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Broncos interest in quarterbacks creates suspicion, speculation

  • By Vic Carucci NFL.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- You expect the Panthers to be thoroughly investigating the top quarterback prospects in this year's draft class. You expect the Bills to be doing so as well.

Same goes with the Bengals and the Cardinals and the 49ers and the Titans and the Redskins and the Vikings and ... OK, you get the idea.

What isn't necessarily expected is for the Broncos to be investing as much time and effort as they have into learning as much as they can about the presumptive upper echelon of this year's quarterback crop: Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Auburn's Cam Newton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett. They're also planning to take closer looks at Washington's Jake Locker, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Christian Ponder of Florida State.

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The Broncos own the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, which adds a great deal of intrigue to their potential interest in an elite passer because they are in an excellent position to get one.

But why would they?

The Broncos have Tim Tebow, a first-round pick in 2010 who they surrendered three later picks in the draft for the right to take. They have Kyle Orton, who coach John Fox called the team's starter. They have Brady Quinn, another former first-round pick.

Oh, and they also have some pressing needs on defense -- on the line and at linebacker -- which they figure to be able to address quite well so early in a draft that is loaded with talent at both positions.

All the while, the Broncos are being somewhat coy about the topic of what direction they might go with such a premium pick.

"I wouldn't rule out anything just because that's part of our process internally," Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said during a break at the NFL Annual Meeting. "That's how we're built with Coach Fox, myself, and (executive vice president of football operations) John Elway. We want to always do what's best for the Broncos and go through all those position groups and make the right decision."

Most close observers of the Broncos don't expect them to use the second pick of the draft on a quarterback. They generally believe the team will move forward with Tebow as the starter and probably trade Orton (when trades are allowed again), even though the organization insists he is currently atop the depth chart.

It's possible the Broncos would take a quarterback if one they like happens to slip to one of the two choices they own in the second round.

So why bother with checking out Gabbert, Newton, Mallett and the others, and why be so public about it?

The suspicion is that the Broncos want to at least give the impression of interest in order to entice a team that truly wants one of the top-rated quarterbacks to make a trade for the No. 2 pick.

Xanders said there is another reason: the future.

"We owe it to our fans and the Broncos organization to always evaluate everybody on our board to the fullest extent, and what happens in that process is you also end up learning about these players, whether it's for free agency three or four years down the road or if it's in the draft," Xanders said. "Whether it's for this draft or for four years down the road, we want to know as much as we can about these players up close.

"We have three quarterbacks on our team that we like, but we still have to do our due diligence and our full research on their football character, their personal character, their intelligence, how they process, how they learn, and evaluate them on tape so that we are prepared for anything."

The Broncos understand that fans and the media are prone to jumping to conclusions. They understand the presence of the speculation that Fox, as a new coach, and Elway, as a new member of the front office, aren't happy with any of the quarterbacks currently on the roster.

They can live with that. They also hope that their quarterbacks don't take the organization's research into this year's college quarterback prospects personally.

The fact that teams aren't allowed to have any contact with players during the current lockout doesn't make it any easier for the Broncos to let Orton, Tebow and Quinn know what they're thinking.

"I would hope that they would understand that we're trying to do the best thing for the Denver Broncos," Elway said. "It's really not a cut to anybody on our roster, as it isn't for the D-linemen we're looking at or the linebackers or wide receivers or running backs. There's no question we're cognizant of that, but we want them to understand that we're trying to do the best for the Broncos, too, and wherever that ends up six weeks from now (in the draft), we've still got a lot of work."

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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