Four months ago, the Broncos had Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Now, after Manning retired and Osweiler bolted for Houston, the defending Super Bowl champs head into the offseason with Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch.
Sanchez, acquired via a trade in March, has the most experience of the bunch, but he also has the lowest ceiling. Siemian, a 2015 7th-rounder, was on the field for one snap last season, and Lynch was the team's 2016 first-round pick last month. Put another way: There are plenty of questions at quarterback, which explains why Broncos.com's Andrew Mason says there's "a wide-open competition" at the position.
"When he says it's going to be an open competition, he means it," Mason said of coach Gary Kubiak. "Don't assume anything."
In the weeks leading up to the draft, the Broncos were often mentioned as a potential landing spot for Colin Kaepernick, though nothing materialized. (Like most things, it came down to money.) But Denver is probably better off without Kaepernick, who was benched for Blaine Gabbert last season, and isn't assured of winning the job in 2016. The Broncos, meanwhile, can have Sanchez serve as the bridge quarterback until Lynch is ready, and in today's NFL, that could mean the passing of the torch takes place in November.
Whatever happens, Sanchez is looking forward to battling for the job.
"Listen, I don't care who is there, what is going on right now," Sanchez said in April, via the Denver Post's Troy Renck. "They are going to give me a fair shake, that's all I can ask for, a fair shot. I am good. Let's go. I will bet on myself and compete my butt off. I will be friendly and professional with whoever is there. But I want this bad. Really bad. I want what they experienced last year."
And Kubiak added: "One of the things we feel really good about is we feel good about getting Mark. Mark's got 60 starts in this league -- he's started two AFC Championship (games) ... we feel really good about him, how he fits. He's got some background in what we do."
Kubiak, who played with John Elway in Denver, also knows that Lynch remains a work in progress.
"He's got a long way to go, but it's exciting to see him and what he could become," the coach said earlier this month, via USAToday.com.
The silver lining is that the Broncos defense will still be very good in 2016, even after losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. And as we saw last season, the Broncos can make a deep playoff run with replacement-level (or worse) quarterback play.
* via PFT