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Broncos 2020 Free Agency Preview: Quarterbacks

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

When the NFL free agency kicks off on March 18, the Broncos figure to be very active. For one, they have a lot of holes to fill, so there are plenty of reasons for John Elway to go shopping. In addition, Denver’s general manager will have a lot of money to spend.

Currently, the Broncos are $58 million under the 2020 salary cap, but that number could grow to as high as $76 million once Ron Leary and Joe Flacco come off the books as expected. And if Elway really wants to get crazy, he can free up nearly $9 million in additional cap space by parting ways with Todd Davis and Jeff Heuerman.

How should the Broncos put all of those dollars to use? In the weeks leading up to the start of free agency, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the best players projected to be on the open market, as well as analysis of who would be a realistic fit in Denver.

It kicks off today with the most important position in all of sports – quarterback. Denver is seemingly set at that position heading into 2020, at least in terms of a starter, as Drew Lock has assumed the role heading into his second year. But could they be tempted to once again go with a veteran? And who will they add to back up Lock?

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Top Five Available

1. Tom Brady – The greatest quarterback in the history of the game appears to be heading to the open market. The last time anything similar to this happened was when Peyton Manning became a free agent in 2012. That time around, the Broncos won the bidding war, outmaneuvering other suitors. It could be tempting to do it again, even for a QB who will turn 43 before the regular season begins. If not, Brady could still land in the AFC West, as the Chargers and Raiders are reportedly interested in signing him.

2. Teddy Bridgewater – After a devastating knee injury during his 2016 training camp with the Vikings nearly ended his career, Bridgewater finally returned to form last season. He started five games when Drew Brees was injured, leading New Orleans to a perfect 5-0 record during those games. He threw nine touchdowns to just two interceptions, racked up 1,384 yards and proved he can once again withstand the rigors of playing the position. At just 27 years old, Bridgewater has a lot of prime years remaining in his career.

3. Ryan Tannehill – After six lackluster seasons in Miami, Tannehill started the 2019 campaign as the backup to Marcus Mariota in Tennessee. After the Titans got shut out by the Broncos is Week 6, however, Tannehill was declared the team’s new starter. He went on to throw for 2,742 yards and 22 touchdowns, leading Tennessee to a 7-3 record down the stretch and earning a Pro Bowl invite. He also won two road playoff games, winning in New England and Baltimore.

4. Philip Rivers – After 16 seasons with the Chargers, the team decided to move on from the veteran quarterback. Given that Rivers threw 20 interceptions in 2019, it’s perhaps understandable; his lack of mobility finally caught up to him, as the QB was having to avoid pressure by heaving the ball in desperation, which led to a lot of ugly plays and picks. That said, Rivers has played at a Pro Bowl level in three of the previous four seasons, so he’s a fit for a team needing a savvy vet to get them over the hump.

5. Jameis Winston – There’s plenty to like about Winston. He has a big arm and is mobile, making him perfect for today’s NFL. This helped him throw for a league-leading 5,109 yards in 2019, as well as 33 touchdowns. And at only 26 years old, he has a lot of football in front of him. But he’s also erratic, evidenced by the 30 interceptions he chucked last season. This has plenty of people worried about the maturity issues that Winston showed in college, as well as during his first five years in the NFL. But the talent is there.

NOTES:

Drew Brees – Technically, Brees is slated to become a free agent when the new league year begins. But by all accounts, including hints by the quarterback during Super Bowl week, he’s either going to return to the Saints or retire. It seems highly unlikely that the record-setting QB will play anywhere other than New Orleans next season.

Dak Prescott – If the Cowboys decide to roll the dice on someone like Brady, Prescott could wind up on the open market, as Dallas couldn’t afford to pay both quarterbacks. While unlikely, this would certainly shake up free agency, as Prescott would become one of the most sought-after players. He’ll turn 27 this summer and is coming off of a very good season in which he threw for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. But the Cowboys may be losing patience with another disappointing record, so anything is possible.

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Realistic Options for the Broncos

1. Brandon Allen – While Allen wasn’t stellar during the three games he played with the Broncos this season, he certainly proved that he’s a capable quarterback. He looked good in his debut against Cleveland, throwing a pair of touchdowns. And Allen was solid in the first half in Minnesota, putting 20 points on the scoreboard. He’s certainly not a full-time starter, but Allen could come in and keep the train on the tracks if Drew Lock was injured for a game or two.

2. Case Keenum – Broncos fans will cringe at the thought, given that Keenum was such a disappointment as the team’s starter in 2018, but they shouldn’t let that miscasting cloud their judgment this time around. Keenum is perfectly suited to be a backup quarterback. He’s smart, can help mentor Lock and will be ready to go if called upon. And when he has to play, at least in small doses, he can be effective. He’s thrown 75 career touchdowns to just 47 interceptions, so there is some ability there.

3. Trevor Siemian – If Keenum didn’t make Broncos fan a little queasy, Siemian certainly will. After all, the two seasons in which he was the team’s starter were very disappointing. But much like Keenum, he was miscast as a starting quarterback, especially on the heels of Peyton Manning and as part of a team trying to defend a Super Bowl title. Also much like Keenum, Siemian is a student of the game, which would help Lock a lot. Plus, he can be a capable quarterback when not called upon on a weekly basis.

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