Community Tailgate: Broncos, Raiders’ Quarterback Plans

With the Broncos and Raiders‘ most recent quarterback plans not working out, the AFC West presents a stark have/have-not disparity at the game’s glamour position. Going into the draft, Denver and Las Vegas have uphill climbs to find passers who could provide hope of matching up with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.

Yes, the Broncos and Raiders have enjoyed some success against the Chiefs and Chargers (more so the Bolts) during these two Pro Bowlers’ stays. But this era of roster building has mandated either a franchise QB or a stacked roster is necessary to be a true contender. Denver and Las Vegas meet neither criteria, and the rivals’ current draft real estate does not leave clear paths to acquiring such help.

Holding the No. 12 pick, the Broncos did not match the Raiders’ urgency to add a bridge-type starter. The Raiders (No. 13) have Gardner Minshew signed to a two-year, $25MM deal ($15MM guaranteed). If they are unable to piece together a trade or do not see good value in picking one of the draft’s second-tier options, the Minshew bridge merely extends.

The Broncos, conversely, have only Jarrett Stidham — a player best known as the emergency starter as Derek Carr and then Russell Wilson were parked largely for contractual reasons — as a realistic starter option. While rumors about the Broncos being fine with Stidham beginning the season as the starter have emerged, it is difficult to envision Sean Payton entrusting the career backup/third-stringer to that role without a better option being acquired.

The Broncos are planning to add another arm via free agency or through a trade, but options are scarce at this point. As far as the draft goes, the team has been tied to Bo Nix and J.J. McCarthy. A recent report suggested a “heavy expectation” exists the Broncos will leave the first round with a QB, and while Denver has been viewed as wanting to trade up, the Payton and Wilson trades make this a dicey proposition.

Denver has not held a first-round pick since 2021 (Patrick Surtain). Unless the Broncos want to entertain trading their best player to help acquire draft assets, they would need to return to the treacherous road of trading first-round picks. Denver unloaded two in the Wilson swap and sent the Bradley Chubb-obtained choice to New Orleans for Payton’s rights. That Saints swap also stripped the Broncos of their 2024 second-rounder, creating a daunting task for the again-QB-needy club. Eating a record-smashing $85MM in dead money over the next two years on Wilson’s contract, the Broncos obviously would best benefit from a cost-controlled passer.

The Raiders do hold their second-round pick, but the player they have not made a great secret of coveting is viewed as unavailable. Reuniting Antonio Pierce and Jayden Daniels became a Raiders goal early this offseason, but’s Adam Schefter said this week a climb from No. 13 into Daniels territory is likely impossible. Michael Penix Jr. consolation-prize rumors have surfaced, and while the Washington product is seen by some coaches as having skills in line with this draft’s top QBs, scouts have seen some mechanical issues that could pose a problem for the deep-ball maestro’s NFL acclimation.

It also will be worth monitoring how serious the Raiders’ trade-up efforts will become in the days leading up to the draft. A recent report suggested Pierce was in favor of doing what it takes to move up the board for a long-term answer while GM Tom Telesco was OK with hanging onto draft assets and using Minshew as a full-season starter if need be. That will create an interesting backdrop ahead of the duo’s first draft together.

Trade routes for the Raiders and Broncos also stand to be complicated by the fact the Chargers sit in one of the spots that could be used to move up. At No. 4, the Cardinals hold prime real estate to collect a major haul from a QB-needy team. If the Cardinals opt to stay at 4 and draft a wide receiver, the Chargers suddenly become the gateway team. L.A. will probably not be inclined to help one of its two division rivals climb to 5 for a franchise-QB hopeful — at least, not without increasing the price tag. The Giants and Vikings also have the AFC West clubs outflanked in terms of draft assets, with New York sitting at No. 6 and Minnesota holding two first-rounders (Nos. 11 and 23).

With the 2025 draft class not viewed — as of now, at least — as rivaling this QB crop, the stakes could soon rise for the Broncos and Raiders. The teams have done their homework on this class, meeting with passers that will be difficult to impossible to obtain (Daniels, McCarthy). Nix, who profiles as a player the AFC West teams would not need to craft a monster trade haul for, also visited the Raiders. These teams coming out of Round 1 without a QB raises major questions about each’s viability.

Neither of these franchises has enjoyed much luck drafting QBs in Round 1. The Raiders made one of the biggest mistakes in draft history by selecting JaMarcus Russell first overall in 2007 (16 years after drafting quick bust Todd Marinovich). Like the Broncos, the best QBs in team history (Ken Stabler, Rich Gannon, Daryle Lamonica, Carr) were either outside additions or a second-round pick.

Denver’s history here is also checkered, with the franchise having traded 2006 first-rounder Jay Cutler after three years and made the strange moves of drafting a first-round QB ahead of John Elway‘s age-32 season (Tommy Maddox) and then trading up 18 spots to draft Tim Tebow in 2010. These decisions both provided more value than the 2016 Paxton Lynch whiff. Lynch is among the 12 QBs/Phillip Lindsay (the 2020 COVID-19 game against Payton’s Saints) to start for the Broncos since Peyton Manning‘s retirement.

Appearing to reside in the backseat among teams with chances of acquiring draft real estate necessary to acquire one of the class’ top arms, the Broncos and Raiders’ QB situations double as two of the top storylines going into the draft. How will the rival teams navigate their complex tasks of upgrading early in the draft? Weigh in with your thoughts on these situations in PFR’s latest Community Tailgate.

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