As momentum shifted away from Kirk Cousins following initial talks, the Broncos zeroed in on their preferred target Case Keenum. They are expected to sign the veteran when free agency opens on Wednesday, per an NFL source.
Terms of the contract are unknown. But Blake Bortles' three-year, $54-million extension likely helped the Broncos with the framework. Denver is expected to sign Keenum to a two or three-year deal in the $18 million range. That leaves him as the clear starter, but also leaves flexibility to make additional moves. The Broncos are not done yet. They are expected to be active in the trade market and free agency over the next few days.
Also, Keenum's contract value and the term -- unlike with Cousins -- should not preclude the Broncos from drafting a quarterback fifth overall if they choose to go in that direction. This is part of the reason the Broncos believe Keenum is a better fit. He provides an upgrade and keeps options open.
Keenum, 30, brings playoff experience, strong leadership, and lingering questions about whether last season was the start of a career renaissance or an aberration.
Keenum signed for $2 million a year ago as a safety net for the Minnesota Vikings. An injury to Sam Bradford provided a platform to play, and Keenum capitalized. Owning a 9-15 career record as a starter, Keenum posted a 12-4 mark last season, counting the postseason. He authored the league's most breathtaking play, completing a walk-off scoring pass to receiver Stefon Diggs for a 47-yard touchdown, the 'Minnesota Miracle' knocking the New Orleans Saints out of the playoffs.
Keenum ranked second in completion percentage at 67.6, second to New Orleans' Drew Brees. He threw for 22 touchdowns, and his seven interceptions ranked 24th overall. The importance of ball security cannot be overstated after the Broncos' quarterbacks fired 22 picks last season. Neither, too, can Keenum's connection to Gary Kubiak, an advisor for the Broncos. Keenum played for Kubiak with the Houston Texans, and starred in college at the University of Houston, where he once posted a nine touchdown game.
After being supplanted by top draft pick Jared Goff in Los Angeles in 2016, Keenum landed in Minnesota.
He was accurate, efficient and won. And yet, understandable trepidation remains: Is he a one-hit wonder?
Keenum led the Vikings to a magical season, and yet they refused to commit to him, choosing instead to pursue Cousins. Keenum draws praise for his leadership. He brings an edge and an attitude, forged from years of proving critics wrong in high school, college and the NFL.
Keenum's arrival means Paxton Lynch is expected to return as a backup with competition from Chad Kelly and a potential draft choice -- that has not been ruled out -- as Denver plans on trading Trevor Siemian. Brock Osweiler, who also started last season, is a free agent, and will not be back.