Now that Peyton Manning has called it a career, the Denver Broncos should be making a smooth transition to the Brock Osweiler era, right?
Well, it doesn’t appear to be going so smoothly so far. The Broncos and the fourth-year quarterback haven’t had contract talks since the team made its initial three-year offer days ago, according to NFL.com.
The Broncos & Brock Osweiler's reps haven't had any negotiations since the Broncos initial 3-year offer several days ago.
The defending champs don’t really have a backup plan at quarterback, and Osweiler’s representatives are most likely leveraging that. Osweiler completed 62 percent of his passes last season for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The Broncos went 5-2 with Osweiler under center, then handed the reins back to Manning, who guided the team to the Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Now that they’ve said goodbye to Manning, the Denver Broncos are hoping they don’t also have to bid farewell to Osweiler.
The Broncos might be scrambling if Manning’s longtime apprentice gets a break-the-bank offer from another team when free agency kicks off Wednesday.
That would leave them with just one quarterback in Trevor Siemian, whose lone snap in the NFL was a kneel-down against Pittsburgh on Dec. 20.
Osweiler made $660,000 last season in the final year of his rookie contract. He’s about to get a huge raise, somewhere in the range of $14 million annually, although it’s not known how much money the Broncos are guaranteeing in their prove-it-to-us short-term offer.
The Houston Texans are reportedly high on the 26-year-old passer who went 5-2 in place of an injured Manning last season before getting benched when Manning returned to the huddle for the Broncos’ playoff run that culminated with their 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 last month.
Manning retired Monday, one month after winning his second Super Bowl.
On Tuesday, the sentimentality and celebration turned to the cold, hard reality of the NFL as the Broncos released three veterans to gain some financial flexibility: tight end Owen Daniels, right guard Louis Vasquez and long snapper Aaron Brewer.
Daniels, a 10-year veteran who spent his entire career with coach Gary Kubiak, caught three TD passes during the regular season and two more in the AFC championship against the Patriots. He followed Kubiak to Denver from Baltimore a year ago and ranked third on the Broncos in receptions (46), receiving yards (517) and TDs.
Vasquez was a three-year starter but was bogged down by injuries after an All-Pro season in 2013. And Brewer was a four-year starter who never had a bad snap after beating out Lonnie Paxton in 2012.
"These decisions are never easy, but we appreciate the contributions Louis, Owen and Aaron made to our team, especially during our Super Bowl run," general manager John Elway said.
Their releases created some $8.4 million in salary cap space, about double what Denver started the day with after clearing Manning’s 2016 salary off the books.
The Broncos are bracing for the loss of several players, including Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, both of whom played big roles in Denver’s Super Bowl win.
Jackson is headed to the Jaguars in a big-money deal.
"I talk to Malik, but our relationship is bigger than us being teammates," star linebacker Von Miller said Monday. "He’s like a brother to me. I want him to be in the best possibly situation for him. You work so hard your whole life to put yourself in this position. Take advantage of the opportunity. He deserves everything that he’s worked for."
Elway bought himself more time to work out a long-term deal with Miller by placing the team’s exclusive franchise tag on the Super Bowl MVP last week. Miller said he’s confident negotiations won’t get contentious, but he wouldn’t commit to attending voluntary OTAs if a deal isn’t done by the time the offseason program starts April 18.
"We have great guys in the front office. I have great guys representing me. It’s all positive," Miller said.
Placing the franchise tag on Miller, which freezes more than $14 million at the moment, might make it harder to keep Osweiler and some of Denver’s other free agents.
"I know Mr. Elway is doing everything in his power to get those guys back," Miller said. "Part of the game. When you win a Super Bowl, it’s hard to keep those teams together."