After an embarrassing season of quarterback play, we’re done with Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch.
We’ll reserve judgement on Chad Kelly, but unless he lights it up in preseason it’s time to move on from any of the quarterbacks on the roster in 2017 being a starter in Denver.
With six weeks to go until free agency and the new season officially begins, we polled Broncos Europe’s writers and contributors for their take on who the Broncos should target to be the starter in 2018 and three names received multiple votes.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins, 7th season
The unanimous choice. Cousins would provide an impetus the Broncos have lacked since the decline and retirement of Peyton Manning after Super Bowl 50.
Now Alex Smith — who would have been a target — is set to be traded to Washington, the Broncos can move forward knowing that Cousins is available.
The immediate questions that arise are at what cost, and can the Broncos win the inevitable bidding war against teams with more cap space, such as the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns?
The big problem is the monster five-year $137.5m contract signed by San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo with $90m guaranteed in the first three years.
Our poll of Broncos Europe contributors was made before the 49ers reset the QB market. On the open market, Cousins should command at least that over the same contract length and that pushes down the chances he lands in Denver.
The Broncos will certainly have to enter a period of renegotiation or part ways with a number of star players to find the cap space to accommodate Cousins as their franchise quarterback. Some Pittsburgh-style restructuring would be very useful.
Offloading some of the best players — particularly on offense — might make Denver a less appealing destination for Cousins, but despite a very disappointing 2017, the Broncos’ win now mentality could be enough to persuade Cousins to head for Colorado rather than take more money in New Jersey or Ohio if the Broncos front office can juggle everything to make it work.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Rookie
The 23-year-old Sooners star was the clear winner at Broncos Europe out of the 2018 rookie QB class and would bring some much-needed leadership, flair and unquestionable ability that the Broncos need.
Vance Joseph and the offensive coaches were afforded a chance to get a close look at Mayfield at the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl, which will go a long way to determining whether the Heisman Trophy winner is right for the team.
What Mayfield lacks in height, compared to the failed QBs the Broncos have drafted in recent years, he more than makes up for in athleticism and throwing accuracy. Not being 6-2 isn’t a problem for Super Bowl winners Russell Wilson (5-11) or Drew Brees (6-0).
With many teams looking at offensive line talent this year, taking Mayfield with the first-round pick could mean the Broncos miss out on the top talent that would bolster their line unless they can trade up from 40 back into the first round, but getting a QB that isn’t a prospect or backup is essential to lead the turnaround after two disappointing seasons, and Mayfield is legit. We’d be happy to roll with him from week one.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills, 8th season
The Broncos’ front office has made enquiries about the 28-year-old before and could jump at the chance to land the veteran quarterback with the writing seemingly on the wall for Taylor in western New York despite a year left on a contract that was restructured in March 2017.
The Virginia Tech alum is due a $10 million base salary in 2018 with a $6m roster bonus due on March 16, and a cap hit of $18.08m, which would reduce to $8.46m giving the Bills some useful cap space as they look to build on a first appearance in the playoffs for 17 years.
Taylor would be a cheaper option than Cousins, and we particularly like that the seven-year veteran has attributes that Denver has badly missed for years: a threat on the ground, a great deep throw, and — most importantly — an ability to protect the ball, something the Broncos badly need after a 2017 season that plagued by frustrating offensive turnovers.
In three seasons as a starter in Buffalo, Taylor turned the ball over just 16 times, threw 51 touchdowns, and completed 62.6% of passes.
While far from prolific in the passing touchdown category, Taylor did add 14 rushing touchdowns in those three seasons and could thrive in Bill Musgrave’s offense if the Broncos continue to strengthen the offensive line, which they could do if guard Quenton Nelson is available at fifth overall.
While Cousins and Mayfield are the two standout names for our writers and contributors, the alternate options weren’t as clear with several quarterbacks earning votes, including USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who are both expected to go early in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but may not fall to the Broncos.
Veteran options included Teddy Bridgewater, who could be on his way out of Minnesota after two seasons of almost no football after his horrific knee injury in August 2016, while his fellow Viking Case Keenum was also mentioned, if for some inexplicable reason the NFC North champions don’t give him a new deal after leading the team to the NFC Championship game.