The Denver Broncos could go in a number of directions with the ninth-overall pick in next week's draft.
The main point of focus, though, is quarterback, and general manager George Paton hasn't shied away from the importance of the position for his new club. Paton's scouting department is ensuring it has done the full level of research on this class' signal-callers, and with the goal of adding competition in mind, Paton said Thursday it's possible the team adds another passer this offseason.
"We've done the whole process," Paton told NFL Network's James Palmer. "We're still working through it. One thing I'd like to mention is we do like Drew Lock. We have a quarterback in place. So if it doesn't work out where we don't draft one, we're really high on Drew. But with that said, we're going to look at every option at quarterback, and every other position as well."
Lock returns as the penciled-in starter, for now, with an underwhelming second season serving as the latest example of his viability as a starter. If Lock had compiled a stellar year, Paton likely wouldn't be fielding questions about the future at the position, nor would he be as vocal about adding competition, even if every team plans on creating an element of it in order to achieve greater success.
Still, though, Lock is under contract and isn't the worst option as a starter. It's just that a better solution might still be out there, as long as it comes with the right set of circumstances.
"We do like Drew Lock. What we don't want to do is force it and bring a guy in, overpay a guy to come in and maybe he's not as good as the guy we have," Paton explained to reporters Thursday. "Maybe he's not good enough to compete. We want to get the right guy, and we still have time.
"There's a trade market, we have the draft. The landscape may change after the draft. A team drafts one, maybe that quarterback's on the market. We're going to be patient, not force it. But we do realize we want competition, and I've said that since I got here, and that hasn't changed."
With plenty of hype circling the position as we near the draft, Paton's projection of a potential upgrade coming available isn't unrealistic. We've already seen significant movement at the position with the trades of Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold.
But would a sequence of events put the Broncos in a position to add a signal-caller to usurp Lock as the Week 1 starter? Or might that simply be too idealistic to become reality, and the Broncos are better off setting Lock as their Week 1 starter barring a miracle?
Perhaps the better question: Is Lock good enough right now to be guaranteed as Denver's Week 1 starter?
"I don't know about Week 1. We're really high on Drew," Paton said. "I like seeing Drew here every morning when I come in. He's working hard. He's trending in the right direction. As you know, he has a lot of talent. I think he's becoming a better pro. But we're still going to look at the quarterback position. I've said since I got here, we want to bring in competition, and that's the goal. We plan on doing that."
Paton would be doing himself and the Broncos a disservice if he didn't peruse the quarterback market for the best possible solution. But as he said Thursday, it sounds as if the Broncos also aren't finished with Lock, who has yet to play a full season and didn't exactly have the best situation surrounding him last season after he lost his top receiver, Courtland Sutton, early in 2020.
Again, the Broncos don't have to go quarterback with the No. 9 overall pick. They could select the best player available, draft for need or take a chance on a signal-caller. They could also maximize value with a trade. Everything remains on the table at nine and beyond.
"We're in a good spot at No. 9. We feel it's prime real estate," Paton said. "We have the flexibility to move back, we can move up. We've received some calls to move back. We haven't made any to move up, but we're open. We're flexible."
Flexibility will be key for Paton as he begins his quest to return the Broncos to contention. There are no guarantees for a team that isn't yet in a position to seriously challenge the Chiefs for the division crown. We'll see what that means for Lock's future.