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Keeler vs. Renck: With Russell Wilson gone, which veteran quarterback should Broncos bring in?

Sean Keeler: Dude, your Week 1 was more eventful than Nathaniel Hackett’s. And infinitely better, I might add. To celebrate your return to The Post, the Broncos cleared out their depth chart at QB1 (Russell Wilson), FS1 (Justin Simmons), and WR2 (Jerry Jeudy) in about 140 hours, freeing up a reported $49 million in cap space along the way. But it’s that first one that I’m really curious about. With Big Russ taking his talents and Greg Penner’s money — mostly the money — to Pittsburgh, the Broncos are on the hook (cough) for $38 million (cough) of No. 3’s salary in 2024. Assuming there’s enough cash on hand to add another veteran quarterback onto the pile, which one fits best? Especially with the most appealing target, Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, probably off the table? Because Jarrett Stidham, Ben DiNucci and a Rookie To Be Drafted Later probably ain’t enough to seriously compete in the AFC West this fall. Unless, of course, that’s the plan all along. What say you?

Troy Renck: There’s never an offseason when covering the Broncos. Or postseason. I kid because I care. It has been a long eight years since Super Bowl 50. Denver has made the right decision to rebuild. However, the Broncos still plan to add a veteran quarterback this season to help them compete. It will not preclude them from drafting one, so simmer down. When Russell Wilson turned inside the 20 to the red-faced zone, Sean Payton went to Jarrett. Stidham wasn’t exactly a diamond in the rough. The name I like as a veteran backup? Washington’s Sam Howell. He could rebound better than Dennis Rodman with Payton. He has been ordinary or worse as a starter, going 5-13 with 21 interceptions and 21 touchdowns. Get him in a timing offense with better pass protection and he could be Baker Mayfield Lite.

Keeler: Sean Payton walked around Indianapolis in a Paris Saint-Germain FC hoodie and with the swagger of Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. But I’m not convinced he can turn our man Jarrett into a capable gunslinger yet. For me, the sweet spot in floor and price probably intersects at Sam Darnold, especially with Brandon Allen signing a 1-year deal to back up Brock Purdy in San Francisco. In his last seven NFL starts dating back to 2022, the 26-year-old sports a TD-to-pick ratio of 9-to-4 and a win-loss record of 4-3. Even better, per, he’s coming off a ’23 contract worth $2 million in guaranteed salary and a $6.3-million cap number. Both numbers work if you’re dumpster-diving.

Renck: I am intrigued by Sam Darnold. Former Broncos players I trust — Mark Schlereth and Ryan Harris — have told me he is worth taking a chance on, that he will be improved after undergoing football rehab with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. The 49ers traded Trey Lance because Darnold clearly beat him out last summer. Darnold was not good initially — though he played well vs. the Broncos while a member of the Jets and Panthers — but can he be good eventually? I think so. But I am not sure he fits the Payton offense. And with Payton, a noted Jordan sneakerhead, fit is everything.

Keeler: Hey, the sentimental side of me would love a reunion with Drew Lock, here, too. Although given that Payton’s got all the warm and fuzzy sentiment of a piranha, you can probably throw that one out the window. All the Band-Aids on the open market have downsides, and at least Darnold has some youth and gravitas. Granted, the next drafted QB needs a mentor, too — a better mentor than Joe Flacco was, at any rate.

Renck: Please no on Drew Lock. My Twitter feed cannot take the Druthers. I hope he lands on his feet, but Payton is about as sentimental as a jury summons. He is running off the most veteran players for a reason — to create a fresh start. Bringing back Lock is anything but. I can live with Darnold. Low risk, high reward. But Howell brings a higher upside in the Payton offense. This season will feature the Broncos running on parallel tracks. The Broncos are rebuilding, but Payton wants to try to keep winning. Steady play at the most important position remains critical when a team is not tanking. Wilson put up decent numbers — 26 touchdowns, eight interceptions — but struggled to avoid sacks (100 in two seasons) and keep the team in rhythm in goal-to-goal situations. The Broncos ranked dead last. There was plenty of blame to go around, but Payton clearly pointed his finger in Wilson’s direction. Howell brings intrigue and issues. He takes way too many sacks, while trying to make plays that are not there. Payton can put up guardrails, make him play cleaner, smarter. It will require a trade. But a flier on a quarterback is worth a sixth-round pick. In the end, we can agree we want a Sam Dunk.

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