Do quarterback-deprived teams around the NFL view Brock Osweiler as the potential solution to all their problems?
The time to find out might be almost at hand, now that the Denver Broncos have used their franchise player tag on standout pass rusher Von Miller.
The leaves Osweiler free to hit the open market next week if he chooses to do so.
The Broncos and their chief roster architect, John Elway, had only one franchise-player designation at their disposal and had no choice but to use it on Miller to keep him off the free agent market. Miller is one of the sport’s top pass rushers and continued to enhance his value with a spectacular postseason culminating with his MVP performance in the Super Bowl.
Now the Broncos don’t have to fret about losing Miller and can try to work toward striking a long-term deal with him by July, as Elway has managed to do with a string of previously franchise-tagged players.
But the problem for the Broncos is that Osweiler, the most logical successor to Peyton Manning as their starter at quarterback, also is eligible for unrestricted free agency. And now that their franchise tag is used, the Broncos must attempt to re-sign Osweiler before the free agent market opens or risk having him see what else might be out there for him.
This, of course, comes as no surprise to Elway, who was well aware of the offseason juggling act that he was facing.
“We’re really not in a hurry,” Elway said last week in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Everything’s still real fluid. We know where Brock is. Brock knows what we have to offer. We still have a great deal of interest in Brock. We’d like to do something with Brock. That road, we’ll start down those tracks and we’ll start talking to Brock about a new contract and see what we can do there but with that in mind, also affording Peyton the time that he deserves. But we’re not in any rush.… There’s 12 days. We don’t feel like we’re in a rush there. We’ll continue to give Peyton that time and continue to work with Brock and try to get something done with Brock.”
There aren’t 12 days left any more. The free agent market opens in eight days. That’s the same day that Manning’s $19 million salary for next season from the Broncos becomes guaranteed under the terms of his contract.
Manning may or may not retire. He should. He should ride off into the NFL sunset with his second career Super Bowl triumph secured. He was handed a storybook career ending by Miller and the Denver defense, and he shouldn’t look back. He couldn’t stay healthy and didn’t play well this past season, and there’s little reason to believe that he will remain healthier or play better following his 40th birthday later this month. Hopefully Manning realizes that.
But even if he doesn’t, the Broncos probably will release Manning before having to pay him a guaranteed $19 million. Manning’s father Archie said after the Super Bowl that Peyton’s time in Denver probably was done even if his time in the NFL wasn’t.
Osweiler had some decent moments while filling in for Manning this past season. He threw for 1,967 yards with 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions in eight games, including seven starts. His passer rating of 86.4 was far superior to Manning’s 67.9. He was better suited to Coach Gary Kubiak’s offense and he was, at this point in Manning’s career, the best quarterback the Broncos had.
Kubiak handled a potentially difficult situation deftly, going to Osweiler at the right time during the regular season and then going back to Manning during the regular season finale, citing Manning’s experience and leadership. Now it should be clear to everyone that it’s time for the Broncos to move on to Osweiler, if only they can get Osweiler to stay.
It makes sense for Osweiler to test the market. His price will only go up. There are plenty of teams out there in desperate need of help at quarterback, from the Cleveland Browns to the Los Angeles Rams to the Houston Texans. The Philadelphia Eagles will need help if they’re not able to retain Sam Bradford. The New York Jets will need a starter if they can’t re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick. The San Francisco 49ers don’t have a clear-cut starter and Colin Kaepernick reportedly has sought permission to seek a trade.
Those teams are looking at a draft class that has some promise but isn’t overflowing with star power. They’re looking at a free agent class that could include Bradford, Fitzpatrick and Robert Griffin III if he’s released, as expected, by the Washington Redskins. They could mull the possibility of making an offer for Kaepernick if the 49ers honor his trade request.
That makes Osweiler potentially a very attractive option. He is 25 years old and talented. He has some starting experience. He already has played in some meaningful games.
Osweiler has options.
The Broncos can only hope that his No. 1 option is staying in Denver.
But they cannot be certain of that.