Broncos' plan for Joe Flacco, backup QB will take shape at combine

How Broncos can be impacted by limiting combine attendance (1:50)

Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold describes the reasoning for several NFL teams limiting the number of coaches who attend the NFL scouting combine. (1:50)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tuesday will mark the first time since the day after the Denver Broncos finished their fourth consecutive playoff miss that general manager John Elway will publicly address the team's offseason plan.

And as the NFL scouting combine gets underway in Indianapolis, Elway and Broncos coach Vic Fangio are expected to talk about a variety of issues, including the situation at quarterback behind second-year starter Drew Lock.

To that end, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, just after he was hired in January, said he was "excited" to work with Lock, but that he was still getting to know the team's personnel. He added, "I'm not sure who's going to be here moving forward."

The first order of business is figuring out the Broncos' $23.650 million question: What is Joe Flacco's future? Most people in the league, in Denver and even on the Broncos' roster feel like Flacco won't be part of the plan moving forward, but the bottom line is neither Elway nor Fangio has publicly addressed the issue.

The Broncos have to decide if they'd like a veteran like Flacco as Lock's backup or a younger prospect or both. And if their recent history has shown them anything -- Lock was the seventh different quarterback to start a game for the Broncos since Week 9 of the 2017 season -- they need a plan at the marquee position.

Flacco, who went to injured reserve halfway through last season with a herniated disc in his neck, had an MRI earlier this month. The results of the exam were encouraging to the Broncos, and Flacco was seeking an additional medical opinion as well to determine his playing future.

Flacco was asked at season's end if he would consider being the backup, assuming he is cleared medically: "I'm probably a little bit more worried about other things at this point, but if [being a backup is] what it has to be, I want to play football. If that's what it has to be, whether it's here or wherever, if that's what it has to be for me to get back in and start playing again, then yeah, I'll go that route.''

His contract would need a significant -- as in enormous -- adjustment, however, if the Broncos do want him to help groom Lock. He has two years remaining on the deal -- the Broncos renegotiated it last August to give themselves additional salary cap room -- with salary cap charges of $23.650 million this season and $27.650 million in 2021.

Right now Flacco has the second-largest cap charge on the roster for the 2020 season, behind only pass-rusher Von Miller. If the Broncos were to release Flacco, they would face a $13.6 million "dead money" hit on their salary cap, but they would also save just more than $10 million against the cap, so the net hit overall against the Broncos' cap would be about $3 million. But by league rules teams cannot release a player who hasn't been medically cleared, so if Flacco isn't cleared the Broncos would have to reach an injury settlement with him if they wanted to move on.

Brandon Allen, who started three games for the Broncos just after Flacco went to injured reserve, is a restricted free agent, and the Broncos have already signed Brett Rypien to a futures contract. Rypien spent his rookie year this past season on the practice squad.

In free agency, many personnel executives in the league have said they couldn't remember a quarterback group like this one, which will potentially include high-end starters such as Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Dak Prescott and Jameis Winston. But there are several former starters and experienced backups -- Chase Daniel, Marcus Mariota and Matt Moore -- if the Broncos want someone to help Lock's learning curve.

As for the draft, there are far more projects than potential walk-in starters. Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa lead the rookie class, with Justin Herbert expected to be a prospect taken in the top half of the first round.

After those three, many in the league -- at least before the combine, pro days and team visits are completed -- see a gap. So the question of whether the Broncos could find a potential backup who could be ready to play next season if Lock were injured, is a significant one and they would be looking at a quarterback room with Lock, in his second year, Rypien, in his second year, and a rookie.