Here we go again, Broncos Country. As part of a seemingly endless cycle, the team finds themselves in yet another Quarterback search. The Russell Wilson saga appears to be coming to a close, leaving Denver with a mountain of Dead Cap space to deal with over the next few years.
Because of the sizable cap hit, it would appear that the Broncos' options under center may be limited for 2024. They could "run it back" with Jarrett Stidham, and try to build on his two-game audition at the end of this past season. However, I think it would be wise to say that he didn't do enough to outright EARN the job. So what else can the Broncos do?
Well, there are plenty of experienced Free Agents available. Guys like Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield (who I believe will stay in Tampa Bay), and plenty of others could step in. We know that Winston has a history with Sean Payton, and perhaps he could provide the best bang for our buck. Regardless, I think the Broncos will take a multi-faceted approach to repairing the position. A veteran will be coming in, but what about a rookie?
All eyes seem to be currently fixated on the 1st round QBs. There's a lot to like with this year's batch, but the big question is, which one (if any) fits Payton's vision of how the offense should be run? Williams, Maye, and Daniels appear to be dynamic players (in their own right), but are any of them attainable? What about one of Penix Jr, Nix, or McCarthy? Do they offer the right size piece to fit it in the Broncos roster puzzle? All of that remains to be seen.
What if I were to tell you that there's a guy in this upcoming class who's flying under the radar right now but could be the best fit for the Broncos? Well, look no further than Michael Pratt from Tulane.
A four-year starter for the Green Wave, Pratt seemingly has all of the traits Sean Payton looks for in a quarterback. A good-sized (6'3, 220 lbs), experienced player, Pratt was part of a program turnaround at Tulane. During his time under center, Tulane produced a 27-17 record, including a big win over Caleb Williams and USC at the Cotton Bowl after the 2022 season.
Pratt is well-regarded for his ability to work well in the pocket, read the field, and have good arm strength for the short/intermediate parts of the game. In addition, he's got enough athleticism to work out of the pocket and scramble from time to time. Amongst all of those skills, perhaps his biggest trait is his leadership. Pratt is well-regarded amongst his teammates, commanding the huddle with a calming presence.
While the inherent traits are all enough for Pratt to be on the Broncos' radar, perhaps it's his ties to Sean Payton that make his prospects in Denver look likelier than many expect.
In a recent interview with the Draft Network, Pratt was asked to compare himself to an NFL Player. His answer was one that would endear him to Sean Payton.
"I would probably say Drew Brees. He’s an extremely talented quarterback, but I think the leadership and the stuff that I’ve heard about him really resonates with me. One of our offensive line coaches [Dan Roushar] at Tulane was with the New Orleans Saints for a while.- Michael Pratt (The Draft Network)
Coach Roushar is always talking about Drew Brees. When we meet and go over stuff during practice throughout the week, he’ll reference Drew’s toughness. A few weeks ago, I had a little ankle thing that was slightly bothering me. I was rolling out of the pocket and eventually returned to the sideline. Coach Roushar looked at me and said, “Drew played a game with 14 broken ribs once and nobody even knew he had it.” We emphasize toughness at Tulane.
I took that to heart. As the quarterback, you have to be the toughest both mentally and physically. I’d like to compare my toughness to Drew Brees."
Not only did he compare himself to Payton's old QB, but he also had an established relationship with a former coach. Dan Roushar was with Payton in New Orleans for nine years, serving roles ranging from Tight End Coach to Run Game Coordinator. In addition, current staff member Favian Upshaw also spent time with Pratt at Tulane (2019 and 2022). Needless to say, if Payton and Co. wanted intel on Pratt, it'll be easy to get.
Is he the sexiest option? No. Is he the prospect with the highest perceived ceiling? It doesn't appear that way. However, I believe that fit is everything in the NFL. As great as some quarterbacks are, they're only as good as their surroundings. What's the point of having an uber-talented QB if his supporting cast is subpar? Superior talent can only elevate so much in a team game.
Often compared to Brock Purdy, Michael Pratt appears to be a guy who could follow in that mold. As it stands right now, Pratt is projected to be a late Day 2-early Day 3 pick. With the Senior Bowl around the corner, he will have a chance to impact his Draft stock positively. Assuming he does end up being drafted in that range, he may not be the day 1 starter, but he could play a role later in the season.
I'm not saying he will become the next Brock Purdy. I am saying that with his resume, he profiles similarly to the former Cyclone QB, and under Payton's tutelage, he could provide a similar level of play down the road. Considering he's one win away from going to a Super Bowl, I'd say that's a scenario everyone in Broncos Country would take in a heartbeat.
Drafting a QB in the 1st round is exciting, but it doesn't guarantee success. It's time for the Broncos to find players that are "functional fits". Can they fit our schemes? Can they play right away? Can they fit in the locker room? If the answer to all three questions is a yes, they should be future Broncos. That especially extends to the QB position.
If that means finding our next QB in the 3rd round, so be it. I mean, It would be poetic to replace a former 3rd-round pick with another in late April.
We'll see how things shake out this off-season but considering his resume and ties to Sean Payton, there's no denying that Michael Pratt could be a Bronco come Training Camp. It's like what Mick Jagger once sang,
"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you'll find, you get what you need." "- Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones
In a class littered with 1st round QBs, maybe the underhanded man from Tulane is the man we need right now.