While Mr. Irrelevant from this year’s NFL Draft has temporarily won the backup quarterback job in Denver, the fact that a rookie seventh-round pick with no NFL experience is one injury from starting is apparently very relevant to John Elway.
FILE PHOTO: Mar 7, 2016; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos general manager John Elway speaks during the retirement announcement press conference for quarterback Peyton Manning (not pictured) at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters
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One day after Chad Kelly was named the Broncos’ No. 2 QB, the Broncos general manager admitted it may not be the last move he makes to his quarterback room before the season kicks off next month.
Speaking in a radio interview on103.5 The Fox in Denver on Tuesday, Elway did not shy away when being quizzed if he would consider adding a veteran quarterback to back up starter Case Keenum.
“I’m not going to tell you we’re definitely going to stand pat, but I’m not telling you we’re going (in) that direction, either,” Elway told 103.5 The Fox radio station in Denver.
The Broncos promoted Kelly to the backup quarterback spot and demoted former first-round pick Paxton Lynch to No. 3 on the depth chart on Monday. Kelly has worked with the second team this week after he went 14-for-21 for 177 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the preseason opener over the weekend against the Minnesota Vikings.
While Kelly’s early preseason success has excited Broncos fans, Elway — the Broncos’ two-time Super Bowl champion ex-QB and Hall of Famer-turned GM since 2011 — admitted that he is not yet ready to cement Kelly as bona fide backup in Denver.
“We’ve got to have confidence that that guy that’s going to be the backup can play and win football games,” Elway said. “And so that’s why we’re still in that process of trying to see if we’ve got that guy behind Case.
“Even though Chad played very well on Saturday night — we’ll see how he does this week — but if something were to happen to Case, can he come in and continue to win football games for us?” Elway said. “That’s the big part of the evaluation process and that’s still going on.”
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph separately told Denver media on Tuesday that Lynch, who went 6-of-11 for 24 yards and an interception on Saturday, is not thrilled to be dropped to the No. 3 spot behind Kelly, the rookie whose nephew, Jim, is also a Hall of Fame quarterback.
“He is upset. He didn’t like it. He wants to know why,” Joseph said. “And he has to play better. It’s as simple as that. It’s a competition. It’s the league. Everyone’s doing this. No one’s not playing their best players.”
Kelly, 24, spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve after the Broncos took him with the final pick of the 2017 draft. He had worked exclusively as the third quarterback in camp until Monday, but Joseph and Elway each said earlier this offseason that Kelly would compete with Lynch for the backup job behind Keenum.
Kelly was pegged by some as a first- or second-round prospect before he missed the 2017 season at Ole Miss with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Healthy enough to throw at his pro day in April 2017, Kelly suffered a wrist injury during his workout that required surgery. He also entered the draft with off-field concerns stemming from a December 2014 arrest for disorderly conduct.
The Broncos traded up five spots in the 2016 draft to take Lynch 26th overall, but the 24-year-old failed to win the starting job through two years, leading to Keenum’s signing this spring. Lynch is 79-of-128 (61.7 percent) for 792 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions in five appearances (four starts).
Kelly will work as the Broncos’ second quarterback throughout this week, including two joint practices against the Chicago Bears, before Saturday’s game against Chicago.
—Field Level Media