Broncos Open To Moving Future First-Round Picks For QB

Obviously set to pay the price for their Russell Wilson mistake, the Broncos have gone through a quiet offseason. They are taking on more of the $85MM dead money sum this year, leading to a much lower-profile free agency compared to Sean Payton‘s first in Denver. After the early waves of free agency, the lingering QB question follows Denver into the draft.

While the other teams linked to trading up for a passer in this draft have clear-cut bridge options — in Sam Darnold (Vikings), Gardner Minshew (Raiders) or five-year starter Daniel Jones (Giants) — the Broncos do not. They are prepared to acquire another veteran at some point, but as of now, Jarrett Stidham would be Denver’s Week 1 starter. This has created a “heavy expectation” the Broncos will draft a QB in Round 1.

[RELATED: How Will Broncos Address QB Need In Draft?]

You’d say it sure looks like we have to draft a quarterback and yet it’s got to be the right fit,” Payton said (via 9News’ Mike Klis). “If we had tip sheets as to what everybody else is picking it would be easier to answer that question. And so that’s the puzzle here.”

More interesting are GM George Paton‘s comments on the situation. Paton could be considered on thin ice, seeing as he hired Nathaniel Hackett and traded the eight-asset package — headlined by two first-round picks — for Wilson. With a heavy assist from an ownership group that arrived during Wilson’s extension talks, Paton signed off on the five-year, $245MM extension — one that created the record-setting dead cap figure less than two years later. Denver’s higher-profile HC, however, endorsed a second year of a Payton-Paton partnership earlier this offseason.

Also being the point man on negotiating the compensation for Payton’s rights with the Saints, Paton could seemingly be skittish about forking over more prime assets to fix the Wilson mistake. Yet, the fourth-year Broncos GM said the team is open to moving future first-rounders — to trade up from No. 12 overall — if it feels right about a quarterback prospect.

If it’s the player you think can change the landscape, like a quarterback, then you do what you have to,” Paton said (via DNVR’s Zac Stevens) of trading a future first-rounder to address the game’s premier position.

Payton certainly coaxed better play from this lesser version of Wilson compared to what transpired with Hackett in 2022, making it worth wondering if the Broncos will set trading up for one of this draft’s top passers as a priority. While Payton is believed to be interested in trading up for a QB, rumors have also come out about the Broncos trading down from No. 12 to accumulate more assets. Thanks to the Payton trade, the team does not have a second-round pick.

Rumblings around the league do indeed point to the Broncos exploring trade-down in Round 1, per the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. Trading down could still keep Denver in position to draft Oregon’s Bo Nix, who is regarded as this draft’s fifth- or sixth-best passer. Broncos-Nix connections have emerged for several weeks now.

Trading down and hoping for a second-tier prospect to fix this longstanding problem would be a risky bet for a team that has been unable — despite trades, free agency and multiple early-round picks — to sufficiently replace Peyton Manning over the past eight years. But the Broncos do employ one of the game’s top offensive coaches; and they have traded three first-round picks and three second-rounders over the past two years.

However the Broncos opt to navigate this rather complex situation at quarterback, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler notes they have done extensive homework on this draft’s deep tackle class (subscription required). Garett Bolles is going into the final season of a four-year, $68MM contract. Bolles bounced back from his 2022 broken leg by starting 17 games last season and has made it known he wants an extension, but the seven-year starter was not a Payton pickup and is going into his age-32 season. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey is signed through 2027, and his 2025 base salary became fully guaranteed earlier this offseason.

If the Broncos take a tackle early, they would likely be doing so to eventually replace Bolles and not McGlinchey. The latter has stopped a revolving door at Denver’s RT post, one that featured 11 Week 1 starters in 11 seasons from 2013-23.

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