BRONCOS

Connections in Arizona could eliminate a Broncos head coach candidate

Jan 22, 2023, 11:41 AM
DeMeco Ryans...
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The NFL Draft is right around the corner. No, really, it is. I know it’s at the end of April, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 17 years of professionally covering the draft, it’s that time flies by over these next few months. In less than a week, I’ll be on the road traveling to the Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl.

The Scouting Combine is in February after the Super Bowl, and then pro days begin after that. I plan on being done with my draft profiles by the beginning of April, so it’s a lot of work in a little bit of time. In addition to writing up players, I’m going to keep up to date on news and notes in the scouting community.

Here is some of the latest news around the NFL Draft.

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Considering QB?

I have friends across the league that I check in with regularly. I get to see and hang out with some of these contacts when traveling on the All-Star road trip, and that’s when many things about teams, draft plans, and draft prospects can be learned. However, I do my best to ask questions – not too many questions – leading up to the draft and during the regular season just to keep in touch.

There is a friend of mine who works in the league that I got an interesting response from when I said the Chicago Bears should be considering a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. At first, the response I received seemed incredulous to the notion. However, after talking (texting) it out we came together with the fact the Bears should be considering a quarterback. I’m not saying they will go with a quarterback, but when you have the top pick you need to at least put it out there that quarterback is a possibility.

Now, look at what is being reported around the Bears. Their general manager, Ryan Poles (who has a great eye for talent) has said the Bears are evaluating “premium” positions with their top pick. He’s also conveyed that it would take a lot for them to trade away that No. 1 overall pick. This is a great way to handle things for the Bears. They can attract attention for that pick, or they could attract trade offers for QB Justin Fields.

The Bears have to consider all options in the draft. Fields has flashed as their starter, but he’s not the pure passer that Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud is. There is a chance that Fields will never become that type of passer. Should the Bears ride with a rushing quarterback who may have limitations as a passer? I don’t think so. However, they need to put out to the rest of the league that quarterback is an option to drive up the price of that pick. I feel there could be three quarterbacks in the top-10 of this draft, perhaps even in the top five, so the Bears could get a haul just by moving down a small handful of selections.

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Houston Means Bad News for Denver

The Arizona Cardinals have a lot of work to do. Just like the Denver Broncos, the Cardinals are searching for a new head coach. Unlike the Broncos, the team had a total overhaul of their front office. After former GM Steve Keim stepped down, the Cardinals moved quickly to hire Monti Ossenfort in the position. This week, the Carindals have continued to add to the front office – and this may be a sign of trouble for the Broncos in their head coaching search.

The Cardinals have hired Detroit Lions director of college scouting Dave Sears to be their new assistant general manager. Ossenfort has his right-hand man in Sears. The two worked together as scouts with the Houston Texans (2004-05) years ago. Sears has an extensive history of quality scouting dating back to the ’90s. He will help Ossenfort find talent in the draft, and we think rebuilding the offensive line could be a top priority for the new regime.

There are some in the league who think these two former Texans may be lining up another former Texan to join them – DeMeco Ryans. A second-round pick of the Texans in 2006, Ryans is getting a lot of attention as a head coaching candidate. He’s the current defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, and Ryans has built one of the best defenses in the league. Both Ossenfort and Sears had moved on from Houston the year Ryans was drafted, but the connection within the building is there. Perhaps these moves in the front office will entice Ryans to join the NFC West rival of the 49ers.

Ryans is one of the hottest names in coaching circles, and he should be near the top of the list for the Broncos in their head coaching search. Even though he will be a first-time head coach, Ryans intelligence and connection with the modern player means he could be a great one when he gets the chance. It seems the Cardinals may be setting things up to add Ryans, and that’s bad news for the Broncos.

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A Year or Two Late

The Green Bay Packers may trade QB Aaron Rodgers. No, really this time it could happen. Two years ago, even Rodgers himself thought he was going to get traded to the Broncos. That deal fell apart as rumors suggest the Packers backed out of a deal on draft day. The following offseason, the Broncos made the move to hire Nathaniel Hackett and just a year ago most scouts I talked to at the Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl felt Rodgers was on his way to Denver.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Rodgers ened up signing a three-year contract extension for $150 million. This past season, things fell off with the Packers and they failed to make the postseason. Now, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting a Rodgers trade is a “very real scenario.” Even with his high-dollar salary, there should be plenty of interest in Rodgers. Even with Rodgers play somewhat declining, finding a quarterback like him is difficult to do.

I’ve heard around the league that the Russell Wilson trade – even though it was a bad one for the Broncos in terms of too much compensation given up – will prompt other teams who need a quarterback to trade away assets for a seasoned veteran. Most everyone is connecting any available quarterback to the New York Jets. Although teams like the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans may get into the mix for Rodgers.

We could see Rodgers play in the AFC West in 2023. He’s not going to come to Denver, but there is a chance he will end up in Las Vegas with the Raiders. That seems almost too perfect. Rodgers can be a villain for the Broncos, not only because he wasn’t traded here but also because he plays for their most hated rival. It seems like Rodgers may finally be traded, but it comes just a year or two too late for the Broncos.

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