Should the Broncos trade up for a young QB or sign a veteran to try and win now?

Denver's stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders / Candice Ward/GettyImages

The good news for Broncos fans wondering if Sean Payton is really worth all that money Denver gave him is that over the next couple seasons, they're absolutely going to find out. Payton, whose reputation proceeded him when he came to Denver before the 2023 season, made quite the impression in Year 1: rather than spend the rest of Russell Wilson's contract trying to make the offense work, Payton decided to, uh, try something else. Now Wilson's off to team #3, and the Broncos have their offseason's biggest question staring them right in the face: is it time to reset the clock or win with the team you have?

1. The Broncos should trade up for a young QB

If there were ever a year to do it, it'd probably be this one. Depending on what mock draft you look at, between four and six QBs have first round grades this season. Getting all the way to #1 overall would be a monumental task – especially with all these conveniently-timed stories coming out of Halas Hall about how they're basically set on Caleb Williams – but if he ends up being the QB he's projected to be, it's not like anyone's going to hold that decision against them. With the 14th overall pick this year, it obviously gets a little easier if they think guys like Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels are equally sure bets, but anyway you mock it up, Denver's betting the farm.

And while it can feel daunting to have to watch the Broncos go through another rebuild, if any of the three guys they'd hypothetically trade up for are for real, they'll be back in the playoffs in two years. CJ Stroud and Brock Purdy are the most recent examples, but there's a long list of franchise QBs – Andrew Luck, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson – who had their teams in the playoffs their rookie year. For as much regular season parity as the NFL has, and for as cyclical its trends to be, there is still no better team-building hack than getting a great QB right off the bat. They don't even need to look out of their division to see how their two choices play out: whose position would you rather be in right now? The Chargers or the Raiders?

2. The Broncos should add a veteran and go for it

Of course, guys like Jackson, Prescott, and Stroud don't come around every year. The odds say that regardless of where you draft a QB, he'll probably be average at best. (Good luck though!) And while it'd be hard to blame Denver for wanting to pay a veteran QB immediately after the Russell Wilson fiasco, it's not like anyone's making them hand out $245 million again. For instance, PFF projects Vikings QB Kirk Cousins – who's considered to be the best FA QB this offseason – will sign somewhere in the world of two-years, $60 million ($38 guaranteed).

That'd be ... very reasonable? Especially for a team that's going to look a lot different in two years; some Broncos UFAs in 2025 include Garrett Boles, Justin Simmons, Tim Patrick, Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy, and DJ Jones. If Payton's as good with veteran QBs as everyone around him suggests, getting Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, or Baker Mayfield (maybe) in the building to try and get the best out of this current core for the next couple seasons would be, at the very least, explainable.

3. So should the Broncos trade up for a QB or sign a veteran and go for it?

Trade up. This Broncos core is not going anywhere – their 5-game win streak was fueled by an unsustainable turnover rate and their expected win total was two games less (6) than they ended up with. Guys like Bolles, Simmons, and Jeudy have been in mid-season trade deadline rumors for a couple years already, so it's not like it'd be a shock to see them leave. Plus, it'd be exciting.


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