Last week, we looked at the potential impact that Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson would have on the Jets if traded there. Today, it's the same scenario with the Broncos, who have been looking for a quality starting QB ever since Peyton Manning retired after leading the team to a Super Bowl 50 upset victory. The odds of Watson landing in Denver vary, but the Broncos are generally considered fourth favorites to get him behind the Jets, Dolphins and Panthers. The SportsLine Projection Model forecasts the Broncos to improve from 5.9 wins to 8.3 with Watson and a good chance at the 2021 NFL playoffs.
Denver finished 5-11 this past season as second-year quarterback Drew Lock was wildly inconsistent. For example, in a December win at Carolina he was a brilliant 21-for-27 for 280 yards, four touchdowns, no picks and a near-perfect rating. He also had a game with four interceptions and tied for the league lead with 15 picks in 13 games. Lock's rating was better than only Dwayne Haskins, Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold.
Haskins was released by Washington, Wentz traded by the Eagles to Indianapolis, and Darnold could be traded by the Jets – perhaps to Houston in a Watson deal. The Broncos probably would have to include Lock in any trade as well as he still does have promise and is only 24. The Broncos also hold the No. 9 overall pick in this year's draft.
Coach Vic Fangio definitely will enter 2021 on one of the hotter seats in the NFL, but the Broncos have a good defense – although they have to decide on the future of Von Miller; he could be released – and some intriguing weapons on offense such as running back Melvin Gordon, young receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, and tight end Noah Fant. The Broncos also have around $42 million in salary-cap space, among the most in the NFL.
New Broncos GM George Paton spoke this week about Watson trade speculation: "I can't discuss other players who are under contract, but I've said before we're going to be aggressive and we're going to (pursue) every deal." Paton also didn't rule out picking a quarterback at No. 9 overall.
The SportsLine Projection Model currently forecasts the Broncos to win 5.9 games in 2021 – that's with the known 16 opponents, although the NFL is expected to add a 17th game (Broncos reportedly will host Detroit). The model gives Denver almost no chance at the AFC West title and an 11.9 percent shot at the playoffs. Adding Watson would shift Denver to 8.3 wins and a 53.5 percent chance at the playoffs. The Broncos haven't played extra football since Manning's final game.
William Hill Sportsbook lists the Broncos as +1600 long shots to win the AFC West and +6000 to win Super Bowl 56.
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