ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have decided Paxton Lynch is not ready to be their starting quarterback. But coach Vance Joseph said at the league meetings Tuesday that the Broncos aren't giving up on the idea of Lynch growing into the starting role someday.
The Broncos signed Case Keenum to be their 2018 starter, and they sit at No. 5 overall in the upcoming draft, which happens to include four QB prospects who could be selected among the draft’s first five picks. With all of that in mind, Joseph was asked Tuesday if the presence of Lynch, a 2016 first-round pick, would be a factor in any decision to use the No. 5 pick on a quarterback.
"I think Paxton is a factor," Joseph said. "Paxton’s had four, five starts, and to deem Paxton not capable, that’s not fair. Obviously it’s an age of instant gratification for all of us ... but it takes time to [be a] good quarterback in this league. I think once Paxton gets more time he’s going to get better as a quarterback. By no means is Paxton Lynch done. By no means at all."
Lynch has had a bumpy ride to this point. The Broncos moved up in the first round in '16 to select him and he’s since lost back-to-back training camp battles to Trevor Siemian for the starting job. He made two starts last season, but his practice time was curtailed severely -- first by a shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason and then by an ankle injury he suffered against the Oakland Raiders.
He's made four starts in two seasons, throwing four touchdown passes to go with four interceptions, and has struggled at times with his confidence. Lynch has struggled to quickly rebound from mistakes in practice or in games.
“I still think Paxton can have a great career in this league; by no means are we kicking him to the curb," Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said at the scouting combine in February.
The Broncos have heavily scouted the draft’s top quarterbacks -- Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen -- and have met with several other quarterbacks who will likely be selected after those four. Both Elway and Joseph have said they will consider a quarterback in the draft, even at No. 5 overall, if it’s the right fit.
But Joseph said Tuesday that the decision to draft another quarterback and Lynch's status are two separate issues.
"But [Lynch] needs more time, and that’s simply it," Joseph said Tuesday. "Wherever we go in the draft with the first pick, it doesn’t speak to Paxton, [that] we’re disappointed in Paxton. We believe in Paxton because we’ve watched him work and watched him play in practice. He’s a gifted guy … But what happens is the kids come in, we play them too soon, they get burned, they lose their nerve and they can’t recover from it. That’s coaching and that’s the league. We have to give them time to develop and learn how to play the position."
Keenum was signed for two seasons. If the Broncos stand pat on the QB depth chart, Lynch will be the No. 2 and Chad Kelly, who was a seventh-round pick last season, is the potential No. 3. The onus would be on Lynch to develop once the regular season starts since the backup quarterback gets very little work in the team’s offense with the starter working through the game plan.
That means a No. 2 has to be ready to play in the classroom while doing much of his on-field work on the scout team against the Broncos defense.
“He’s one play from being the starter again," Joseph said. “He has value, and it’s huge value. He’s working hard at it also. That’s the thing no one sees. He’s a hard worker. He’s working at it. Having an example of Case Keenum is going to help him. Case has been through hell and back as a quarterback … Case is gritty. That helps a young quarterback to say, 'You know something, man? Forget the world. It’s about you grinding and getting better every day.' If Paxton gets that from Case, he’s going to be better for it because Case is a gritty dude. That’s going to be good for Paxton to see and be around every day."