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Mason's Mailbag: When drafting QB, it's all about being all-in

Should the Broncos draft a quarterback in this weaker class or get a free-agent one for next season and look for a quarterback in 2020?

-- Jon Looney

The answer to your question depends on how much they like the quarterbacks in this year's class. This group is a bit like the 2017 crop -- it's a bunch of guys about whom you say, "Yeah, but," in that they all have a flaw in their game or on their résumé. For example, with Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, the "yeah, but" involves only starting for one season. That's a similar "yeah, but" to Mitchell Trubisky two years ago.

The term I like to use is "conviction" -- as in the word's second definition according to Webster's, which is "a strong persuasion or belief."

If you have a conviction on one of this year's potential Round 1 quarterbacks -- Haskins, Missouri's Drew Lock, Oklahoma's Kyler Murray, Duke's Daniel Jones -- and believe that guy can be your franchise quarterback, the one who can lead the team and guide an offense that can go punch-for-punch and win against the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs, then you do whatever it takes to get him -- even if it means sacrificing a future high draft pick or a key player in order to move up to a higher position in the top 10.

Conversely if you do not believe any of this year's quarterbacks can reach that level -- and you believe that they can be pretty good, but not pushing to an elite standard -- then you sit and wait. You can take a flyer on a Day 2 or Day 3 quarterback who intrigues you later in the draft -- West Virginia's Will Grier, Mississippi's Jordan Ta'amu and Buffalo's Tyree Jackson are among numerous possibilities here -- but unless that prospect emerges like Russell Wilson from the third round for Seattle in 2012, you're not locked in to putting the future in his hands, and you can feel free to take a quarterback high in 2020.

And if you choose to go for a free-agent quarterback this year, you must ask, "Is this quarterback better than the starter we have under contract?" For example, there is a great deal of speculation about Baltimore's Joe Flacco. The Ravens have already announced that Lamar Jackson is their No. 1 quarterback. Their head coach, John Harbaugh, said on Jan. 6 that "Joe’s going to have a market" and "a lot of teams" are going to want him. But the bottom line on Flacco is that in the past four seasons, Case Keenum had a better passer rating (86.1 to 82.7).

Furthermore, Head Coach Vic Fangio, while saying Keenum was the starter "right now," cited Keenum's Minnesota form in 2017 from going against him twice that season, saying, "I know what he’s capable of and we’re going to try to get that out of him."

There's a lot to consider.

Would the Broncos be interested in bringing Nick Foles on board and drafting a QB next year?

-- @DocJamesEdwards (via Twitter)

It's too early to tell whether the Broncos would be interested in him, although again, I refer to my earlier answer regarding Keenum for guidance. Both Foles and Keenum were with the Rams in 2015, and Keenum played better and beat him out, leading to the Rams' decision to release Foles the following year. Foles is another quarterback with a lower passer rating over the last four years (81.1) than Keenum's 86.1. While passer rating is far from a perfect metric, it does offer a valid comparison, especially when considering that a significant chunk of the money guaranteed to Keenum will be charged under this year's salary cap.

Beyond that, any team that adds Foles is probably not going to be in the draft quarterback market for 2020. Given his postseason success in the last two years, he is likely to command a multi-year contract that provides him a significant guarantee, perhaps $45 million or more over the length of the deal. That's the sort of commitment that would cause a team to put the future in his hands, and stay out of the first-round draft market for quarterbacks.

Hey Andrew, if Domata Peko was re-signed, where would that put everyone else in the NT position?

-- Scott Thielemier

If the Broncos bring back Peko, then presumably it would be to have him play a decent chunk of base-package downs. What happened next would depend on what they do with Shelby Harris, who is a restricted free agent. The ability to match any offer for Harris and the potential he showed last year might lead the Broncos to provide a greater contractual commitment to him.

How do undrafted free-agent contracts work? Are they multi-year deals our will Phillip Lindsay get to sign a more lucrative deal now?

-- Jeff Jackson II (@TruJJ32) via Twitter

For an undrafted player who makes the 53-man roster coming out of his first training camp and never goes back to the practice squad, his deal is typically three years, which is the case for Lindsay. Thus, if he remains with the Broncos for the next two seasons, he would be a restricted free agent after the 2020 season (although the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement after that year could create some wrinkles). 

Players who get cut and go onto the practice squad before returning to the 53-man roster typically have shorter deals, with at least one year as an exclusive-rights free agent before becoming a restricted free agent after their third season. This is the case with outside linebacker Jeff Holland, for example.

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