Unbeknownst to many, the Denver Broncos nearly acquired a new quarterback last week.
As Mile High Sports’ Zach Segars pointed out, the Los Angeles’ Rams broadcast team broke the news during Saturday’s preseason game that Denver engaged the San Francisco 49ers — their previous exhibition opponent — about a trade involving backup QBs C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.
As Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien were unable to move the offense downfield yet again, and with Drew Lock sidelined for at least the start of the season, Rams announcers Andrew Siciliano, Nate Burleson and Mina Kimes mentioned that the Broncos approached the 49ers about a trade.
According to Burleson, during the Broncos’ joint practices with San Francisco, John Elway inquired about the possibility of trading for one of the 49ers’ backup quarterbacks, Nick Mullens or C.J. Beatherd. However, the 49ers weren’t receptive, and told Elway that they’d be holding onto both quarterbacks for now.
Obviously, the trade never materialized and the Broncos moved forward, for now, with Joe Flacco as the starter, and Drew Lock, Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien behind him. Lock currently is mending a “bad” right thumb sprain that’s expected to linger into the regular season, putting the club in an unenviable situation with cutdown day rapidly approaching.
Although the Broncos haven’t pushed to pump new blood into the room, Beathard and Mullens were the easiest dots to connect considering new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello previously worked as the Niners’ QBs coach and is credited with developing Jimmy Garoppolo’s reserves into capable passers.
Spelling Garoppolo, Beathard completed five of 11 balls for 81 yards in San Francisco’s 24-15 victory over Denver on Aug. 19. Mullens went 2-for-3 for 27 yards and a touchdown, a one-yard fourth-quarter toss to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.
Comparatively, Lock and Hogan both struggled. The former, the third signal-caller to see action, completed seven of 12 passes for 40 yards. The latter connected on five of 15 attempts for 40 yards and an interception, absorbing a whopping five sacks. Rypien didn’t play against the Niners.
It’s possible the Broncos’ sticky cap situation — they had a league-low $2.347 million in available space prior to Monday’s roster moves — prevented them from pulling the trigger.
It’s possible, too, that general manager John Elway wasn’t comfortable (and has resisted) surrendering draft capital for yet another young, largely unproven quarterback, despite his close relationship with 49ers GM John Lynch.
This, on top of Lynch’s apparent unwillingless to weaken the position.
Vic Fangio Discusses QB Competition
The battle for No. 2 duties is down to Hogan and Rypien. Hogan, a veteran journeyman, has the upper hand to keep the seat warm for Lock, who’s likely to be fully healthy by midseason. Broncos coach Vic Fangio intimated Thursday’s preseason finale against the Cardinals will make or break either competitor.
“I’d like to see some separation from them,” Fangio said Monday. “We’ve got one more game to do that. That remains to be seen. I’ve seen some good play. I’ve seen some not so good, so I don’t know the answer to that just yet.”
Fangio also wouldn’t rule out signing an experienced QB, something they’ve blanched on for months: “That’s always an option, but as you see out there there’s not a lot of them available.”
49ers Plan to Carry All Three
Another reason for a would-be deal falling through is owed to the fact that San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, unprompted, announced all three of Garoppolo, Beathard and Mullens will remain on the roster when it’s finalized Saturday.
“We have three very good quarterbacks,” Shanahan said Saturday, via Niners Nation. “We plan on having three this year. Just like every other person on our roster, if someone thinks there’s a way to upgrade our team, we’ll always listen.”
He added: “We’re not ever going to just get rid of NFL players. And I know we’ve got three NFL quarterbacks. They’re not easy to come by, regardless of where you draft them or anything. When you have that, you don’t just give that away. Sometimes that takes years to find.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL