Broncos' decisions at QB start with the three they already have

Paxton Lynch hasn't shown the Broncos as much as they'd hoped through two seasons. AP Photo/Ben Margot

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There were moments this past season when the Denver Broncos' rotation at quarterback had carved quite a niche in the online world -- complete with a meme or two ... or a hundred.

At one point, Trevor Siemian, one of those Broncos quarterbacks, had been sent a meme with Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch portrayed as ... "we were The Three Stooges."

While the Broncos' plan at quarterback has been the hottest of hot-button topics around the team, it is easy to overlook that they do have three quarterbacks already under contract for the coming season. (Osweiler is an unrestricted free agent.)

The Broncos' decision-makers, most notably John Elway, have huddled in recent weeks to craft a plan for free agency. With the scouting combine just around the corner, Elway will soon have to reveal how many, if any, of those three quarterbacks will be around when summer arrives.

Siemian, who won the starting job in back-to-back training camps, Lynch and Chad Kelly are all signed for the 2018 season. Lynch, as the Broncos' first-round pick in the 2016 draft, is signed through 2019; but the Broncos eventually will have to decide if they want to engage a fifth-year option, for 2020, on the deal if he remains on the roster through 2018 season.

It would take a significant upgrade for any endorsements of the current quarterbacks to even reach lukewarm from either Elway or coach Vance Joseph. Elway has talked repeatedly of the absolute, no-questions-asked need to “get better at the position" before the Broncos can again consider themselves a playoff team.

And Joseph has said multiple times that he didn't know “who would be back" on any part of the depth chart, including at quarterback.

Kelly, who was the final pick of the 2017 draft, missed his rookie season on injured reserve with the aftereffects of a right knee injury he suffered in his final college season and also had a thumb injury. He is considered a developmental prospect at this point, given he played in 27 college games at two schools and didn't play or practice this past season.

The Broncos know the most about Siemian, who has both started and been benched over the past two seasons. His teammates say he exhibits all of the off-the-field work ethic you would expect from someone who spent time in the quarterback room with Peyton Manning. The Broncos certainly could see whether there is any interest in a trade for Siemian, but he is still recovering from surgery on his non-throwing shoulder and many in the league believe the Broncos are prepared to release him.

But as Siemian comes off his second consecutive offseason with left shoulder surgery, the Broncos could decide if he is the right kind of veteran presence needed for a rookie quarterback, should the Broncos use the No. 5 pick of the NFL draft on the position. He does share an agent with Kirk Cousins, so Siemian also will know just how deeply the Broncos are invested in the pursuit of Cousins in free agency.

That leaves the biggest question for the Broncos to answer, both in words and deeds: What do they do with Lynch? The Broncos have been, at least publicly, quick to compliment Lynch for his two starts this past season, but they also have been fairly noncommittal about his future.

In his most recent extended public comments at season's end, Lynch reaffirmed his desire to be the starter. When asked what specifically he could do in the offseason to show the Broncos he would be better prepared for the job, however, he offered, in part, "I'm sure I'll figure that out."

Given his chance to throw his support behind Lynch's potential, Elway too has said the Broncos needed to figure out where Lynch was "in the process as far as him developing as a quarterback."

The concerns, from a football perspective, are that Lynch has not advanced enough in two seasons in his understanding of how defenses attack him and that he simply doesn't rebound quickly enough from mistakes, either in practice or games, so he tends to cluster those mistakes.

To repair those things would take plenty of effort from the team, as well, as Lynch moves forward, so the Broncos find themselves in a position to decide if both sides are up to that challenge. That could include deciding whether Lynch is a viable option as a backup as he works through those issues.

Lynch also has had three different offensive coordinators in those two seasons and that too has been a consideration in the evaluation.

As things stand, however, Siemian, Lynch and Kelly have seen the offseason mirror the season that came before it: The three still aren't quite sure where they fit.