The 2021 NFL Draft came and went without the Denver Broncos selecting a quarterback. But to suggest the team is finished exploring upgrades at the position is probably a stretch. New general manager George Paton successfully added competition for incumbent Drew Lock in the days leading up to the draft, acquiring former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater from the Panthers. In a new report highlighting Paton's first offseason at the helm of the Broncos, however, NFL Network's Mike Silver makes it clear Denver could still have its sights set on Aaron Rodgers (after months of targeting other big names like Russell Wilson).
"We know we've got our hands full in our division," team executive John Elway told Silver. "Quarterbacks -- that's all the talk is, right? So, the focus is always there, and you've got to be strong with it and hope you get the guy that can (thrive) ... and you've got to develop them, too. And the public doesn't want them to develop. They want ready-made guys coming out. And they all want Patrick Mahomes, which is very difficult. That's a diamond in the rough ... So, it's always a work in progress until you find that guy."
Bridgewater may very well be "that guy" by default. Thanks in part to his history with Paton, who was with Minnesota when the Vikings made Teddy a first-round pick in 2014, Silver indicates Bridgewater will likely open the Broncos' offseason as the presumptive starter. Paton and coach Vic Fangio met Lock in person prior to Bridgewater's official arrival, per Silver, and the former second-rounder "took the news well and embraced the impending competition."
But if the Broncos have their way, Lock will have even more competition to fight off.
Before landing Bridgewater, Silver reports, Paton attempted to land Matthew Stafford, who went from the Lions to the Rams; inquired about free agent Andy Dalton, who signed with the Bears; and considered pursuing both the Texans' Deshaun Watson and Seahawks' Russell Wilson, "whose teams declined to engage." Then, on draft day, as news of Rodgers' growing discontent with the Packers began to spread, Paton found a big reason to consider a move down from the Broncos' No. 9 overall selection.
"If the Packers were, in fact, willing to discuss a potential trade for Rodgers -- even if it were to be negotiated after the draft -- (Paton's) plan would have been to try to trade down with a team like the Saints," Silver reports, "and accumulate future assets (ideally, first- and second-round picks in 2022) that he could use as part of a package to send to Green Bay."
Once Packers GM Brian Gutekunst made it clear through a third party that he wouldn't entertain Rodgers trade talks, Silver adds, Paton "tabled that idea." But he didn't get rid of it entirely. Later in the draft, per Silver, the Broncos GM considered a move back into the first round for Miami pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, who ended up going to the Dolphins. At one point, he ended up on the phone with Gutekunst, and only because of "time constraints and the context" did Paton choose not to mention Rodgers in that conversation.
In other words, while the draft may not have fostered legitimate negotiations for Rodgers, Denver's eye remains on the Packers QB. And chances are, if this offseason is any indication, the Broncos will keep sniffing around as long as they can.