The AFC West is pretty loaded with quarterback talent. The Kansas City Chiefs have the best quarterback in the league, Patrick Mahomes, the LA Chargers have one of the best young quarterbacks in the league in Justin Herbert, who could very well be top-five next season and Las Vegas Raiders’ Derek Carr, while underappreciated, is still a top-12 quarterback in the league.
In fact, we ranked Carr as the 12th-best quarterback in the league in our latest Bolt Beat consensus quarterback ranking.
The only sore spot in the division is Drew Lock, who ranked 26th in the same rankings. Lock has not looked like a bonafide franchise quarterback through 18 starts and there is a good chance that the 2021 season is going to be a make it or break it season for Lock.
But what if Lock did not even make it to the 2021 season? There is a notable quarterback who ranked third on our ranking that could be available to the Broncos. That quarterback, of course, being Deshaun Watson.
Before you scoff at the idea of the Broncos being in the running for Watson, consider the fact that some books have given Denver the fourth-best odds of getting Watson. I’m serious.
So, should the LA Chargers be worried about Deshaun Watson being traded to the Denver Broncos?
The Broncos certainly can make it work with the cap. According to Over the Cap, the Broncos currently have $14 million in cap space next season with 60 players signed to the roster. They do not need to add many more pieces to the roster and can cut some guys to free up space.
Denver can cut A.J. Bouye to free up $13.375 million in space. They could even cut Jurrell Casey to free up $11.8 million. Casey is fantastic, but he only played 3 games this season. Kareem Jackson could also be cut to save $10 million. That is just over $35 million in cap space just looking to be cleared up — more than enough for Watson and a draft class.
But about that draft class; the Broncos would have to trade a boatload of picks to get Watson. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said that the baseline package would start with three first-round picks and that the Texans prefer a high selection as well. The Broncos do have a moderately high selection as they are picking ninth.
Denver very well could just sell it all for Watson. First-round picks in the next three drafts plus more draft capital on top of that. Denver has a decent offensive line (when healthy), has plenty of weapons for Watson and has a defensive head coach that can make the most of mid-to-late picks on the defensive side of the ball.
On paper it is a really good fit, so the LA Chargers should be worried, right?
Well, no. While Denver could package a surplus of picks, they also can get easily outbid by two teams: the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. And in both cases, the Texans would be getting a much better quarterback in return than Drew Lock (who would almost have to be in the trade).
In a deal with Miami, the Texans would get Tua Tagovailoa, who did not play great in 2020 but has a significantly higher ceiling than Lock. In a deal with New York, the Texans would get the draft rights to Justin Fields.
Plus, those teams have more draft capital to trade both in the 2021 NFL Draft and in the future.
If the Jets and Dolphins don’t want Watson then I would say that Denver should be regarded as the next-best fit, over a team like Chicago. However, it would be extremely foolish for the Jets and Dolphins to not be interested in a bonafide top-five quarterback.
So for now, I think the LA Chargers really only have to worry about Mahomes and (kind of) Carr.