth. They have attempted the "trade for a vet" or "sign a vet" route countless times since Peyton Manning's retirement and have failed time and time again.
Granted, the Broncos front office has made poor decisions by choosing their specific quarterbacks over the years however, there is not a single trade target or free agent option, excluding Kirk Cousins, who could take Denver to the promised land. The map has been laid out for years now. It is time for the Broncos to be aggressive in their approach to acquiring a rookie franchise quarterback.
Instead of trying to find short-term solutions and used products, they need to start fresh with a young prospect who has the proper tools to learn and thrive under an excellent coach like Sean Payton from day one. Sure, Payton can get the best out of an aged veteran in his system, however, the ceiling is substantially higher with a younger athletic quarterback who can translate better to the modern NFL.