One of the NFL's top free agents this cycle is suddenly off the market as quarterback Case Keenum intends to sign with the Denver Broncos once 2018 free agency officially begins on Wednesday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported early Tuesday morning.
Keenum last season led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship game for the first time since 2009, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The 30-year-old quarterback started 14 games and set career marks in 2017 after playing sparingly for the Texans and Rams during his five prior NFL seasons.
Kirk Cousins, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins, is the top free-agent quarterback available (not counting Drew Brees, who is expected to remain in New Orleans). His market will likely come down to the Vikings, Jets or possibly the Cardinals.
ESPN reports that the Broncos considered Cousins and also had discussion about former Keenum teammate Teddy Bridgewater, but instead went with Keenum on what is expected to be a short-term deal, per 9News.
Keenum, who is 20-18 in his career as an NFL starting quarterback, will reunite with senior personnel advisor Gary Kubiak, who coached Keenum in Houston for two seasons. Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson reports that Kubiak stumped for Keenum during the evaluation process:
Some context inside the #Broncos Case Keenum signing: Senior personnel advisor Gary Kubiak was deep in Keenum’s corner in the process. Denver decided against committing to the player-friendly Kirk Cousins contract structure, shifted quickly to Keenum.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 13, 2018
Added context inside #Broncos Case Keenum signing: there were conflicting signals in the building over whether Cousins would be offered some terms on Monday. Staff solidification behind Keenum and Cousins contract structure created an aggressive move for Keenum.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 13, 2018
The Broncos are coming off a 5-11 season, one in which they struggled in large part due to their lack of competent quarterbacking. Denver president John Elway promised he would make acquiring a top-tier signal caller an offseason priority for the franchise.
Should Keenum follow through with his intention to sign with the Broncos, he will be joining a team that started Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler in games last season. The Broncos have Siemian, Lynch and 2017 seventh-rounder Chad Kelly under contract for 2018, and with Keenum taking over the starting job, at least one cut will have to be made. Lynch carries a bigger dead cap number ($4.46 million) than his current cap hit ($2.58 million), while cutting Siemian would save just over $1.9 million in cap space.
The Broncos have the No. 5 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, and depending on the terms of Keenum's contract, it's possible a quarterback could still be in play for the team. Other potential options at the top of the draft include running back Saquon Barkley, pass-rusher Bradley Chubb and guard Quenton Nelson.