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Renck: No new Broncos quarterback in free agency? No problem. This is what rebuilding looks like.

The truth is loose: The Broncos are colts, an increasingly younger team tasked with cobbling together a foundation for the future. They are cheaper, shrewder investments, their signings requiring Google searches for correct spellings of names.

Brandon Jones, Cody Barton, Malcolm Roach, Wil Lutz, Michael Burton, Adam Trautman and Lil’ Jordan Humphrey. The guaranteed money? Roughly $26 million. The Broncos guaranteed left guard Ben Powers $28.5 million a few hours into league business last year.

This is what rebuilding looks like.

Nearly a week into free agency, Denver has not added a single big name, attempting to improve on the margins with two starters, a kicker and multiple role players.

It sounds like a Ted Danson movie: Three Men and a Maybe.

Not one of the new players is a quarterback. When it became obvious the Broncos were not going to sign Sam Darnold — he landed a $10 million deal from the Vikings — and had no interest in bringing back Drew Lock or bringing in Jameis Winston, Broncos Country was not particularly happy with this new reality.

It is jarring. The new buzzwords are “monitoring and methodical,” which sounds like a nurse talking to a patient at urgent care. The Broncos are not sick, but they need to take their medicine for this ugly rash of ineptitude.

No quarterback addition defines exactly what the Broncos are doing, not saying. They are exercising restraint. It feels like a straitjacket to expectations, suffocating and confining. This is where the Broncos are, attempting to improve and compete, while not sacrificing long-term success for instant gratification.

Even Washington’s Sam Howell was deemed too expensive. Not Thurston. Sam.

I advocated taking a flier on Howell, believing finding a capable young quarterback is akin to throwing darts. The more tosses at the carnival for $1 the better. Sure, Howell’s darts might have been intercepted, but he is younger than Bo Nix. And he would have benefited from the structure of Sean Payton’s offense.

But even I must concede he was not worth two draft picks. I thought he could be acquired for a sixth-rounder, matching the compensation for Mac Jones and Justin Fields, who was shipped to the Steelers on Saturday. That now only applies to the Jets’ Zach Wilson. As much as I would love for Wilson to come to Denver and explain how Nathaniel Hackett taught him how to hate the forward pass, I will pass.

The Broncos can bring in Ryan Tannehill or another vagabond if they choose, but at this point it makes sense to stick with Jarrett Stidham. He is the quintessential quarterback for a rebuild. His ceiling could very well be his floor.

Once you decide that a facelift, not Botox, is the plan, who cares? It can be liberating, except for season ticket-holders who have reached out, understandably grousing that a 7.9 percent price increase accompanied this strategy.

I get it. My response? If the Broncos continued doing what they were doing — overspending in free agency, overreaching in trades — it would create anger and apathy. Critics who are calling on Denver to spend for the sake of spending, assume it will make the Broncos better. That is an assumption rooted in the past when the AFC was wide open and tolerant of miscreants and upstarts without franchise quarterbacks.

Payton has repeatedly used the example of the Detroit Lions as a blueprint for how to execute a U-turn. They brought in coach Dan Campbell and bought into building around a core of draft picks. The progression of the young talent accelerated their revival as they were coached well and received opportunities without resistance.

The Broncos’ embrace of building blocks as the reigning direction is welcome. But it only works if Payton views this as a transition to sustainable success, not a brief flirtation that leads to desperation in the draft.

Which brings me to the inquiry that provides a running theme for my inbox: To QB or not QB? That is the question.

Does the Broncos’ inactivity mean they will select a quarterback in the first round? Sitting at the 12th spot is tricky. Talking to sources I trust, there is a belief four quarterbacks will go in the top six, meaning the Broncos would likely have to trade up with Arizona to the fourth spot. They cannot offer more than the Vikings in the 2024 draft, not after Minnesota acquired another first-rounder this week.

I am not convinced a team can love the fourth quarterback (likely Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy) enough to sacrifice three first-rounders and a third-rounder. That’s the price the 49ers paid to move from 12th overall to third to take Trey Lance, a subsequent bust.

It runs against Payton’s nature to stay patient. Unless he wants Nix, there is a strong argument to move back, take an edge rusher, offensive tackle or cornerback and pick up a second-round selection.

I know it feels like the Broncos are dragging the bottom of the ocean in free agency. And it will feel deflating if they don’t land a first-round quarterback.

But my advice is simple: Don’t relent to the tyranny of the clock. This is how this process works.

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