The Denver Broncos Should Focus on Homegrown Talent at the QB Position

Instead of chasing the white whale in free agency, it's time for the Broncos to settle down and develop a long-term option at quarterback.

As much as it hurts to point out that which is painfully obvious, I feel it's necessary to demonstrate that stability at the quarterback position breeds success in the NFL.

Teams like the Green Bay PackersPittsburgh SteelersNew England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks have been near-perennial participants in the NFL Playoffs this decade, and it's no coincidence that they've also happened to enjoy plenty of stability at the quarterback position. Imagine that. They're also well-run franchises with terrific front offices that know how to evaluate talent. They didn't take the decision to acquire a quarterback lightly, and when it came down to it, the best one on the depth chart played regardless of draft position, salary, or legacy.

For four years, the Denver Broncos had that same stability, albeit in the short term, with Peyton Manning at the helm. It netted them a 55-17 record overall, perfect playoff attendance, two Super Bowl appearances, and finally a Lombardi.

But Manning is the anomaly for free agent quarterbacks. His situation was an unprecedented one that involved him missing a year with an unpredictable degenerative nerve issue that zapped him of his throwing ability for months, which caused the Indianapolis Colts to flounder at 2-14, finally graced with Andrew Luck, viewed by many as the best quarterback prospect since John Elway, falling into their lap with the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

The Colts made the decision to release the future Hall-of-Famer, and the Broncos courted Manning before, finally winning him over late in the free agency period.

While it was absolutely the right move to pursue Manning, a giant of the game with an unmatched work ethic, it's not the sustainable model for success at the quarterback position. There may never again be a player of Manning's caliber to hit free agency. The obvious parallel now is with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Romo, who missed 12 games in 2015 with a collarbone injury, was hurt in the 2016 preseason and effectively lost the job to Dak Prescott, who won 13 games and Rookie of the Year honors for the Cowboys.

Out of every possible scenario, it seems most likely that Romo will be either by traded or granted his release from Dallas, free to sign with the team of his choosing. If the latter takes place, Houston, Kansas City, and Denver would all be viable options for Romo to step in and win immediately.

Is it worth it, however, for the Broncos mortgage the long-term development of their two quarterbacks in favor of the short-term potential of an oft-injured 37-year-old gunslinger?

If you believe it is worth it and acquiring Romo would be the right move regardless of the first-round pick and season's worth of starts the Broncos have respectfully invested in Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, then I simply, where does the cycle end?

If the Broncos did acquire Romo, and if it did work out to some level of success (measured independently of Manning's immense contributions to the organization), at what point does John Elway stop renting quarterback's on medium-length deals? Unfortunately, it's not a sustainable model. The bubble has to burst for a couple of reasons. One, there's a reason those quarterbacks hit the free agent market. Whether it's Manning and his four neck surgeries or Romo and his four starts in two years, they hit the open market because there's a level of risk associated with that player be it injury, age, or declining performance, which all became factors by the time Manning's run was coming to an end in Denver.

Two, quarterbacks like Manning and Romo rarely hit the open market in the first place. They just aren't a renewable source of energy like draft prospects. It's a long shot to say that once Romo is done, should he hypothetically sign with the Broncos and have a successful run with the team, the Broncos will be next up when, say, Matthew Stafford or Aaron Rodgers are just on their way out. And of course, as much of a well-run and consistent organization the Broncos have been, there's no guarantee they can land the big fish every time. They may not even get Romo, should he become available.

The tried and true method that has worked for almost every other successful franchise across the NFL is the way of the homegrown, franchise quarterback. Last year's playoffs were littered with them, from Tom Brady and Matt Ryan to Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger. John Elway did show that he wanted to go that route post-Manning when he drafted Brock Osweiler and developed him for three and a half years under The Sheriff before getting his first start, eventually going 5-2 down the stretch before Denver turned back to the five-time MVP. The only issue was that the Houston Texans were caught under the spell of the free agent quarterback and bit on Osweiler last March, a move that is contributing to the speculation that they will pursue Romo next to put the band-aid on their deep quarterback wounds.

I'm not here to advocate for one over the other, but the Broncos have two homegrown quarterbacks already on the roster in Siemian and Lynch. Siemian has already put together 14 promising starts, and Lynch has flashed the tools to develop into a high-caliber starting quarterback if he can get the right coaching and a system that highlights his ability.

Romo, or another free agent for that matter, might be the answer for the next two or three years. Either of the two guys that are already in Denver might be the answer for a decade or more. 

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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.

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