Drew Lock’s stock and two smoking quarterback rumors

Jan 3, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) during the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) during the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Right now, the headlines are all about Deshaun Watson. Over the last 24 hours (and likely to continue for the next several days given that we’re in June in the NFL’s new cycle), the buzz is all about the potential for the Denver Broncos to somehow bring the Houston Texans quarterback onto the roster.

We’ve been here before.

Earlier this offseason, we all likely formed very real opinions about the potential of Aaron Rodgers swapping jerseys from the Green Bay Packers to the Denver Broncos. Trade rumors were swirling before the 2021 NFL Draft that the Packers might move on from Rodgers after he’d shared that he didn’t want to return to Green Bay for another year. It didn’t hurt that the team already had another first-round QB waiting in the wings.

A few weeks later, all parties involved in the rumors are still sitting in the same spot. Few teams made as much sense as Denver given a number of factors—cap space, need, roster strengths, trade bait—yet nothing took place. Rodgers is now holding out from team activities into June, and Jordan Love is taking reps in organized team activities. The mystery is still there, but trade talks to Denver have certainly died down from some reports that claimed with certainty that last season’s MVP was on the move.

Drew Lock’s hold on the Broncos starting quarterback role seems to be slipping.

The current headlines have shifted from Rodgers to Watson, but the potential destination remains the same: Denver. Earlier this week, Broncos safety Kareem Jackson spoke with veteran cornerback Aqib Talib on his podcast and stated that Watson, a close friend, told him he wants to play for the Broncos.

At this point, we are unconcerned about Watson to the Broncos, since it all feels very unrealistic that Watson will be playing professional football anytime soon. The cloud of 20+ statements of sexual assault will do that sort of thing. But both cycles of rumors—real or not—are pointing to something that we can question the reality about: Drew Lock as starting quarterback.

Coming into the offseason, the Broncos were already stuck in an unfortunate situation with Lock. The former second round pick showed just enough promise during his first season to generate some excitement, only to see the floor collapse from underneath him in his sophomore year. That said, the Broncos’ miserable parade of injuries should give anyone a one-year pass, including Lock, and it felt like the Broncos had waited two years into Lock’s career only to still have any nothing but questions heading into year three.

Given that the Broncos turned the roster over a new general manager in George Paton, no one would have faulted Denver for moving on in the draft (or otherwise) and trading Lock to another franchise hoping to help him turn the corner at the professional level. At the same time, no one would have faulted Paton for giving him one more year at the position before giving up on a prime draft investment.

To date, Denver’s actions showcase a confidence—or at least internal commitment—to Lock. The draft passed and the Broncos used their top draft pick on Patrick Surtain when Justin Fields was right there for the taking. Even their choice to use that pick instead of deal it in a package for a veteran quarterback is a sign. The only move the Broncos have made at quarterback is to bring in Teddy Bridgewater and they seem comfortable with that competition (unless you’re a Brett Rypien believer).

But what about these rumors? Rodgers is one thing, but Watson is another. There’s a lot of smoke around a team that is built to contend if they got the quarterback position right. Pass rushers like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb anchor a defense that features the best secondary in the game. Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, and K.J. Hamler form a very nice core of playmakers. And it’s about the right time for Vic Fangio’s schemes to start sinking in.

It doesn’t help Lock is reportedly performing poorly in OTAs. Heading into his third season, the last thing fans want to hear is that Lock looked “abysmally bad”. At this early point (and a lot can obviously change here), it feels like Bridgewater has to be the starter and from there an import is still very possible.

The inaction of the front office speaks for itself and insinuates that Paton is building a roster for the long haul with a patient mindset and determination. However the rumors also show that maybe there are ongoing efforts behind the scenes to make a deal to overturn the position and make a real run in ’21. It’s impossible to read at this point, except to say that Drew Lock’s hold on a starting quarterback role is slipping away.

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