George Paton had a choice to make when it came to third-year QB Drew Lock. Lock is a player that sparks a lot of controversy. A huge arm with above average athleticism, he ended the 2019 season with a streak of five games that left Denver believing they may have found their answer. He entered 2020 as the starter, and proceeded to regress in every major statistic. I won’t spend a lot of time berating or defending Drew, the gist of it is this: In 2020, Drew Lock was near the bottom of every statistical category for QB’s. He was inaccurate, reckless, immature (mainly the COVID deceit), and above all else, didn’t show the jump the league has come to expect from second-year gunslingers. He hadn’t done nearly enough to enter the 2021 season without some competition, at the very least. The question was, who George would bring in?
The 2021 off-season saw many starting caliber quarterbacks migrate teams. I won’t go over how their seasons went, but here is the list of QB’s from which George Paton had to choose, either by free agency or trade prior to the draft: Gardner Minshew, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Matthew Stafford, and Andy Dalton. Aaron Rodgers’ name was thrown around a ton last year, but it never seemed like he was genuinely on the trade block. Deshaun Watson is well…Deshaun Watson. So Paton’s choices at QB were the names listed above. Those names don’t inspire a ton of confidence. Most have fallen into backup roles later into their careers, and more so play the role of placeholder until their respective teams find their true QB of the future.
Matthew Stafford was probably the most acquirable asset that was a guaranteed upgrade over what the team had. Sadly for Denver, Stafford was drawn to the warmer land that is Los Angeles, California. And the Rams gave up a king’s ransom to get him.
Carson Wentz simply cost too much for the risk that he was. He also favored reuniting with his former offensive coordinator in Frank Reich, so he was off the table.
So before the draft, the quarterbacks Paton had to choose from to compete with Drew for the starting job were Minshew, Darnold, Newton, Bridgewater, and Dalton.
These five QBs all provide near identical ceilings, the biggest difference between them being cost to acquire.
Darnold, a former number three pick still at the young age of 24, cost the Panthers their 2021 sixth, 2022 second, and 2022 fourth round picks. Gardnew Minshew cost the Eagles a conditional 6th that can become a fifth based on Minshew’s playtime. Andy Dalton was a free agent who ended up signing with the Bears for one year and $10 million. Cam Newton was released and remained unsigned until mid-November. All of this led George Paton to the decision to trade for ex-Vikings, Saints, and Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater the day before the 2021 NFL Draft.
The trade for Bridgewater cost Denver a 2021 sixth rounder, with Carolina agreeing to pay $7 million of the remaining $10 million remaining on Bridgewater’s contract. In other words, George Paton was able to find his veteran bridge QB for a sixth round pick and managed to pay him the second cheapest contract of the above players, with only Minshew coming in cheaper.
Teddy isn’t perfect, but acquiring a starting caliber QB for that cheap deserves praise. I’m of the belief that Paton made the correct choice; it’s hard to look at the cost compared to the value the Broncos got out of Bridgewater and not be satisfied.
Acquiring Teddy also allowed Denver to go into the draft without any glaring needs, which garnered Paton the ability to go into every round of the NFL draft searching for the Best Player Available. And that’s exactly what you want when you have a General Manager as good at evaluating talent as Paton is.