The 2021 NFL Draft came and went, and the Denver Broncos failed to add a fresh face under center.
Instead, with both Justin Fields and Mac Jones on the board at No. 9 overall, newly minted general manager George Paton opted for Jones’ teammate in Patrick Surtain II with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater in town. With his next nine selections, Paton stuck to his guns, and avoided the quarterback class, leaving us to question the current dynamic and future under center for a loaded Broncos roster.
Just minutes before the draft, rumors swirled as Aaron Rodgers’ displeasure with Packers brass became public. At the time, a deal that saw Rodgers on his way to San Francisco looked inevitable, but as the dots began to connect, the draft was completed without a whisper. For now, Rodgers is a Packer, but Paton hasn’t put the idea of the three-time league MVP joining one of the league’s most youth-infused, powerful rosters as we head into offseason workouts.
"We're always looking. You know what the market looks like right now—it's not great,” Paton said in his post-draft presser.
"We'll see ... but we like our two.''
It could be nothing, but it sure as heck is more likely to be something. Because who wouldn’t want Rodgers? Unless you’re the Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Tom Brady), or maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence), Rodgers is head and shoulders above anyone the other 28 organizations have under center. Now, I’m not saying Lawrence is comparable to Rodgers—that’s ludicrous—but the dedication to the rebuild and his raw talent could see him develop into one of the league’s best a decade from now. According to multiple reports, the Packers have received a slew of trade offers for their 37-year-old gun-slinger, but none have tickled their fancy, just yet.
When you microscope Denver’s roster and zoom in on the current talent at quarterback, it’s hard to ignore Rodgers’ fit. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Tim Patrick, and 2021 sixth-rounder Seth Williams make up an exciting receivers room to complement one of the league’s top offensive lines to barrel the way for Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams—RB3 on The Draft Network’s pre-draft running back rankings—who has a chance to become an elite weapon for Denver.
Lock, a reported regular in the Broncos' facility throughout the offseason, tied for the league lead in interceptions in 2020, his first as a starter, and was last in the league in completion percentage as the Broncos finished 5-11. Now entering his third season, it’s hard to envision the 2021 campaign as anything less than a make or break season for the former second-round pick.
“We like Drew Lock,” Paton said just days before the draft.
“What we don’t want to do is force it and bring a guy in 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."
As good as it may sound, Paton’s statement became irrelevant almost immediately as the team traded for Teddy Bridgewater just 24 hours prior to the draft, creating a rift between the future of Lock and Bridgewater’s inherent succession to the top of the depth chart.
But, it’s not that simple.
Bridgewater threw just 15 touchdown passes in 15 starts for the Panthers last season, coupled with 11 interceptions, meaning Denver is slated to have a training camp battle touting two of the NFL’s most turnover-prone quarterbacks from 2020. It’s not a spot you want to be in if you’re Paton with head coach Vic Fangio on the hot seat in just his third season as head bench boss.
With an AFC West now controlled by the Kansas City Chiefs in a similar fashion to the New England Patriots of the 2000s and 2010s in the AFC East, the addition of Rodgers would rattle the division, creating a two-headed monster each year for the division title. Behind an exciting offense, and a fast, physical defense, the insertion of one of the league’s most celebrated quarterbacks in league history could remind many of what Peyton Manning engineered just a half-decade ago.