The Broncos have traded for Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
The Broncos will pay $3 million of Bridgewater's $10 million salary in 2021, with the Panthers paying the other $7 million of the one-year deal. Paying only $3 million for a player of Bridgewater's caliber is considered a good get for the Broncos, as many backups around the league cost much more — the Jets are paying Joe Flacco $3.5 million to be a backup next season.
And now general manager George Paton, who has insisted for weeks he'd bring someone in to compete with Drew Lock, has his guy.
“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room," Paton said in a statement. "He’s a talented player and leader who’s had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he's going to compete and do everything he can to help us win."
This trade comes almost a week after Paton said he wanted to bring in either a veteran or rookie quarterback to compete with Lock, who started 13 games for Denver last season. It also comes one day before the NFL draft, which many had speculated the Broncos might take a quarterback in. Those plans may have now changed.
“We do like Drew Lock," Paton said April 22. "What we don’t want to do is force it and bring a guy in or overpay a guy to come in and he’s not as good as the guy we have and maybe he’s not good enough to compete."
Bridgewater brings plenty of experience, having been in the league since 2014 when the Vikings — who Paton worked for at the time — drafted him 32nd. He's had an up and down career, dealing with a serious knee injury in 2016 in which he tore his left ACL and dislocated his knee, sidelining him in Minnesota. That eventually led him to New Orleans as a backup in 2018 and 2019, learning behind Drew Brees. He signed with the Panthers last season, starting 15 games and throwing for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
He's started 49 games in his career, making him a solid veteran to bring in to compete. Paton's plan since the day he was hired.
"We want to get the right guy, and we still have time. There’s a trade market and we still have the draft," Paton said. "The landscape may change after the draft. If a team drafts one, maybe that quarterback is on the market. We’re going to be patient and not force it. We realize we want competition, and I’ve said that since I’ve gotten here. That hasn’t changed.”
This doesn't mean the Broncos won't draft a quarterback come Thursday night, as maybe Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State's Trey Lance could learn a lot from sitting behind Bridgewater for a year. Paton likes both quarterbacks, saying they "both are elite athletes with really strong arms, both are really talented and smart."
"They have all the intangibles you want in quarterbacks and football players," Paton said. "They’re raw a little bit, but really high ceilings for both players.”
Or maybe they trade back and acquire more draft capital, while hoping the Bridgewater trade pushes Lock to his full potential.
Since being hired, Paton has been a Lock supporter, but also hesitant to crown him the Broncos' next franchise quarterback. And for good reason, as Lock's 2021 season was a rollercoaster, throwing 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Hence the need to bring in competition.
“I don’t know about Week 1, but we’re really high on Drew," Paton said. "I like seeing Drew here every morning when I come in. He’s working hard and trending in the right direction. As you know, he has a lot of talent. I think he’s becoming a better pro, but we’re still going to look at the quarterback position. I’ve said since I’ve gotten here that we want to bring in competition. That’s the goal, and we plan on doing that.”
Now that Paton has fulfilled his promise and did so at a cheap price, his attention shifts to the draft — where it feels like anything can happen.
"I think we filled enough needs in free agency where we don’t have to reach for a player," Paton said "We can take the best player within reason. We have the flexibility to move up, or we can move back. We have nine picks and three picks in the first 75, and we’re really excited. If we stand pat, we think we’ll get an impact player at No. 9."