The Denver Broncos will be without starting quarterback Drew Lock for anywhere from two to six weeks thanks to a shoulder injury, with all signs pointing to Lock's absence lasting closer to a month. Now, they've found a potential replacement. Two days after Jeff Driskel was forced into action as the only healthy QB on Denver's roster, the team has signed free agent Blake Bortles to a one-year contract, according to ESPN.
Driskel was surprisingly competent against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers defense while filling in for Lock on Sunday, but it was imperative Denver added QB help moving forward -- not only because the Broncos are already staring in an 0-2 hole with other injuries on offense, but because 2020 is not yet a lost season. In the AFC West, for example, the Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) are making their own QB transition, while the Las Vegas Raiders have managed to keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs. With an extra wild card in each conference, Denver simply needed someone to soften the blow of Lock's loss until its real QB1 returns.
Bortles may not be an inspiring name to anyone who followed his turnover-ridden flame-out with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but you can do a whole lot worse when it comes to an emergency QB. He's big. He's got 74 starts under his belt. He was easily the most talented arm on the market at this point. Yes, interceptions too often accompany his starts, but you at least know this guy can sling it on short notice.
After a year spent learning under Sean McVay as Jared Goff's backup in 2019, Bortles could/should be ready to replace Driskel as the temporary No. 1 as soon as Week 4 against the New York Jets, with the potential to come off the bench even this Sunday. (And that appears to be the team's actual plan, with NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reporting Driskel will get the "first crack" at starting for Lock while Bortles completes COVID-19 protocols and "gets up to speed" in Denver's offense.)
No QB added off the street was going to give Denver anything close to Lock's upside, let alone his comfort in the system. But Bortles, spoiled starting reputation or not, is about as good of a fallback plan as you could hope for considering the circumstances. Let's say Lock is out four weeks, with a chance to return by Oct. 25 for the club's first game against the Chiefs. Let Bortles lean on Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and Noah Fant while uncorking it to Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, and you're talking about a reasonable chance of sitting at 2-4 -- maybe, if you're fortunate, 3-3 -- by the time Lock is back in the saddle.
That's not ideal, in the big picture. But it's a whole lot different than 1-5 or 0-6. And in this season, it could be the difference between a late-season surge into the Wild Card picture and a postponement of playoff dreams to 2021.