Brock Osweiler spurned the Denver Broncos in free agency, turning down a hefty offer to sign a four-year, $72 million deal with the Houston Texans. Though Denver has a number of backup plans it can pursue, Osweiler seemed to be the seamless replacement for Peyton Manning.
Broncos vice president and general manager John Elway released a statement Wednesday shortly after Osweiler agreed to terms with the Texans, saying the Broncos weren't going to deviate from their philosophy to retain the 2012 second-round pick.
"We’ve stayed true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here. That’s been a successful approach for us," Elway said. "While we did offer a very competitive and fair long-term contract to Brock, we ultimately had to remain disciplined while continuing to assemble a roster that can compete for championships."
The line about signing players who "want to be Denver Broncos" is especially poignant, considering Osweiler only received an extra $2 million per year from the Texans. Denver also reportedly offered Osweiler more than $30 million guaranteed.
It doesn't seem as if Osweiler, 25, was willing to give the Broncos any sort of hometown discount, which could be traced back to his Week 17 benching last season. Head coach Gary Kubiak benched Osweiler midway through that game for Manning and never went back to him. Though the Broncos won the Super Bowl with Manning under center, his performance in the playoffs was less than spectacular. In three postseason games, Manning accrued a 55.4 completion percentage and posted a modest 75.4 QB rating
ESPN's Jeff Legwold wrote Tuesday that Osweiler was only compelled to return to the Broncos if the money was right and he was able to make peace with the team's decision to pull him in the season finale. Apparently he wasn't able to.
Losing Osweiler may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Broncos, who now won't have to pay nearly $20 million per year for a quarterback who's only attempted 305 passes in his career. The Broncos did go 5-2 with Osweiler as a starter last season, but his performance was inconsistent. He posted a quarterback rating less than 80 in half of his eight games.
There's no law that mandates every team must find its next franchise quarterback immediately after it has an opening. The Broncos could target veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency, for example, and use him as a stopgap until Elway and Kubiak find their next quarterback to groom. Fitzpatrick played under Kubiak in Houston, so he's familiar with his system. Given that the Broncos were able to win the Super Bowl with subpar quarterback play, Fitzpatrick could even represent an upgrade for them next season.
In addition to Osweiler, the Broncos also lost defensive lineman Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan Wednesday. Jackson in particular received a whopping amount of money, inking a six-year, $90 million deal with $42 million guaranteed.
Teams often have to make difficult financial decisions after winning a championship. The Broncos are finding that out now.