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Who Will Play Quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2017?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Siemian looked respectable, while Paxton Lynch was drafted for the future, but could Tony Romo be the one taking snaps next year in Denver?

The Broncos have a variety of depth chart options to look into for the 2017 NFL season. However, the one question everyone wants answered in Denver is who will be under center as the team moves forward. 

Winning a Super Bowl in 2015 and then losing a Hall of Fame quarterback the next year is a tough set of circumstances, but not an altogether unfamiliar one for the Broncos. After winning Super Bowl XXXIII over Atlanta in 1999, Denver’s most hallowed star John Elway retired just as Manning did last year. 

What followed was a brutal string of mediocre passers from Plummer to Orton, who were just good enough to give hope, but never anything more. When Manning came to town in 2012, it took four straight 12-plus win seasons and two Super Bowl appearances to get a title before his age got the better of him. Now, the future seems to rest on two young signal callers and an interesting free agency market.

Where They’re At
With an extra year of experience within Denver’s system, and a front row seat to Manning’s last year, quarterback Trevor Siemian was able to prove himself worthy over the likes of Mark Sanchez and 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. After winning the first four games, there never seemed any reason to deviate from Siemian’s inaugural campaign. Then fate intervened. 

A Week 4 shoulder injury to his non-throwing arm dampened his ability and was aggravated to the point of a grade-5 separation with sustained play. His final marks of 84.6 quarterback rating and over 3400 yards of passing are nothing to scoff at for a first-year starter, but as a seventh round pick in 2015, Siemian was not drafted to lead the team like Lynch was, and his injury will certainly raise concerns about his long-term viability.

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Christopher Hanewinckel—USA TODAY Sports

For Lynch, it’s just as likely a blessing in disguise as a disappointment that he did not earn the starting spot in 2016. After a standout tenure at Memphis, Lynch was pursued by Elway for his first-round talent and impressive 6’ 7” frame, but his raw status had an unavoidable learning curve. If he had been pressed into duty, sure, he’d be further along and have more chemistry with the receiving core. But behind Denver’s poor offensive line, it’s just as likely John Elway would have had an injured first rounder as opposed to an injured seventh.

Lynch showed some moments in three games for the injured Siemian last year, but nothing upon which a true measure could be given. This year its back to square one, and Siemian and Lynch will duel in epic fashion to impress new head coach Vance Joseph and his new crew of assistants.

What They’ll Have
Some will say that having a quarterback competition means neither is good enough to earn the starting position outright. However, when it comes to the young players in Denver’s current system, that’s debatable.

There is very little doubt that extra time for Lynch has been essential to his development. If he is the future of the franchise, he’s in a much better position to do so than last year. Spending a year watching Siemian make mistakes in a pro system will hopefully have garnered him good lessons, and stoked the fire in his belly. 

For Siemian himself, the surgery required to correct the damage done by his severe shoulder separation will cost him dearly in confidence and time. He stated he’ll be ready for OTA’s, but he’ll lose substantial preparation getting into football shape. His throwing motion should be unaffected, but his psyche certainly could be. No one really expected him to be in the mix, and his ascent to the starting role is something he’ll have to hold on to tightly. 

A possibly alluring idea for Denver could be to substantiate the interest of teams like the Bills and 49ers, and offer Siemian up as lucrative bait for an even more desperate team. A deal like this could help alleviate other depth chart concerns by structuring a deal that could include additional picks or offensive line options.

Another thing to consider is the wildly good deal both quarterbacks are to Denver’s pocket book. Siemian’s $615,000 a year made him one of the lowest-paid starters in the league, and even with bonuses, Lynch’s salary cap hit of $2.15 million is small beans. Together, they make up just 1.6 percent of Denver’s total cap, and were the cheapest quarterback squad in the NFL last year. Considering both quarterbacks’ upsides heading into next year, it’s a pretty good situation for the Broncos to be in. 

Who They’ll Target
Much has been made about the possibility of bringing in yet another veteran to serve the Broncos as regent over their future franchise quarterback. Tony Romo’s name has been thrown around because of the favorable circumstances surrounding his potential availability. For one, the size of his contract and the emergence of the sensational Dak Prescott led to quickly deteriorating favorability for Romo in Dallas over price, not ability. His performance had for all intents and purposes gotten better with age, leading to his fantastic 2014 and early 2015 numbers.

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Bill Streicher—USA TODAY Sports

However, his severe collarbone break raised more questions about his age and future with the team.  Bringing Romo in could provide steady leadership for a playoff run, but it would be a pricey test, costing Denver between $10-14 million. That’s a plan that worked well with Manning, but the likelihood of repeat success is slim. Dallas is in huge cap trouble at dead last in the NFL, and jettisoning Romo’s contract will help immensely in diverting funds to other needs. 

For Denver, even after being cut, Romo is likely to command around on the open market. This makes him a contextually pricey starter given Denver’s current depth chart allocations at the position. Also worth considering is that every snap Lynch or Siemian fail to take inevitably robs them of essential career building experience, and the organization of valuable assessments. If one of their young quarterbacks are the future, there is no reason to delay the development while adding extra salary in Romo.

With two young quarterbacks poised for future success, you don’t need a pricey veteran to stoke your already-intriguing quarterback competition. Yet the addition of another rookie gunslinger could certainly be in the cards. As Bill Musgrave joins the Denver staff, they’re gaining a good quarterback developer who most recently struck success with Oakland’s Derek Carr, and could do so with Lynch as well. 

Edited by James Malloy, Vincent Choy.

Before stiffing the Colts and cementing his Broncos legacy, what team selected quarterback John Elway in the second round of the 1981 MLB draft?
Created 3/6/17
  1. Kansas City Royals
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. New York Yankees
  4. San Diego Padres

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