It hasn’t been a glorious run for the Broncos since Peyton Manning, on his last legs (or neck or fingertips), captained them to the franchise’s third Super Bowl win in February 2016.
The team has missed the playoffs every year since, and the failure to find an elite — or even average — quarterback has had a lot to do with that. Even if you discount the bizarre COVID-compromised game last year in which running back Phillip Lindsay technically lined up at QB on the opening play and practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton spent most of the game under center, the Broncos have rolled out nine different starters in the five post-Manning seasons:
- Trevor Siemian: 24 starts
- Paxton Lynch: 4 starts
- Brock Osweiler: 4 starts
- Case Keenum: 16 starts
- Joe Flacco: 8 starts
- Drew Lock: 18 starts
- Brandon Allen: 3 starts
- Jeff Driskel: 1 start
- Brett Rypien: 1 start
For now, Lock is No. 1 on the depth chart, and while the 2019 second-round draft pick has shown promise at times, the Broncos currently have the worst odds to win the AFC West and their QB situation has a lot to do with that.
But what if Drew Lock wasn’t their 2021 starter? What if it was DeShaun Watson instead?
According to some sportsbooks, that isn’t such a crazy “what if?” question.
Broncos No. 3 in Watson pecking order?
Watson requested a trade from the downward-spiraling Houston Texans back in January. In four seasons he’s reached three Pro Bowls and last season he passed for career highs in yards (4,823) and touchdowns (33) — for a 4-12 team. He’s 25 years old and wants to contend while he’s in his prime.
Among the numerous Colorado sportsbooks, there are several that haven’t posted markets on where Watson or other notable players will land this season.
But some of those that have see the Broncos as a serious contender to land him.
FOX Bet has “Player’s Next Team” markets for 11 different players (including Broncos linebacking great Von Miller, who missed all of 2020 due to injury and is listed at +125 to stay in Denver). For Watson, FOX Bet has the Texans (who insist they don’t want to trade DeShaun) at even money, followed by Carolina at +250 and then the Broncos at +333. Other contenders include Miami (+700), the Jets (+800), and San Francisco (+900).
PointsBet only lists two “Next NFL Team Player X Will Play A Snap For” markets: Watson and Russell Wilson. And the Wilson market isn’t terribly interesting, as “Mr. Unlimited” is -1250 to stay with the Seahawks. But PointsBet sees Watson as a much stronger candidate to relocate. The Texans are +250 to retain him, followed by the Panthers at +300 and the Broncos at +400. Other teams under 10/1 include Miami (+700), San Francisco (+700), the New York Jets (+800), and Chicago (+900).
One sportsbook isn’t so convinced Watson-to-Denver is a possibility. Superbook Sports has a prop on “Which Player Will Take The First Snap Of The 2021-22 Regular Season For The Denver Broncos?” and Watson is a healthy +5000. So if you think he might head to the Broncos in the next several months, this is the place to bet on it (though there is some risk he’s traded to Denver but gets hurt in the preseason and isn’t their Week 1 starter). Superbook Sports lists a yet-to-be-named rookie at +120, Lock at +120, and Sam Darnold at +2000.
Need a laugh? Kendall Hinton is 10000/1.
This year’s Brady/Bucs
There’s more than one way to bet on the Broncos landing Watson, if you believe he’d be a serious difference-maker in Denver. You can do what some ahead-of-the-curve bettors did a year ago with their hunch that Tom Brady would head to Tampa Bay and that he’d prove capable of a deep playoff run there at age 43.
The highest price we’re currently seeing on the Broncos to win the Super Bowl is +7000 at FOX Bet — which is actually down from the +8000 the site had them at about two weeks ago. That movement suggests the chance of the team landing Watson has provoked a bit of betting action.
The reality is that the Broncos play in the same division as the Kansas City Chiefs, who are in the vicinity of -450 at most books to win the AFC West. Adding Watson will not make the Broncos favorites to win their division, never mind the Super Bowl.
But if they did secure the QB whom NFL.com ranked as the fourth best in the league last year, surely the current Super Bowl odds ranging from 60/1 to 70/1 would look like a bargain. It would instantly turn the Broncos into contenders on paper, probably cutting their championship odds down to something in the 20/1 range, where teams like the Browns and Colts sit now.
Meanwhile, Broncos fans are probably curious about the odds of other quarterbacks replacing Lock in Denver. So here’s what FOX Bet has posted: Wilson is a modest +500 (and would be every bit the difference maker Watson would be), Darnold is +1100, and Dak Prescott is priced at +1700.