ESPN is on record as projecting Case Keenum as the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback next season.
Bleacher Report went in a … different direction.
Tabulating a list of potential trade scenarios that “could shake up the league,” the online media outlet proposed the Broncos acquire quarterback Jameis Winston from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 2019 first-round draft pick.
Via columnist Brent Sobleski:
The Broncos currently reside in NFL limbo because starting quarterback Case Keenum isn’t good enough to elevate the offense. However, the team isn’t bad enough to earn a high draft choice and select a premium quarterback prospect.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, don’t know if they can trust supposed franchise signal-caller Jameis Winston on or off the field. While he completed 72.1 percent of his passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers in Weeks 12 and 13, he’s thrown 12 interceptions (tied for fourth-most in the NFL) and was suspended for the first three games of the season after he was accused of sexually assaulting an Uber driver.
Can the Buccaneers consider building around such inconsistency at the game’s most important position, especially considering Winston is owed $20.9 million next season? The hefty payday is only part of the problem, as the team will likely need to sink $100-plus million into him after the 2019 campaign.
The Broncos, meanwhile, don’t seem to be on the verge of sweeping change. Since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season, the organization’s primary goal has been to acquire a talented quarterback. Case Keenum is a solid placeholder, but he’s nothing special. Denver can save $11 million by releasing the seven-year veteran after the season.
Winston seems to be exact type of unrefined talent general manager John Elway prefers. The 2015 No. 1 overall pick may need a change of scenery, and a number of teams around the league figure to be interested in bringing him aboard.
Just what Denver needs: A Buccaneers cast-off, and arguable draft bust, with extensive baggage and a salary cap-killing price tag. Because Winston’s fifth-year option was exercised, he’ll count nearly $21 million against the cap next season — the same amount as Keenum, who signed a two-year, $36 million contract. Then, as Sobleski notes, he’ll require a massive extension, one he hasn’t earned to this point. Then, you’re completely at his mercy.
Rather than continue to collect other teams’ trash, the Broncos should focus its efforts on drafting a signal-caller worth molding the franchise around. They’d be better served using that first-round choice as ammo to secure, say, Justin Herbert or Drew Lock. Or stand pat amid a weak class and wait until 2020 to nab, say, Tua Tagovailoa.
But if they want a turnover-prone QB who’s unsigned beyond the short-term, Denver mustn’t do anything. He’s already under center.