The Denver Broncos offseason has already been in full swing since week 17 ended almost two and a half weeks ago. In those two weeks, the team has let go some of their old coaches and assistants while at the same time signing and retaining others. Part of their offseason process has been looking at the upcoming draft and free agency for fixing the teams needs. Last week I touched on some of the needs of the team, but the biggest task for this team (by far) has been the quarterback position.
At the end of last week, it was announced that the Broncos would be one of the teams coaching the Senior Bowl next week. This will give the team a hands-on opportunity to work with future players and see if any talent catches their eye. Over the weekend, however, it was revealed that the Denver personnel had specifically requested to be the ones to work with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. This is the second time over the last few weeks that Mayfield has been linked to the 2015 Championship team. However, while this news was going around, there was also some speculation from GM John Elway that the team would not be looking into drafting a rookie quarterback. The reason for this was due to the mistake of drafting Paxton Lynch in the first round of 2016 that has not panned out in any way. This would mean the team would only focus on veteran talent in free agency of 2018.
Given both sets of information, which would be the best option for the quarterback dilemma that is facing this once great team? First, let’s take a look at two of the top free agent quarterbacks that are set to hit the market when the new league year starts in March.
- Age: 29
- Height: 6′ 3″
- Weight: 202lbs
- Current team: Washington
- 2017 teams interested: SF, Den, Wash
- Best fit in 2018: Washington, Denver
Kirk Cousins had a decent year in 2017 as he did in 2016, he threw for 4,093 yards, 27 Tds, and 13 Ints compared to last years 4,917 25 Tds and 12 Ints. His completion percentage was 64.3% whereas last year was 67.0. He also rushed for 179 yards and 4 Tds compared to 96 yards and 4 Tds. This year the team was 7-9 while being 8-7-1 last year. In 2016 he became an unrestricted free agent and was signed as a non-exclusive franchise tag worth $20 million for a one year contract. This year he is set to again become a free agent once March comes around.
Why Cousins to the Broncos makes sense:
Cousins over the last 3 years has thrown for no less than 4,000 yards during the season. In that same time period, he has also thrown no less than 25 touchdowns and no more than 13 interceptions. These numbers would look amazing on the Broncos team, whose offense hasn’t been very flashy or high powered since their 2013 season. Since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 Super Bowl win, Denver has been looking for the next franchise quarterback. In the time since they have drafted Paxton Lynch in 2016 and resigned Brock Osweiler in 2017. While Lynch, Osweiler and Trevor Siemian have all had playing time, none have really been the answer. Cousins would come in and be a true pocket passer with a strong arm and a real aptitude to improve the struggling offense.
Why Cousins doesn’t make sense for Denver:
Kirk Cousins last offseason signed a non-exclusive franchise tag with the Redskins for $20 million for a one year contract. This season if the Redskins were to sign him to another one year deal he would be given roughly a $34 million franchise tag. This is a lot of a one year deal even for a quarterback that isn’t named Rodgers, Brees or Brady. If the Broncos were to try and sign Cousins, odds are he would want a large long-term deal for a multi-million dollar contract. However, the Broncos can’t afford to pay one player between $20 to $34 million when they have some current players on the team who also need long-term deals. Elway has always had a knack for making a deal work, but in Cousins case, the price is too high for not much gained. My prediction is that Denver passes on Cousins unless he is willing to take a much cheaper option which is highly unlikely given the money he made this last season.
- Age: 29
- Height:6′ 1″
- Weight:215 lbs
- Current Team: Vikings
- 2017 teams interested: Mn
- Best fit in 2018: Minnesota
Case Keenum has had a wild few years in the NFL since coming into the league in 2012. He was signed out of college by the Texans. Then in 2014 he was first on the Rams then went back to the Texans followed by going back to the (then St. Louis) Rams in 2015-2016. In 2017 he found his way onto the Vikings after the team lost Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater’s future was uncertain. In 2017 Keenum has been just what the team needed on offense so as to allow the defense to be as dominant as possible. Keenum threw for 3,547 yards, 22 Tds, and 7 ints. He also posted a 67.6 completion percentage and an overall passer rating of 98.3.
Why Keenum fits the Broncos:
Keenum posted his best career stats in 2017 and has helped a Minnesota team not only make it into the playoffs but advance into the NFC Championship game. His late-game touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs for 61 yards with 10 seconds left shocked the nation. While this does a lot for his stock as an upcoming free agent, there are some other reasons why he would be a great free agency acquisition. The best reasons he would make sense for Denver would be that he could be a much cheaper option for the team than someone such as Kirk Cousins. He would be much cheaper on either a one year or multi-year deal and for a team like the Broncos who have other players needing deals, this would help out huge. Another reason he would be a great benefit is that he can help the team stay in the game and be a game manager while the defense could manhandle the opposing team when needed. He wouldn’t need to be perfect, he would just need to be better than the current players Denver has had playing under center the last few years.
Why he doesn’t work with Denver:
Case Keenum as I mentioned above, had his best season ever as a player. The biggest problem with him is that this year could be a one-year exception. Looking back at his stats since he entered the league, he has never thrown for 4,000 yards and this year is the only year he’s ever posted a passer rating of over 90. I don’t see him becoming a player like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Yes, he will be one of the cheaper players that can be picked up, but it’s extremely hard to tell if his success with the Vikings will translate to a new team. That alone is a big cause for concern for any team looking to sign him. It would be smart for Denver to steer clear of him when free agency starts despite his cheap price.
Analysis of free agent talent
Although both Keenum and Cousins have both positive and negative aspects of either option, the cons far outweigh the pros. Cousins is far too expensive for a team in need of a quarterback despite his impressive playing that he’s done over the years. Unless he is willing to take a massive pay cut, it looks like the only team who would be willing to pay him would be his current team. Case Keenum, although impressive in his play this season, seems to be more of a one-hit wonder to me. It would be unwise for the Broncos to take an expensive risk when there are other options. It seems that despite John Elway’s comments, the best and cheapest option would be to go after the top rookie prospect available. It’s time to take a look at the possibility of a rookie quarterback. The best option is Baker Mayfield.
- College: Oklahoma
- Year: Senior
- Age: 22
- Height: 6′ 1″
- Weight: 220lbs*
- *= measurements from Mayfield’s school
Baker Mayfield is one of the top, if not the best college prospect out of all quarterbacks this season. Not only was he the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner; but his stats this season have been incredible. Mayfield has 262 completions on 369 attempts which is a 71.0 completion percentage. He threw 4,340 yards and 41Tds and 5 Ints in 2017. In addition, Mayfield also rushed 97 times for 311 yards and 5 touchdowns. These stats for a college player rival some of the NFL’s top players at the quarterback position. His stock has risen in the last month despite the loss in the Rose Bowl to the Georgia Bulldogs. Despite being down in the second half, he rallied his team back to tie the game which sent it to the first overtime ever in Rose Bowl history.
Why Mayfield should be drafted by Denver:
Mayfield has shown he can play, plain and simple. His stats show this. He has the knowledge and the arm strength to make plays and the potential to be the top rookie of the upcoming draft class. His athleticism with both his arms and his legs allow him to be a dual-threat quarterback which would put him as a much sought-after player. Denver could use a player like him because they have playmakers such as Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas who need a gunslinger. His abilities would cause nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators everywhere. On top of all that, Bakers attitude and competitive nature and “swagger” are exactly what a team needs in a struggling offense. His passion for the sport could be seen in his post-game interview in which he was in tears after losing the Rose Bowl, his last college game ever. Although the Sooners lost in the Rose Bowl, Mayfield has shown that when faced with adversity, he can stay calm and collected and keep making the throws he needs to. Another reason for being a good option for the Broncos would be his price tag once drafted would be far cheaper than any free agent with the upside of producing numbers equal to Cousins or Keenum. Overall Denver needs this guy to lead the team and fire up a lackluster offense while coming as a somewhat cheap option for the team.
Why Denver should avoid Mayfield:
Being a college draft pick, there is the worry of a Paxton Lynch scenario in which he becomes a work in progress or a coaches project that may never make the transition to the pros. Despite being measured at 6′ 1″ by Oklahoma, Mayfield is probably more around the height of 5ft 10 or 5 ft 11. Given that height, this would have Mayfield on the short side for a quarterback. This would place him be in a similar comparison to Russell Wilson or Drew Brees. His hand size has been on the smaller spectrum to what is preferred from one of the top players entering the draft. However, the biggest issue for why the Broncos should avoid him would be his maturity issues. This 2017 season, Mayfield had an on the field issue during the game against Kansas. He was punished for mouthing profanities while at the same time grabbing his crotch on the sidelines during that game. There was also his run-in with the police when he was arrested for public intoxication as well as fleeing from officers. While these incidents are something to be aware of, it appears that he has moved on from these antics and has taken responsibility for his actions.
Analysis on Mayfield:
Baker has shown that on the field, he can play with the best of them. His passion and determination paired with his competitive nature and athletic abilities have him pegged as the top college prospect in the 2018 draft. While some may focus on his immature antics on and off the field, he has seemed to move forward with his playing career and ready for the next level. Yes, there is the risk for Mayfield to be a project and a work in progress. The reward and upside greatly outweigh the risk that comes with him as a first-round draft pick.
Baker is first round talent and will have an instant impact on the team who picks him. Even though Elway’s leary of choosing another quarterback with such a high pick, he may not last until the next round. Between Elway and Kubiak working on improving the team between free agency and the draft, the fans must keep faith and trust in Elway as they have in years past.
Untill next time, keep calm and Bronco on!