A team can’t win without an elite quarterback in today’s NFL.

Take today’s championship games for instance: Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers in the NFC and Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen on the AFC side. Two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game go toe-to-toe in Green Bay this afternoon while two young guns, each still reaching for their seemingly limitless potential, face off in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are at home watching the playoffs just like the rest of us. For the fifth straight year.

We’re spoiled here in Broncos Country, in terms of winning teams as well as star quarterbacks. John Elway was the face of the franchise for 16 years on the field and, more recently, 10 years in the front office. Elway rode off into the sunset a back-to-back Super Bowl champion. Then, he brought in Peyton Manning, who led the Broncos to one Super Bowl and then capped his legendary career with a championship by riding on the defense’s dominance.

Since Manning retired, the Broncos have infamously been devoid of better than mediocre quarterback play. Trevor Siemian? In way over his head. Case Keenum? Not even as good as Kyle Orton. Joe Flacco? Over the hill.

And Drew Lock? Well, no one really knows for certain if he can be the guy who is finally better than pedestrian. No one knows how high his ceiling really is. No one knows if he can be consistently great, like the game in Carolina, or if that’s an outlier performance.

The former second-round pick was a lock to start in 2021, but since John Elway stepped over and brought in George Paton, everything is on the table in terms of quarterbacks this year. Paton has drafted QBs high, traded for them and even signed free agents.

And speaking of trades, Matt Stafford is now on the trading block. His days in Detroit are done.

Broncos fans all across the country would love for Denver to trade for Deshaun Watson — who’s not technically on the trading block, but the writing is on the wall — however, his price tag is out of this world. Three first-round picks only start the conversation, and even for a top-5 quarterback, that’s just too steep an asking price.

Especially for a new GM who wants to draft and develop players; Paton can’t go and sell the farm his first day on the job.

But what about Stafford? Would trading for the 33-year old be worth it?


  • Stafford has been slightly better than average during his career, and enjoyed two of his most efficient seasons lately. This year, he was 12th in yards (4,086) and touchdowns (26), 14th in passer rating (96.3), 15th in QBR (68.5) and 14th in PFF grades (82.0). Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, but they are better than Lock’s by a long shot (75.4 rating, 48.9 QBR and 63.5 PFF grade).
  • In 2019, he was even more efficient with a 6th-best rating (106.0) and QBR (71.3) and 8th-best PFF grade (82.6). But, due to a back injury he sustained in 2018, the lingering pain pushed him to the IR and he played in only 8 games.
  • Stafford has led 38 game-winning drives and 31 fourth-quarter comebacks, ranking him eighth and seventh in those categories all-time. When crunch time is on, Stafford steps up, he doesn’t shrink under the pressure.
  • His contract isn’t awful, paying him $20 million in 2021 and $23 million in 2022 before it’s over. At that point, Denver could continue with him or move on to Lock, or a new QB.
  • The Broncos offense is bursting with young talent like Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant and K.J. Hamler. It may benefit that group to have a veteran quarterback who knows the ins and outs of the game well to lead them.


  • Stafford would cost at least one first-round pick, and the Lions could ask for Lock in the deal as well. If the Broncos could trade for Stafford and keep Lock, allowing the youngster to learn under the veteran, that could be something Denver fans could get behind. But, how likely are fans to be on board with trading Lock away in order to get Stafford?
  • Following that logic, even if the Broncos keep Lock on the roster, the team plan development would diverge and be altered forever. Lock would have to wait on the bench for at least two years and there’s no substitution for games played for quarterbacks.
  • Stafford has never won a playoff game in his 12-year career. Even a guy like Nick Foles has won in the playoffs, going 4-2 including a Super Bowl victory. Foles could be brought in as a free agent for much less than trading for Stafford would cost, and Foles could compete with Lock, which could push Lock to be better.
  • At 33, Stafford is likely near the end of his prime. And that injury in 2019 is definitely concerning.

So, would trading for Stafford be worth it? It’s difficult to say for sure. If the Broncos were simply a quarterback away from competing, then yes, it would make sense. A short run with an aging quarterback who still has life in his arm.

But, these Broncos need a lot of players on both sides of the ball and there are a ton of questions in terms of which free agents they want to keep and build around.

For Paton, a new GM in his first year in the position, signing a veteran free agent quarterback seems most likely, with drafting a QB second-most likely and finally, trading for a QB, the least likely to happen.