Denver – The Denver Broncos have found their quarterback.
When free agency officially begins Wednesday afternoon, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum plans to sign with Denver, NFL sources confirmed.
ESPN first reported the intended signing.
Although former Michigan State star Kirk Cousins has been touted as the top quarterback to hit free agency this year, the Broncos, after extensive evaluation of all their options, felt more comfortable with Keenum. He played for Vance Joseph and Gary Kubiak in Houston at the beginning of his career (2012-13) and already has a feel for the staff and offensive system.
Keenum guided the Vikings to recent success in the playoffs — an experience Cousins still lacks after six years in the NFL. And he comes at a cost that affords the Broncos more flexibility in reshaping their roster and adding to it in the upcoming draft.
“We all understand on how the quarterback position has a direct influence on how your team plays,” Joseph said in February. “Obviously we have to get better there, whoever is going to be the quarterback. That being said, we can get better in a lot of areas, like protecting the quarterback, continuing to run the football better and to play dominant defense. Having a quarterback that can help us become a more efficient offense and help us score more points and not turn the ball over, that can only help us get better. But we have to focus not only on that, but also on other parts of the football team.”
Keenum’s new deal is expected to be a shorter-term contract, in a range that has been previously reported, from around the high teens to $20 million per year in average pay. In landing a player they see as their true starter, the Broncos also expand their options with their first-round draft selection this year.
Though they could still add a quarterback at No. 5, if they’re not in love with any of the projected first-round quarterbacks, they no longer need to draft one to simply fill a hole; they can select the best player available, add an immediate impact player, or even move out of the top five and acquire more picks in a trade.
“I still think we’re not too far away. Obviously we have to get better at that (quarterback) position,” general manager John Elway said at the NFL combine. “We didn’t play well there last year. That doesn’t all go on the players. There were some things that we should have done that we should have done differently that we didn’t do. I feel like we can get right back in the thick of the things rather quickly. I think we still have a good defensive football team.”
But Keenum’s arrival means the likely exit of another quarterback on the Broncos’ roster. According to a source, the Broncos are expected to move on from Trevor Siemian, a former seventh-round pick who started 24 games, and have already fielded calls from interested teams.
Since Peyton Manning’s retirement in 2016, the Broncos have featured a revolving door of starting quarterbacks acquired via free agency, a trade and the draft, and none of them have stuck. After reaching the peak of Super Bowl 50 two years ago, the Broncos have sunk on the heels of two playoff-less seasons.
To try to right the ship, Elway made it clear last month that he intended to scour the free-agent market to find his guy. Cousins was undoubtedly the top quarterback soon to become available, but with his spot atop the list of most teams came a price tag that could have ended up being too high for the Broncos’ plans.
While they have options, they also have plenty of needs and limited cap space, unlike some other quarterback-needy teams.
And according to those close to the situation, Cousins simply wasn’t viewed as the best fit for the Broncos.
Keenum, 30, was among the second tier of available quarterbacks, and after beginning his NFL tenure in Houston as an undrafted free agent, reached the pinnacle of his five pro seasons by helping the Vikings to the NFC championship and producing the Minnesota Miracle, a game-winning, 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs in a divisional playoff game against the Saints.
Last year Keenum completed 67.6 percent of his passes for a career-high 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions for a 98.3 passer rating. In Minnesota’s two playoff games, he tacked on 589 more yards, two touchdowns, three picks and a 60.2 completion percentage.
Now the Broncos hope he can replicate that play for the forseeable future in Denver. Case Keenum is taking over.