INDIANAPOLIS — As the new NFL league year approaches, General Manager George Paton underscored the importance of finding an answer to the Broncos' lingering quarterback question.
"It's always a priority," Paton said Tuesday at the 2022 NFL Combine. "It's the most important position in sports. … We're always looking and [will leave] no stone unturned to find that guy. We know we need better play out of the quarterback position. So we're going to be aggressive."
Paton continued to emphasize the Broncos are searching for "the best guy" and would be willing to acquire a quarterback through free agency, the draft or a trade. Paton also said he would consider trading multiple first-round picks to acquire that player.
"We have 11 picks, so if we have to give a little to go get a player, we can do it and it's not going to handcuff you for the draft," Paton said. "Everything's on the table."
Paton called this year's crop of quarterbacks an "interesting" group, and he said the 2023 draft class — considered to have more surefire quarterback prospects — could have some impact on the team's decision-making process.
"You also don't know where you're going to be picking next year," Paton said. "It's a tough deal trying to get that guy. Everyone wants that guy. You look at the Super Bowl, who's playing in it. Everyone wants one."
As the Broncos search for a quarterback, Paton mentioned both Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock as potential options for the 2022 season. Bridgewater is set to become an unrestricted free agent, while Lock is under contract for another year. Paton said Bridgewater is among the free-agent quarterbacks who could make sense for the Broncos.
"There's some [quarterbacks] we liked that are very appealing, including Teddy," Paton said. "Teddy's a guy — you know how I feel about Teddy, and I know the coaches watched him. They have a lot of good things to say about Teddy, the new coaches. We're just going to keep everything open at the quarterback position. We know how important it is, the most important position in sports, we believe. I know everyone's chomping at the bit to get one, and so are we."
Asked directly whether Lock could start at quarterback, Paton emphasized that the team is "keeping all our options open."
Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett, who said he's spoken with Lock, said he is excited to work with the former second-round pick.
"I'm really excited to work with Drew," Hackett said. "I really am. I think you look back at his past, he's had a lot of different systems. And I think in my past and having worked with different quarterbacks and been in different systems, it's difficult. Because what do they believe in? You go out there and have one guy say this and another guy say this or do this footwork or do that. In the end, we just want those guys to go out there and play.
"So I think it's a clean slate for everybody, and I'm excited to see him. He's a talented kid and a really good kid. ... But I'm very excited to work with him and all the guys."
Whomever the Broncos select as their signal-caller, Hackett said he expects to adjust his system to his strengths.
"When you look at a quarterback, my job is to fit the system to him," Hackett said. "Every quarterback's different, every guy plays different. You can look across the league and there's under-center offenses, spread offenses. The idea is to figure out what those guys do and what they're comfortable in and kind of always make them feel uncomfortable, too, because you want them to grow and do other things and that can possibly get into their menu of things that they can do. At the same time, when it's crunch time and they feel like they need a little help, you have to help them do what they do best."
Hackett said he plans to spend plenty of time in the quarterback room, and he noted that he will have to remain organized and efficient to handle his duties as a head coach in addition to tutoring the team's quarterback.
The identity of that player remains to be seen, but Paton said he knows the importance of the search.
"You need one to get to where you need to go," Paton said, "and it's on our mind a lot."