ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After the first wave of free agency hit the NFL beach this past week, the Denver Broncos biggest riddle of the offseason -- their quarterback depth chart -- remains mostly unanswered.

General manager George Paton and coach Sean Payton said in recent weeks the team would stick to a more measured approach -- Paton used the word "strategic.''

"We're not going to be as aggressive as last year,'' Paton had said. " ... We're going to just be more measured and try to fill specific positions and specific needs throughout the team.''

The Broncos, who last year doled out three of the 11 biggest free agent contracts to non-quarterbacks, have not been very active this time around. They made bigger splashes with departures -- quarterback Russell Wilson, safety Justin Simmons and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

They added safety Brandon Jones (three years, $20 million) and defensive end Malcolm Roach (two years, $7 million) from the open market, two players with a combined 35 starts in their 95 career games (30 of those starts are Jones'). The Broncos put most of their attention toward re-signing a cluster of their own free agents to one- and two-year deals that included safety P.J. Locke, fullback Michael Burton, tight end Adam Trautman and kicker Wil Lutz.

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But the most notable position not accounted for in their opening moves is quarterback.

Twelve quarterbacks who were unrestricted free agents signed with new teams in the opening days of free agency, none with Denver. The Broncos currently carry just over $67 million worth of salary cap charges for players no longer on their roster, $53 million of that this year from Wilson's departure.

That has put them in a tight financial box moving forward, so they were priced out for names like Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield (who re-signed with Tampa Bay) and Gardner Minshew. Jameis Winston, who played for Payton in New Orleans, Drew Lock, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett and Sam Darnold also signed one-year deals with their new teams.

Asked in the weeks before free agency opened about the importance of finding a solution at quarterback, Payton said, "We better [find a solution]. In this league, which is very competitive in our division, it's vital.''

Payton has told the story of seeing a photo with a Broncos fan wearing a shirt "with like eight quarterback's names crossed through them'' and added "our job is to make sure this next one doesn't have a line through it.''

Jarrett Stidham, who started the final two games of this past season after Payton benched Wilson, is under contract for the 2024 season and at the moment is the presumptive starter. The Broncos signed Ben DiNucci, who spent the 2024 season on the practice squad and has one career start, to a futures contract at season's end.

The free agent quarterbacks with the most starting experience who remain unsigned are Ryan Tannehill (35), Carson Wentz (31) and Blaine Gabbert (34).

The Broncos also have the 12th pick in the first round of the draft, not exactly the sweet spot to snare one of the draft's top passers. To move up to select one of the draft's top three, or perhaps even one of the top four quarterbacks on their board, would likely require the kind of draft capital they do not have to spare.

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They haven't picked in the first round of the last two drafts and do not currently have a second-round pick this year.

"To move up ... I don't know if we have the draft capital to do that. We're open for anything, but that would be hard to move up to No. 1, realistically," Paton said.

That puts the Broncos in a position of waiting at No. 12 to see which quarterbacks remain on the board and if they think enough of any of those quarterbacks to select one. If not, they could take their highest-graded player on the board, much like last time they used a first-round pick to select two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Pat Surtain II in 2021.

They could also trade down for some additional picks.

"Yes, it's easier to trade down with where we are at No. 12, it just depends on who's there,'' Paton said. "We feel like there's going to be 12, 15 players that we have high grades on. Where we're picking is going to be very valuable if we do want to move down.''

In the end, Payton has consistently expressed the confidence in the fact the Broncos know what they're looking for in a quarterback of the future as well as their ability to make it happen.

"You can visit with someone and they can be intelligent, but how quickly can they deliver the information?'' Payton said of evaluating quarterbacks in the draft. "How quickly can they get through the progression? Are they accurate? There are some fundamental things that we have to see that are present. Sometimes it's not as difficult as we make it out to be and then sometimes it's very difficult. I think we'll be really good at this, and I think to some degree, we're glad that a lot of people aren't.''