The Denver Broncos have played four games in 2020. Three different quarterbacks have started for the Broncos over that time thanks to the injury to Drew Lock in Week 2.
Because Lock’s shoulder injury was the second in as many seasons to cost him time away from the field of play, naturally, some in the media and fanbase alike have worried that he might be injury-prone. Or, at the very least, that despite his formidable talent, Lock’s frame might not be able to withstand the NFL beating — unless he makes some changes to how he plays the position in an effort to better protect himself.
As a result of the Broncos’ QB carousel, the national media have once again taken the path of least resistance with regard to the latest morsel emerging from the NFL rumor mill. With the Washington Football Team reportedly intent on dealing away second-year QB Dwayne Haskins ahead of the October 29 trade deadline, CBS Sports has quickly plucked the low-hanging fruit and connected the Broncos as a possible destination for the 2019 first-round pick out of Ohio State.
After also naming the Las Vegas Raiders, Cody Benjamin ranked the Broncos. No. 4 in CBS Sports’ top-5 most likely landing spots for Haskins via trade. Here’s what he said.
Like their AFC West rival Raiders, the Broncos are as close to set at QB as you could be, at least when you consider management’s approach to building around former second-rounder Drew Lock. All signs point to Lock holding this job for a while. Still, their current youngster has yet to even approach a full season of starting experience, and the Broncos have seen firsthand this year how valuable it is to have an insurance plan. As a bonus, they also spent extra time with Haskins ahead of the 2019 draft. If they can get him for a high mid-rounder, why not take the chance to develop him as either the No. 2 or future competition for Lock?
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CBS Sports, like many in the national perspective, takes the most shallow perspective possible and the laziest of tacks when it comes to the Haskins issue and likely landing spots via trade. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or bonafide NFL insider to open up the box score, or peruse the league transaction wire, to deduce which teams have experienced quarterback turnover in 2020.
Lock Wasn’t Hit by a Bus
The Broncos have been decimated by the injury bug and the dagger was losing Lock a few plays into Week 2’s loss at Pittsburgh. Had Lock not gotten hurt, the Broncos don’t land on CBS Sports’ list. But here’s the news flash: he wasn’t hit by a bus.
Lock is expected back this week and the Broncos went 1-1 without him in the starting lineup, not counting Week 2, which was a loss. Technically, you could say Denver went 1-2 without Lock but that start at Pittsburgh counts on Lock’s NFL resume.
Nevertheless, all signs point to the Broncos getting Lock back this week in time to take on the New England Patriots. Behind Lock, the Broncos have three quarterbacks on-roster, including de-facto backup Brett Rypien, as well as Jeff Driskel and Blake Bortles.
One of those QBs is sure to be handed his walking papers inside the next two weeks, once the Broncos can get Lock back in the lineup and exhale. However, make no mistake, this organization remains committed to Lock as the quarterback for the foreseeable future. There’s no room for a first-round bust in Denver’s QB equation.
Lock energized a fanbase and ignited a locker room last year when he was inserted as the Broncos’ starting QB in Week 13. The team had totaled just three wins by that point in the 2019 season. Lock would lead Denver to a 4-1 finish.
Lock’s impact was so palpable that GM John Elway cut bait with Joe Flacco, dismissing the $13.6 million in dead money it would add to the salary cap, and went gangbusters to build the nest around his young QB during the 2020 offseason. Denver’s first two picks in the draft? Wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
How about free agency? If you follow the money the Broncos committed, you’ll find that it went to Lock’s side of the ledger, with offensive guard Graham Glasgow and two-time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon leading the way as the two big free-agent additions. There was also Nick Vannett, signed to serve as the team’s blocking tight end, but he’s been mostly a bust thus far.
The free-agent moves and the draft investments, which also included third-round center Lloyd Cushenberry, telegraphed Elway’s commitment and belief in Lock as the guy in Denver. Even Vic Fangio, wanting to grease the wheels Lock’s way so that he could hit the ground running in Year 2 (pre-pandemic), fired Rich Scangarello and hired Pat Shurmur at offensive coordinator and Mike Shula to serve as Lock’s position coach.
This is why Lock’s injury was so disappointing because it interrupted all the momentum the Broncos had built up offensively. But with only one-quarter of the season in the books, Lock will return with still 12 games left to go, which is plenty of time for the Broncos to not only get back into the thick of things in the AFC but also get a nice, full-bodied evaluation on Lock with all these new weapons and pieces around him.
Lock Does Present Concerns (Now)
The second injury in as many years is alarming. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t acknowledge that, as would the Broncos. But neither has been season-ending and the sample size the team has garnered from Lock has been so tantalizing, there’s no reason to give up the ghost and bring in a former first-rounder to upset the chemistry in the Broncos’ locker room.
Denver was tied to Haskins in the 2019 draft, showing some interest but everyone and their mom knew Elway had his heart set on Lock — if he was going to draft a QB in the premium rounds. The Broncos could have drafted Haskins but opted to trade out of the No. 10 overall pick instead, taking tight end Noah Fant at pick 20, and later, Lock at pick 42.
Elway would be remiss to ignore the injury-bug warning signs with regard to Lock but unless the second-year signal-caller returns to the lineup and completely sucks it up between now and the trade deadline, giving up any draft capital to acquire Haskins would be pure fantasy.
This is Still Lock’s Team
This is still Lock’s team and two weeks from now, nobody is going to remember the CBS Sports article tying Haskins to Denver, nor the minority of Broncos fans pining for the likes of Justin Herbert — who’s still yet to post his first career victory. If Lock can return and lead the Broncos to a massive upset win over the 9-point favored Patriots this weekend, fans and media alike will be so caught up in the excitement that Haskins-to-Denver, even as a loose idea, will be a dim memory.
Lock doesn’t have it easy as he approaches his return. First up is a road test vs. Bill Belichick and following that is a homestand vs. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Such is life for a QB in the bigs.
But before anyone goes pining for a flamed-out former first-rounder like Haskins, whose career arc has already echoed that of Josh Rosen, give Lock the chance to come back and retake the reins of a team that already has begun the process of taking on his likeness.