Broncos Considered Potential Suitor for Division Rival QB

George Paton

Getty Broncos GM George Paton is on the hunt for the team's next quarterback.

The Denver Broncos are considered a potential suitor for a familiar quarterback within the AFC West.

As the Broncos continue the pursuit for their next franchise quarterback, they may find one within their own division. According to Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports, Denver is a “logical” landing spot for Las Vegas Raiders free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota has spent the past two seasons as Derek Carr’s backup. Although he has seen limited duty in run-centric offensive formations, Mariota had spent the prior five seasons as the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback.

Benjamin warns about Mariota’s lack of durability — he’s never played a full season in his career — and stresses that he’s an option only if there’s another insurance plan in place or if the team has a playoff-caliber supporting cast.

“Two years after Ryan Tannehill replaced him in a career resurgence with the Titans, Mariota is looking for his shot at becoming the next Tannehill,” says Benjamin. “He didn’t really get it in two seasons with the Raiders, largely because of Derek Carr’s solid play, and it remains to be seen if he’s got the durability to even hold down a job; he’s never played all 16/17 games in seven NFL seasons. But he’s at least proven he can be an efficient starter, and if not that, a situational threat with his legs.

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Mariota’s Play Has Always Been Pedestrian

No one should be banking on Mariota as an Opening Day starter without a big insurance plan and/or playoff-caliber supporting cast. But he’s got the athleticism to help an offense, especially a run-first unit, in some capacity.”

Mariota is a bit of a puzzling case because he’s never really been a bad quarterback. But at the same time, he’s never been a great one, either.

During his five seasons as a starter, Mariota posted a solid touchdown to interception ratio of 77 touchdowns against 45 interceptions. He actually put together three winning seasons in his four full seasons as a starter.

However, he led the Titans to the playoffs just once during his tenure before he was replaced midseason by another former veteran castoff in Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill promptly led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game the year he replaced Mariota.

When delving deeper into the numbers, Mariota’s pedestrian play really comes to light. According to Pro Football Focus, Mariota never registered higher than a 76.8 offensive grade in a single season. The peak of Mariota’s play came during the 2017 season, when he finished 14th among all quarterbacks in offensive grade.

Outside of that season, Mariota has never finished higher than 18th in offensive grade. In his other three seasons as starter, he finished below 23rd.

Broncos Could Mask Mariota’s Weaknesses

There hasn’t been much speculation connecting the Broncos to Mariota. But the Broncos do check off all the boxes when it comes to being a run-first unit and featuring a playoff-caliber supporting cast. The Broncos finished No. 3 in scoring defense last season and feature a number of bright young offensive playmakers in Javonte Williams, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant.

Furthermore, Denver tried to lean heavily on their running game last season while featuring a game-manager type of quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Both Williams and Melvin Gordon finished with 900-plus rushing yards, the only pair of teammates to finish in the top 13 in rushing yards.

The Broncos ranked 10th in yards per rush attempt and ranked No. 10 in percentage of run plays (43.92%) in comparison to ranking 23rd in percentage of pass plays (56.08%).

Benjamin projects Mariota’s value to be between $5-to-$10 million per year. Because he has served as a backup over the past two seasons combined with the fact he’ll likely fall behind the pecking order of Jameis Winston, Bridgewater and potentially Mitch Trubisky in free agency, Mariota should be a cheap insurance option for any team looking for a quarterback.

If the Broncos fail in their “Plan A” pursuit of a big name such as Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, Mariota becomes a realistic “Plan B” option.

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