Sean Payton [608x342]
Sean Payton [608x342] (Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' depth chart and quarterback situation have raised questions around a potential "rebuild" mode this offseason.

"I get that,'' Broncos coach Sean Payton said at the recent league meetings in Orlando, Florida. "I don't understand -- in our league, you regroup and you get ready to play. We're still in the midst of assembling our roster. If you paid attention to [rebuilding talk], there are a ton of different seasons, and I've been a part of it, that never would have had the success we had relative to the expectations. We have to get better in a lot of areas, and we're excited to do that."

In the wake of their 8-9 finish and the team's eighth consecutive playoff miss, the Broncos have garnered far more headlines for the departures from the team rather than the arrivals.

The Broncos have taken on an $85 million dead money charge over the next two seasons ($53 million this year) against their salary cap to release quarterback Russell Wilson. And that has limited their ability to do things they may have done without the charge.

It also has left the team without a clear starter at its marquee position.

Add in the release of veteran safety Justin Simmons, a Denver fixture who was the longest-tenured player on the team, and the loss of free agents such as center Lloyd Cushenberry III and linebacker Josey Jewell, and it has looked like far more subtraction than addition.

But as all of the team's top decision-makers reaffirmed at the league meetings, the Broncos continue to stand by the belief that this all was part of their plan to navigate through this offseason. The short-term pain is part of the blueprint, and the team knows the route out of it, despite what anyone outside of its facility may think.

"We're passionate about being competitive,'' owner/CEO Greg Penner said in Orlando. "That's both in the short term and the long term. You can call it sort of whatever you want, but our focus is on putting the best possible team on the field this coming year. I don't think there are any shortcuts or quick fixes. We're going to do this the right way and have this team be competitive this coming season, but also be in a position to build for the future.''

The biggest question that still lingers over any discourse about the Broncos is at quarterback. The Broncos sat out the initial wave of free agency, as most available quarterbacks signed elsewhere around the league to be backups with teams that had an established starter.

"It felt like we had a really good handle as to who was available,'' Payton said. "Certainly, I think we're at a place other quarterbacks would like to come to, and yet we weren't just going to sign a quarterback to sign one. We will be smart about our thoughts relative to who's coming in and most importantly what the vision is for the player.''

With the No. 12 pick in this year's draft, the Broncos aren't positioned to select any of the top three (or perhaps four, if a run is on) of the top quarterbacks on the board. At least not without surrendering future prime draft capital to move up in the first round, which would be a tough call for a team with just two of its own first-round picks on its current roster and one that hasn't made a first-round pick since 2021.

The Broncos do not currently have a second-round pick and won't be on the clock again until pick No. 76 -- 12 picks into the third round.

Payton has said Jarrett Stidham, who started the final two games last season, will "compete'' for the starting job and that "other candidates'' will compete with him. Stidham and Ben DiNucci (on a futures contract) are the only signed quarterbacks on the depth chart.

And general manager George Paton has said September is still a ways away with the draft still on the table and no "closed" sign on free agency after the draft.

"I've been impressed with Sean and George,'' Penner said. "They've been very measured and strategic. Our approach is going to be long-term to build the roster through the draft, and then be opportunistic with free agency and trades and strike when we are in a good place to do that.''