Inside Broncos' plans for 2024 NFL Draft: Sean Payton ready to give up king's ransom for top QB prospect

NFL Combine
Inside Broncos' plans for 2024 NFL Draft: Sean Payton ready to give up king's ransom for top QB prospect

Quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks! The position has dominated the conversation in the lead-up to the 2024 NFL Draft, and it will be the main talking point through the early part of Round 1 next Thursday.

One of the teams in desperate need of a quarterback is the Denver Broncos, a team I’ve written about since the Shrine Bowl this past January.

The Broncos’ quest to select a quarterback in this year’s draft has been talked about ad nauseum. There’s talk that Sean Payton is ready to give up a king’s ransom to move up and acquire one of the top signal callers available.

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2024 NFL Draft: Broncos HC Sean Payton looking for clarity at QB

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders

Let’s rewind to the 2017 NFL Draft for a second. Sean Payton, then coach of the New Orleans Saints, had his heart set on drafting Patrick Mahomes with the 11th selection of Round 1.

Rumors were rampant that a trade was on the table for New Orleans to move into the top 10 and assure themselves of Mahomes, but the team turned it down. Once the Cincinnati Bengals selected John Ross with the ninth selection, Payton thought he was home free and Mahomes would soon be a Saint.

Then disaster struck, as the Kansas City Chiefs made a bold move, trading up 17 slots with the Buffalo Bills and stealing Mahomes from the Saints. Disaster, that is, for the Saints, who ended up with cornerback Marshon Lattimore -- a Pro Bowl player in his own right but not someone who reached the heights of Mahomes.

Why is that relevant for the upcoming draft? Sources tell me losing out on Mahomes has left an eternal bad taste in the mouth of Payton. Recent word inside the league is that the Broncos coach is ready to mortgage the franchise’s future to move up and select a quarterback Thursday night.

Once again, there's talk that the Broncos will dangle cornerback Patrick Surtain II as part of a package to trade up for a quarterback. That's something I initially reported from the Shrine Bowl with the help of longtime friend and Broncos reporter Cecil Lammey, an analyst at

In a bit of irony, the teams at the top of the draft that are expected to be willing to trade down, the Arizona Cardinals (fourth pick) and Los Angeles Chargers (fifth pick), need a cornerback. Any package to move up will include at least one future first-round pick as well as Surtain and the 12th selection in this year’s draft.

Besides the exorbitant cost, there will be additional hurdles Denver must overcome if they want to move into the top five for a quarterback.

The first is how far down are the Cardinals willing to move. Sliding from the fourth pick of the draft to the 12th pick will surely leave them on the outside looking in for one of the top three receivers. The second is whether the Chargers are willing to trade with a division rival. My sources tell me they would -- if the price is right.

Which quarterback is Payton targeting Thursday? I continue to be told it is J.J. McCarthy, something I reported in my initial post-combine mock draft at the start of March. Payton wants a quarterback with outstanding intelligence and the ability to quickly get rid of the ball, just like Mahomes, and he believes McCarthy is the best fit.

The contingency plan if the Broncos can’t move up for one of the top signal callers? League insiders tell me Payton will look to move into the bottom third of Round 1 and draft Bo Nix of Oregon, who would also be a great fit. A very small percentage of people believe the Broncos would select Nix with the 12th selection if they can’t maneuver into the top of the draft for McCarthy.

Whatever the end result may be next Thursday, the Broncos will be very active in trying to maneuver for a signal caller.

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