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Can the Denver Broncos and Sean Payton land the NFL's next Jared Goff? Ranking the many candidates

Zac Stevens Avatar
January 29, 2024

With names such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and C.J. Stroud starting at quarterback in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs this year, Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield, believe it or not, were the only No. 1 overall picks starting under center.

Wildly enough, they were also the only quarterbacks starting on teams that did not draft them.

In fact, both quarterbacks were kicked to the curb by their original teams. The Los Angeles Rams traded multiple first-round picks to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford and threw Goff in the trade as a bonus. Goff has been anything but a throw in for the Lions as he’s quickly become Detroit’s franchise quarterback.

The Cleveland Browns shipped Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers for a mid-round pick after acquiring Deshaun Watson. After bouncing around from Carolina to the Los Angeles Rams in 2022, Mayfield won the starting job in Tampa Bay this year and led the Buccaneers to a playoff run.

If the Broncos move on from Russell Wilson, they’ll be in the market for a starting quarterback.

Could Sean Payton find his quarterback of the future by trying to revive the career of a former top pick in the draft?

Part 1 of this two part series looked at the surprisingly long list of quarterbacks drafted in or near the top 10 that will be free agents this year that the Broncos could potentially sign. Along this path, Denver would be attempting to find the next Baker Mayfield.

Part 2, below, focuses on the quarterbacks drafted in or near the top 10 that Denver could trade for and hope to find their own version of Detroit’s Jared Goff.

Trade — The Jared Goff Route

Listed from most realistic to least realistic

Mac Jones

  • Drafted: No. 15 overall in 2021
  • Current team: Patriots
  • 2023 stats: 2,120 passing yards, 10 passing TDs, 12 INTs, 64.9% completion, 77 passer rating, 36.5 QBR, 11 starts
  • Estimated trade compensation: Late-round draft pick

Mac Jones would certainly not be a quarterback that would get Broncos Country pumped up after he struggled mightily with the lowly Patriots last year. However, Jones not only would be affordable — something the Broncos need if they move on from Wilson — he would be an excellent fit in trying to replicate what Drew Brees did in Payton’s offense in New Orleans.

Justin Fields

  • Drafted: No. 11 overall in 2021
  • Current team: Bears
  • 2023 stats: 2,562 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, 9 INTs, 61.4% completion, 86.3 passer rating, 46.2 QBR, 13 starts
  • Estimated trade compensation: Day 2 draft pick

The Bears will likely trade Fields in order to select Caleb Williams No. 1 overall. The former No. 11 pick, who the Broncos passed up on to draft Pat Surtain II with the No. 9 pick, started to live up to his potential the second half of last season. The biggest question with Fields and the Broncos is would Payton see him as a quarterback that can operate his offense.

Zach Wilson

  • Drafted: No. 2 overall in 2021
  • Current team: Jets
  • 2023 stats: 2,271 passing yards, 8 passing TDs, 7 INTs, 60.1% completion, 77.2 passer rating, 30.8 QBR, 11 starts
  • Estimated trade compensation: Late-round draft pick

The former No. 2 overall pick has been a disaster in his three seasons in New York. But he was a top-two pick just three years ago because of his talent. Wilson would be a project for Payton and the Broncos.

Mitchell Trubisky

  • Drafted: No. 2 overall in 2017
  • Most recent team: Steelers
  • 2023 stats: 632 passing yards, 4 passing TDs, 5 INTs, 62.6% completion, 71.9 passer rating, 34.2 QBR, 2 starts
  • Estimated trade compensation: Late-round draft pick

This would be an unbelievably uninspiring move. But Trubisky does have experience (57-career starts), which NFL teams value.

Trey Lance

  • Drafted: No. 3 overall in 2021
  • Current team: Cowboys
  • 2023 stats: Did not play
  • Estimated trade compensation: Late-round draft pick

Lance has been a complete non-factor since entering the league. In fact, the 49ers gave up on him before his third season in the league. If Payton believes he can realize Lance’s potential, then snagging him from the Cowboys would make sense to try and develop him.

Kyler Murray

  • Drafted: No. 1 overall in 2019
  • Current team: Cardinals
  • 2023 stats: 1,799 passing yards, 10 passing TDs, 5 INTs, 65.7% completion, 89.4 passer rating, 47.7 QBR, 8 starts
  • Estimated trade compensation: Unrealistic

We’ve entered the unrealistic part of this list. With the dead cap the Broncos would have from moving on from Wilson, there is no way Denver could afford Kyler’s five-year, $230 million deal.

Daniel Jones

  • Drafted: No. 6 overall in 2019
  • Current team: Giants
  • 2023 stats: 909 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 67.5% completion, 70.5 passer rating, 36.2 QBR, 6 starts
  • Estimated trade compensation: Late-round draft pick

Much like with Murray, the Broncos would not be able to afford Jones’ four-year, $160 million contract. Regardless of the deal, however, they wouldn’t be interested in him.

Bryce Young

  • Drafted: No. 1 overall in 2023
  • Current team: Panthers
  • 2023 stats: 2,877 passing yards, 11 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 59.8% completion, 73.7 passer rating, 33.4 QBR, 16 starts
  • Estimated trade compensation: Unrealistic

In many ways, Young would fit the Drew Brees mold — from the smaller stature to the style of play. But without a first-round pick this year, the Panthers wouldn’t give up on Young after just one season.

Deshaun Watson

  • Drafted: No. 12 overall in 2017
  • Current team: Browns
  • 2023 stats: 1,115 passing yards, 7 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 61.4% completion, 84.3 passer rating, 43.3 QBR
  • Estimated trade compensation: Unrealistic

The Broncos are already tied to a quarterback with an unfavorable contract. There is no chance they want to take on a quarterback with just as many questions about his play, yet with an even worse contract.

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