If you’re an NFL fan, chances are you’re familiar with the story of Paxton Lynch. The Denver Broncos drafted him with the 26th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Broncos had just won Super Bowl 50 and Peyton Manning retired. That offseason, Brock Osweiler signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Houston Texans. That meant Lynch was Denver’s quarterback of the future.
At 6-foot-7, Lynch drew size comparisons to Manning and Osweiler. In Memphis’ quarterback friendly system, Lynch thrived as a junior. His continual improvement and build caught the eyes of scouts and team executives. While Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were drafted immediately, Lynch fell to the needy Broncos who eagerly scooped him up.
It was not Denver’s plan to play Lynch immediately, but pressure did build during the season. Denver was coming off of a Super Bowl win after all and the city was hungry for another one. Ultimately, Trevor Siemian started 14 games for the Broncos in 2016. The 2015 seventh round pick had a decent season, but that didn’t guarantee Siemian the starting job in 2017.
Lynch started two games as a rookie and played in three. He completed 59% of his passes for 497 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Denver finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
The Broncos changed coaches heading into 2017 and the franchise hoped the quarterback situation would stabilize. It didn’t. Denver started three different quarterbacks that season, including Lynch, Osweiler, and Siemian. None of the quarterbacks threw more touchdowns than interceptions.
Out of the trio, Lynch saw the field the least. He started two games, including a meaningless Week 17 contest. The Broncos finished with a 5-11 record. Lynch went 0-2 as a starter on the season and threw three interceptions to just two touchdowns.
Denver’s patience ran out in early September last year. The team cut Lynch before he could even finish out the first four years of his rookie contract. It was an unceremonious end to Lynch’s quasi-reign in Denver.
In mid-January of this year, the Seattle Seahawks signed Lynch to a reserve/future contract. Seattle has a habit of holding onto just two quarterbacks during the regular season. Russell Wilson has never missed a start in his career, so the team can afford to keep one backup. Lynch will have to compete for that spot with former New York Jets starter, Geno Smith.
In the first week of the preseason, the Seahawks faced the Broncos. Smith got the start, but Lynch came in and played well against his former team. He completed 11 of his 15 pass attempts for 109 yards and a touchdown. Lynch also carried the ball four times for 38 yards and another score. He accounted for both of Seattle’s touchdowns in the team’s 22-14 win and finished with a 115.7 quarterback rating.
That first game gave Lynch a huge boost. He played well and Smith struggled, completing less than 40% of his pass attempts. Granted, Smith was battling an injury before the game. We now know that he will have a cyst removed from his knee and will miss 10 days. In his absence, the Seahawks have signed J.T. Barrett.
It’s far too soon to say whether Lynch has saved his NFL career, but he took a step in the right direction. He outplayed Smith in the Preseason opener and is getting plenty of reps while Smith is recovering. Both quarterbacks will be ready to go when the Seahawks face the Minnesota Vikings in their second Preseason game.
Now that Lynch has the advantage, the one thing he can’t do is throw it all away. The Broncos kept Lynch around for all four Preseason games before cutting him back in 2018. The young quarterback cannot take anything for granted. He must win the quarterback battle every week if he wants to secure Seattle’s backup spot. Once he does that, we can start having conversations about an extended stay in the NFL.