Just two months removed from winning a Super Bowl in which they possessed two starting level quarterbacks, the Denver Broncos find themselves in an uncertain situation at the position.
Peyton Manning's retirement and the unexpected departure of Brock Osweiler to the Texans in free agency left no recognizable names on the roster. Despite the addition of Mark Sanchez from the Philadelphia Eagles, it is still unclear who will take snaps as their starting quarterback come the start of the season. There are few free agents remaining that are reliable starters and without a high pick, no certainties in the upcoming draft either.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is demanding too much money, Robert Griffin III decided to join the Brown's and despite some negotiations with Denver's management Colin Kaepernick remains at the San Francisco 49ers at this point in time. Other options include Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown or trading for Mike Glennon, but none of these men would inspire much confidence considering their respective histories in the league.
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Adding any of these players except for Kaepernick would only be a short-term solution mind you.
On the draft side of things, the top two prospects, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, who are both considered as NFL ready, will undoubtedly be off the board come the Broncos pick, and beyond the pair of them, there is real uncertainty amongst the position group.
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Trading up to the top of the first round is not John Elway's style and there are a few other prospects who he may take a shot on due to their potential high ceiling's, namely Paxton Lynch out of Memphis.
So, all things considered, here are the most viable options for the franchise going forward:
Sign Colin Kaepernick
The former second-round pick out of Nevada has struggled the past two seasons in San Francisco, but his talent is there for everyone to see. His mobility and arm strength make him an ideal fit for Gary Kubiak's system, where he will not be expected to carry the team with his arm alone and will be allowed to thrive in the run game.
Kaepernick has a very solid career touchdown to interception ratio of 56-26 and has led his team deep into the postseason twice before, reaching back-to-back NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl in 2013. A career completion rate of just under 60 percent and a quarterback rating of 88.4 shows that he is more than capable of playing well in this league, and one can put his poor seasons this year and last down to more than just a decline in his personal level of play.
A poor surrounding cast and overall instability in San Francisco, including the loss of head coach Jim Harbaugh, have inevitably had an impact on Kaepernick's play and it is obvious that he would welcome a change in scenery.
Negotiations have taken place between the two franchises over Kaepernick, but his salary seems to be a stumbling block as of now, with the player seemingly not keen to take a pay cut to join the Broncos. If an agreement can be reached, this could turn out very well for Denver as Kaepernick at his best is dynamic signal caller capable of taking them back to the Super Bowl next season.
Take a risk in the Draft
With the final pick in the first round, there is zero chance that either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz will still be on the board with so many quarterback-needy teams ahead of them, but there are a few other prospects John Elway could take a look at late in the first or in the middle rounds.
Paxton Lynch is the obvious one if we consider the bottom of the first round. Lynch stands at 6'7 and is very athletic for a big guy, he possesses a very high ceiling but is not a sure fire day one starter by any means.
He has great arm strength and the ability to scramble to avoid defenders and will fit well into coach Kubiak's boot-action scheme, but his accuracy issues will be a concern as he can be very inconsistent at times. He showed the ability to read defenses well at Memphis, but it will take him some time to learn how to go through his progressions at the NFL level.
Overall, it would be a risk to draft him to be a day one starter and ideally, you would have him sit the first year or two to learn from a steady veteran, but Denver doesn't really have that in their ranks, so it would be a very hit and miss situation if they decide to take him at number 31.
Other options in the middle rounds include Stanford's Kevin Hogan, who is a pure pocket passer with excellent accuracy but he has limited physical tools and is thought of as more of a backup.
Back Sanchez to do the job for a year or two
This would be the last resort and least desirable option for the Broncos but their hand may be forced in to rolling with the eight-year pro as the starter if nothing else works out.
Sanchez is a former first-round pick of the New York Jets out of USC and can play effectively at times, but he is just wildly inconsistent and can have really awful days at the helm. His 86 career touchdown passes only just beats out his 84 interceptions thrown, and he is susceptible to comically bad moments such as his notorious 'butt fumble'.
Playing for the Jets in the 2012 thanksgiving game against the Patriots, he fumbled the ball off the backside of one of his own players and it was subsequently returned for a touchdown.
Having said that, he led the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship games in 2009 and '10 and those teams were eerily similar to this Broncos unit; elite defensively with a game management style offense that runs the ball a lot and tries to limit mistakes. So Sanchez could do a job for this team, and really, could he be much worse than Peyton Manning was for much of last season?
They could even go ahead and draft Lynch and have him a sit under Sanchez initially until he is deemed ready to start.
Still, this would be the final option for Elway and the Broncos and certainly would not represent a long-term solution to their quarterback problem.