Broncos Mailbag: What are odds Denver acquires Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt?

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the offseason. Submit questions to Ryan here.

What are the odds the Broncos make moves for Deshaun Watson and/or J.J. Watt?
— Michael Easthope, Lethbridge, Alberta

I think there is a better chance I can cross the United States-Canada border and attend a Calgary Flames game without being subjected to the 14-day quarantine than the Broncos acquiring either player.

Watt: Let’s go with a 2.3% chance. So far, his name hasn’t been connected to the Broncos and that makes sense because Watt, who never advanced beyond the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs with Houston, is looking to win. That’s why you see teams like Green Bay, Cleveland and Tennessee being connected to Watt. Plus, he’s from Wisconsin (Packers) and played for Mike Vrabel (Titans coach) in Houston. If I’m Watt, I make sure to sign before Von Miller potentially hits the market.

Watson: Until the Texans decide to put Watson up for grabs or even return the phone calls of interested teams, it is a 0% chance he ends up with the Broncos. But if he gets shopped, I’ll go with 23.9% because the Broncos should be able to put together a package to attract the Texans and have some young players who could interest Watson, who must approve any trade.

Anything new on the Deshaun Watson front? I want to know if I should put in my order for a custom Broncos No. 4 jersey.
— Pete, Pueblo

Sure, you can order a Broncos’ No. 4 jersey … currently occupied by backup quarterback Brett Rypien. If Watson comes to town, swap out the nameplates or, better yet, buy another No. 4 jersey. Both blue, please — the team’s best jersey.

As I said in the previous question, it appears things are status quo in Houston. The Texans aren’t budging. Watson hasn’t gone public to express his intentions.

The Broncos should be operating — and probably are — as if Watson won’t be their quarterback. That means finding a free agent who has experience and can challenge Drew Lock.

Ryan, if we don’t land Deshaun Watson, is Drew Lock starting next year? Or do we make a run at the scraps that get left behind, like Sam Darnold or Cam Newton? Also, any chance we get Russell Wilson?
— Phil, Fort Collins

Minus Watson, my $5 is still on Lock being the Broncos’ Week 1 starter. I do think Lock would beat out Mitchell Trubisky or Teddy Bridgewater. I reserve the right to change my mind, though, if they sign Andy Dalton.

My guess is the Broncos view Darnold the same way as Carson Wentz, who was never on their radar: Shaken from all of the hits (Darnold/Wentz), injuries (Wentz) and losses (Darnold). I would take Lock over both.

The Wilson-Seahawks Drama has basically evaporated since Wilson said/complained/whined that he was getting hit too much and Seattle needed to upgrade its offensive line.

How much would you give up to get Deshaun Watson? After the last five years, I’m fine with three first-rounders and Courtland Sutton if that gets him here. What would you do?
— Roger, Wichita, Kan.

I would not include Sutton because that would be robbing Watson of the Broncos’ top receiver.

Any chance the Broncos have of getting Watson would be a deal that starts with outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, who would basically replace J.J. Watt. Chubb plus three first-rounders may not be enough.

Last month, I bounced this off to NFL executives: Watson/outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus to the Broncos for Lock, 2021 first- and second picks, 2022 first- and third-round picks and a 2023 second-rounder. They both said that was a good start.

But what if the Texans aren’t interested in Lock? The Broncos would then have to get creative.

We’re getting some cornerback help soon, right? If I’m looking at the roster right, we’re rolling Michael Ojemudia and Bryce Callahan out there right now. Callahan is a great slot guy and Ojemudia is bound to build on a solid rookie year. But then that’s it. I know we’re not landing a guy like Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, but how about bringing someone like Dallas’ Chidobe Awuzie or San Francisco’s Ahkello Witherspoon into the fold?
— Horace, Pueblo

The one guarantee about this Broncos’ offseason is they are going to address cornerback, probably in free agency and the draft.

A.J. Bouye has already been released. Callahan (foot) and Essang Bassey (ACL) are coming off injuries. Ojemudia will only increase his production if he limits his missed tackles.

The folks at Spotrac projected a three-year, $27 million contract for Awuzie to leave the Cowboys for the Jets.

Witherspoon is only 25 years old so he would be a good long-term pick-up for the Broncos. But the 49ers may be interested in keeping him if they move on from veteran Richard Sherman.

Peterson would be at the top of my list, even if he’s in the $9 million-per-year territory, because he would bring leadership to the defense and he remains a very good player.

Is Vic Fangio gone if the Broncos don’t make the playoffs this year? We have a 7-9, 8-8 team if we stay healthy. I don’t think it bodes well for him if he ends up with another losing season.
— Lance, Grand Junction

The last thing new general manager George Paton wants to do next January is conduct a coaching search, so he will put together a team that gives Fangio a chance to succeed. That could mean keeping outside linebacker Von Miller and safety Kareem Jackson for the final seasons of their contracts.

If the Broncos improve from 5-11 to 7-9 or 8-8 and the offense shows a pulse and the defense creates more splash plays, Fangio deserves a fourth year.

The first quarter of the season is critical for Fangio. The Broncos started 0-4 and 0-3 the past two years, putting them in chase-the-standings mode before the end of September. They need to be playing meaningful December games to prevent sweeping changes.

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