While this might puzzle some Broncos fans who thought the team was clearing the decks to dabble in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, executive vice president John Elway might have made the smarter play. A good point brought up by Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk early Tuesday morning: Keenum will cost about $10 million less than Kirk Cousins, giving Denver the ability to also add a complementary piece at wide receiver. I’ll take that a step further: Since Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson are both off the board, Elway can also invest in the front five. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg are among the best offensive linemen remaining in free agency and can both play two different positions. Finding a cheaper, younger replacement for Aqib Talib is also in the cards now.
One more reason to like the Keenum deal? It sounds like the contract will be similar to the one Mike Glennon signed in Chicago last season, meaning that it’s not prohibitive for the Broncos in the long-term. There’s a good chance the always-aggressive Elway wants to take another swing at the quarterback position in this year’s draft. Sitting at No. 5, he is very much in play for one of the five big-time talents (Jackson, Darnold, Rosen, Mayfield, Allen) and could provide his team the comfort of a short-term quality starter alongside the promise of a long-term rookie option.
Keenum played in two fewer games than Cousins last year and finished just 546 yards behind the former Washington quarterback. Cousins threw just five more touchdowns and almost doubled Keenum’s interception total. Pat Shurmur, Keenum’s offensive coordinator in Minnesota last year, was finally able to put a practical spin on an offense that accentuated Keenum’s best attributes. Throughout his seven-year career, there’s been a reason he was almost always thrust into an emergency starter role, and now he has the confidence and comfort of at least a one-year residency under center in Denver. It was interesting to see Keenum make the first major wave of news during NFL free agency and not strategically wait and see what Cousins does, which could have improved his asking price from a desperate team looking for a silver medal. At the same time, he might have ended up in the best offensive situation out of the teams still searching for a starting quarterback.