ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Give Denver Broncos general manager George Paton some credit for doing exactly what he said he was going to do.
He said he would add “competition” at quarterback.
He said he would do it in the draft or in the “trade market.”
And he said he would not “force it” or “overpay a guy to come in and he’s not as good as the guy we have and maybe he’s not good enough to compete.”
Well, check, check and check. The Broncos surrendered their sixth-round pick in this year’s NFL draft (No. 191) to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday in a low-risk exchange for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Panthers will pay $7 million of Bridgewater’s $10 million salary guarantee in 2021.
• Mocks: Kiper | McShay | Tannenbaum
• Rankings: Kiper | McShay | Legwold
• Kiper/McShay: Dueling mock | All-22
• Teams: Matchmaker | Needs | Guides
• Draft cheat sheet | Best at every skill
• Full ranking | Pick order | More
To put it another way, the Broncos will pay Bridgewater less during the upcoming season than the Philadelphia Eagles will pay Joe Flacco or the Jacksonville Jaguars will pay C.J. Beathard.
The Broncos didn’t trade for Bridgewater — who passed for 3,733 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season — because they believe he is their guaranteed starting quarterback or the long-term solution to what has become a long-term riddle. The Broncos also don’t like third-year quarterback Drew Lock any less than they did an hour before they completed the deal.
And they still won’t pass up a chance to take the quarterback they like at No. 9 Thursday night if that player is still on the board when they are on the clock.
After sitting out much of free agency at the quarterback position, other than a preliminary call on the price for Matthew Stafford, the Broncos had said they were going to get competition at quarterback for their price, at their speed.
“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room,” Paton said in a statement Wednesday. “He’s a talented player and leader who’s had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he’s going to compete and do everything he can to help us win.”
Paton is playing a down-the-road game as well as trying to be better at the position in 2020. The Broncos can like Lock all they want, they can say the pandemic season was rough on everybody, but it’s also true Lock tied for the most interceptions in the league last year, was 32nd in passer rating (out of 35 quarterbacks who qualified) and was last in completion percentage.
Lock, by all accounts, is doing his part in the offseason, including some consultations with Peyton Manning as well as being a regular inside the team’s complex — Paton said he sees Lock “every day when I come in.”
Given that the quarterback who might still be available with the No. 9 pick Thursday night is most likely not ready to legitimately compete for the starting job until 2022, Paton has positioned the Broncos to get through the 2021 season in the best, most efficient and cost-effective way possible.
Dan Orlovsky explains what the Panthers trading Teddy Bridgewater means for the NFL draft, as well as how the acquisition of Bridgewater affects the Broncos.
The Broncos can now wait and see if a receiver such as Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith has inexplicably been pushed down the board by the rush to snag passers or they could take the best defensive player available.
Bridgewater and Lock have low-impact financial considerations moving forward. Lock is still on his rookie deal, and the Panthers paid, or will pay, Bridgewater the majority of the money he’s scheduled to receive. The Broncos now have flexibility to dial up the big move in 2022 if they’re of a mind.
While some of the team’s faithful, who have watched five consecutive playoff misses, may not be thrilled with that timetable, now is a good time to remember that Paton is a general manager in the first year of a six-year deal with the vocational juice to make the moves he wants to make when he wants to make them.