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No matter the path, you better hope the Broncos' next quarterback is going to cost a lot

Zac Stevens Avatar
March 11, 2018

DENVER — The times they are a-changin’.

As Bob Dylan so graceful sang back in 1965 regarding society, his words still hold true in many respects—including the mind-boggling, quickly-evolving world that is NFL quarterback contracts.

Believe it or not, as crazy as it seems, the going rate for a quarterback—not the best QB in the league, just an NFL-caliber signal caller—is $27 million per year.

If Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers were to hit the open market, their true value could be $40 million per year.

This isn’t your father’s childhood anymore where you can get a gallon of gas for under a dollar and a QB for a “reasonable” price. Oh no, sweetheart, this is 2018 where every new quarterback contract eclipses the GDP of the smallest countries in the world. No, seriously.

The reality—albeit potentially sickening—is Kirk Cousins will likely get at least $30 million per year once he hits the open market on Mar. 14. And get ready Broncos Country, it could very well come from your Denver Broncos.

Yes, Cousins doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring, a championship game appearance or even a single playoff win as a starter, yet he’s set to become the highest-paid player in NFL history in a matter of days.

This shouldn’t catch anyone off-guard, however, as the three highest-paid quarterbacks in the league currently—Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, and Derek Carr—have a combined zero playoff wins as well.

But let’s say John Elway doesn’t want to pony up and pay the outrageous price that is Cousins’ soon-to-be contract. Well, that still doesn’t change the fact that whoever is the Broncos’ starting QB late in the summer of 2018 is going to cost an arm and a leg, just like Captain Kirk.

At least the Broncos better hope so.

Case Keenum, the second-best free agent option, will cost at least $20 million per year. That’s more than the Broncos paid Peyton Freaking Manning just a matter of years ago. That’s certainly not cheap.

Other legitimate starting options in free agency include Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford—both of whom started a combined two out of a possible 18 games for the Minnesota Vikings last year due to injury.

If Denver goes with either of those options, they risk putting themselves in the same situation they’ve been in the last two seasons, where they haven’t been able to get a full season out of their starting quarterback. In that stretch, Denver’s combined 14-18 record is the worst in the Elway-era, and the team has enjoyed the playoffs from the comfort of their own couch both of those seasons.

Oh, by the way, Bridgewater, Bradford or even A.J. McCarron—a quarterback with three career starts—are going to cost a team likely anywhere between $12 and $18 million per year.

These—insert various and as many adjectives as you see fit—quarterback contracts are just the way the NFL, and the world, is.

So, turning to the draft, the “cheap” option, right? In terms of money, it’s certainly cheaper, but in terms of cost to the Broncos, it’s anything but cheap.

Currently sitting at No. 5 overall in April’s draft, the Broncos won’t have an opportunity at the first overall quarterback taken, nor the second and very possibly even the third.

Heck, even if Elway does have a chance at the third-best QB in the draft, he may want to think long and hard before making that move at No. 5.

In 2016, the Broncos made that same move, picking the third quarterback in the draft. Less than two years later they’re already back to the drawing board desperately looking for their next franchise man because the third-best QB in that draft wasn’t good enough. Albeit it was at pick No. 26 instead of No. 5, but the reality is it was still the third-best quarterback in the draft.

If the Broncos do turn to the draft to fill the most important position in all of sports, they’ll be left with one option if they want to give themselves the best chance at finding the right man: Trade up to No. 1 or No. 2 overall.

That’ll be easier said—at least with stomaching the cost—than done.

Sure, moving up four spots to No. 1 or even three spots to No. 2 overall doesn’t seem like too tough of a task, but in today’s NFL, those two spots are more valuable than gold.

According to the NFL Draft Trade Chart, a jump from No. 5 to No. 1 would cost Denver not only this year’s first-round pick but also a future top-10 pick. The jump to No. 2 isn’t much cheaper as “fair value” would be this year’s No. 5 pick and an additional mid-first-round pick.

However, since there’s no way to guarantee where Denver’s first-round pick of next year will fall, the Broncos would likely have to sweeten the deal with the Cleveland Browns (No. 1 overall) or the New York Giants (No. 2) by throwing in even more in order to make a deal happen.

Even then, that would be on the cheaper side of things.

In 2012, the Washington Redskins nearly traded away their entire future to move up from No. 6 overall to No. 2—sound like a familiar jump?—to draft Robert Griffin III. To move up those four spots, they gave the then-St. Louis Rams the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, two additional first-round picks as well as a second-rounder.

More recently, in 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles jumped from No. 8 to No. 2 overall to draft their future quarterback Carson Wentz. That jump—although slightly larger than the Broncos will need to make—cost the Eagles their No. 8 overall pick, an additional first-round pick, a second-rounder, a third-rounder and the teams swapped fourth round picks.

While a top-two pick will cost north of $7 million per year, significantly less in terms of salary cap space than a free agent quarterback, drafting a quarterback may actually cost the Broncos more, in terms of money and assets, if they truly want to get their guy, which would mean moving up in the draft.

If the price to get a legitimate quarterback is just too much, option C, being neither, is also a choice. Free agent quarterbacks that won’t break the bank—but shoot, still could—include Josh McCown, Drew Stanton, Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derek Anderson, Mark Sanchez, Matt Moore and Scott Tolzien to name the notable ones.

Of course, the Broncos could always stay put at No. 5, hope and pray their quarterback drops to them and hope he develops into their man of the future. Sounds like a lot of hoping, though.

If neither of those sound appealing and you really want to pinch pennies, there’s always the cheapest option of rolling with Trevor Siemian for a third-straight year—costing under $2 million. But even Elway himself nearly scrapped that option off the list after he declared the Broncos’ No. 1 priority this offseason was to find a quarterback. Ouchtown, population No. 13.

In an elitist, non-socialist NFL where the quarterback market lacks a middle class, there are two options for teams who are in the search for their next ball thrower: Expensive and dirt cheap—in NFL terms—and you get what you pay for.

So, Broncos Country, accept it now—the next Broncos quarterback is going to be expensive beyond belief. At least you better hope. Now get over the sticker shock and enjoy the ride.

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