When the Denver Broncos kick off their 2024 season, could Baker Mayfield be the quarterback? Or, maybe it’ll be Ryan Tannehill?

Those are two of the veteran free agent QBs who could fit with the Denver Broncos per Pro Football Focus.

No one knows for sure what Sean Payton’s plan is at quarterback in 2024, but what we do know is Russell Wilson won’t be the man. Denver could go with Jarett Stidham, who finished the last three games with eerily similar numbers to Wilson’s the rest of the season. They could draft a QB. Or, the Broncos may nab a veteran.

Baker Mayfield, Denver Broncos quarterback?

Mayfield has definitely gone through his ups and downs in the NFL. The former No. 1 overall pick played four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, spent one year in Carolina and with the LA Rams, and then played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year.

The 28-year old enjoyed arguably the best season of his career last year in Tampa, with career-highs in yards (4,044) and touchdowns (28). He also tied C.J. Stroud and Jalen Hurts with a 0.12 EPA/drop back last year, good for 11th.

This would resemble a bigger splash for Denver than the aforementioned Ryan Tannehill, pairing Sean Payton with a younger potential franchise quarterback coming off a very strong 2023 campaign. Payton would need to once again deploy a ton of play-action concepts, and there are limitations throwing over the middle of the field, but Mayfield improved his pocket presence in 2023 and will take fewer bad sacks than Wilson did while also taking more risks downfield.

Like PFF explains, Mayfield has solid escapability and is a natural playmaker. But, we’ve heard a lot about Payton’s offense needing a passer who excels at throwing medium depth, middle of the field passes. And Baker doesn’t do that well.

Another big downside on Mayfield is his likely large payday coming this offseason. Spotrac has his market value set at $27.4M next year. Denver likely won’t want to pay that much for a short-term QB option, while also paying dead cap on Wilson’s contract. But, anything is possible.

Ryan Tannehill as an older, bridge QB?

While PFF states that Mayfield could possibly be a franchise quarterback, Tannehill is too old for that to be the case.

However, one thing he has going for him is the lower likely salary number. Spotrac’s market value for him is a mere $4.9M. That’s a much more approachable, reasonable salary for the Broncos, who are currently $24 million over the cap.

Denver may feel comfortable with Jarrett Stidham, who they gave a strong contract to last offseason, as the bridge to a rookie or backup to a veteran more along the likes of a Kirk Cousins, but Sean Payton will not sit on his hands.

Tannehill is 35 years old, though, with likely his best playing days behind him. In fact, since being named Comeback Player of the Year in 2019, his passer rating has declined steadily every year. And 2023 was arguably the worst year of his career.

Tannehill started only eight games, throwing for a mere 4 touchdowns compared to 7 interceptions, and was benched in favor of rookie Will Levis. When he’s at his best, Tannehill is an efficient passer who doesn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers, but doesn’t turn the ball over much either.

There is some argument to be made in his behalf that Tennessee had few playmakers at wideout other than DeAndre Hopkins, too. Maybe he could be revived in Denver under Payton’s tutelage?

Some may rather see Mayfield than Tannehill. And others want the Broncos to draft a quarterback at No. 12. Bo Nix is one of the options there.

However, Nix could be a reach at 12, and there are many talented offensive linemen available this year:

As for now, all the options are on the table for the Broncos in 2024.