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The Denver Broncos have a new quarterback, which could be good news for the New England Patriots. Denver acquired quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in a trade with the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.

This trade may help clear a path for the Patriots to get one of the top five quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft. It’s unclear if New England intends to target a signal-caller. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano have indicated that some around the NFL think the Patriots might trade up for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields – if he slips toward 10th overall.

Whether that’s true or a smokescreen is anyone’s guess.

But if the Patriots, who pick at 15, are targeting Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones, it helps them to see the Broncos, who pick at No. 9, and the Panthers, who own the eighth overall pick, making moves to acquire new quarterbacks. Carolina traded for quarterback Sam Darnold this offseason, and while the team might still have interest in drafting another player at the position, the Panthers have indicated they’d like to trade back, per multiple reports. They’re probably out of the mix for a quarterback.

The trade doesn’t rule out Denver adding a quarterback. For all we know, the Broncos may want Lance, a young but promising quarterback who has played just 318 college snaps (which would be the lowest total by a first-round QB in the last 40 years, if Lance goes in the top 32 picks). Bridgewater could bridge the gap for Lance’s development. But it’s also possible the Broncos acquired Bridgewater because they don’t anticipate getting a quarterback they want at ninth.

The other quarterback-needy teams in the top 14 are the Detroit Lions, who traded away Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff this offseason, and the Eagles, who drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round last year.

The Patriots’ path to getting a top quarterback is hardly clear. But maybe — just maybe — the Broncos trading for Bridgewater is a sign that the path is growing clearer.

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