Mon, 12 Apr 2021

2021 free agent preview: Denver's options at quarterback

Denver Broncos
27 Feb 2021, 09:38 GMT+10

Aric DiLalla

When March 17 arrives and the new league year officially begins, teams across the league will be able to add an influx of talent to their roster.

As General Manager George Paton enters his first free-agency period, the Broncos could choose to add to their roster in several key areas. Over the coming days, we'll evaluate some of the top options who are poised to enter the open market.

We begin at the game's most important position: quarterback.

THE TOP OPTION:

Dak Prescott

The Cowboys quarterback isn't just the top quarterback who could be available on the open market, he's also the top overall player. The two-time Pro Bowler threw for 30 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards in his last full season, and he was off to another hot start in 2020 before his season-ending injury. Prescott played last year on the franchise tag, and in all likelihood, he's headed for that fate - or a long-term extension with the Cowboys - again. If he were to somehow make it to the open market, though, his recruitment would rival that of any of the great free-agent quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning. Prescott may be the only free-agent quarterback on this year's market who would arrive in Denver as the unquestioned starter.

THE VETERAN CANDIDATES:

Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor

Newton, the 2015 league MVP and a three-time Pro Bowler, leads this group of veteran quarterbacks likely looking for new homes. Three of the four - Newton, Dalton and Taylor - were members of the 2011 draft class and are entering their 11th years in the league, but still could prove to be solid options. In his lone year in New England, Newton completed 65.8 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions - and added 12 rushing touchdowns. Newton has made it clear in recent days that he believes he is still a starting-caliber quarterback and that he doesn't believe there are 32 quarterbacks who are better than him.

Dalton also saw extensive action, as he started nine games and played in 11 after Prescott's injury. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Taylor, meanwhile, was supplanted by Justin Herbert in LA after an unfortunate pregame medical incident. He threw just 30 passes this season in his two games of action. He's been effective in each of his stops, but hasn't shown the ability to be a top-end quarterback.

Then there's Fitzpatrick, who continues to impress as he approaches his forties. He went 4-3 as a starter in 2020 and also led the Dolphins to a comeback win over the Raiders in relief of Tua Tagovailoa. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,091 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. One of those interceptions, of course, came at the hands of Justin Simmons in the Broncos' Week 11 win.

PLAYERS LOOKING FOR ANOTHER SHOT:

Jameis Winston, Mitchell Trubisky, Jacoby Brissett

Winston, the former first-overall pick in 2015, is simply looking for his next chance. After an up-and-down five years as the starter in Tampa, he spent 2020 as a backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans. Saints head coach Sean Payton has made his desire to retain Winston clear, but the strong-armed quarterback is a playmaker who could draw interest across the league. He threw for 33 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards in his final season in Tampa - though he did also throw 30 interceptions.

Trubisky is another former top five draft pick who may need a change of scenery. He's floated in and out of the starting lineup in recent years in Chicago after a 2018 Pro Bowl appearance, but he pieced together a 6-3 record in 2020 and started the team's playoff game against New Orleans. If he moves on from Chicago, he could push for a starting job in a training-camp competition.

Brissett hasn't had nearly the same number of opportunities, but he served as the Colts starter in 2017 and 2019. Indianapolis was just 11-19 with Brissett under center, and he completed less than 60 percent of his career in Indianapolis. He does have a strong touchdown-to-interception ratio, which could lure a team into signing him to either compete for a job or serve as a high-end backup. Denver knows firsthand how effective he can be. In 2019, he shrugged off Von Miller's sack attempt in the end zone and delivered a perfect pass on an out-cutting route to help set up a game-winning field goal.

WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR DENVER?

This won't be the case at every position we preview, but you could make the case that any of these options could be in play for Denver. If Prescott hits the market, Denver would be smart to at least inquire about the availability of a top five quarterback in the league. Newton, Winston and Trubisky seem like the likeliest candidates who could push for a starting job in training camp, while Fitzpatrick, Dalton, Taylor and Brissett would be high-end backups in the event of an injury to Drew Lock. If the Broncos pursue any of these options, it may make it less likely that they go after a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft.

More Tampa News

Access More

Sign up for The Tampa News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!