KUSA – Case Keenum, who is coming off a magical, out-of-nowhere season with the Minnesota Vikings, is about to become the Denver Broncos’ new quarterback.
The Broncos and Keenum will have a short-term deal in place when free agency officially opens at 2 p.m. Wednesday, a source confirmed to 9NEWS. One prominent agent told 9News the Keenum deal is for two years and for at least $36 million.
Denver will mark Keenum’s fifth city in five years: His home team was Houston in 2014, St. Louis in 2015, Los Angeles in 2016, Minnesota in 2017 and now Denver in 2018.
Talk about a journeyman. It all came together for Keenum in 2017, though, as he threw for 22 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions while posting an 11-3 record as a starter for the Vikings. Keenum also threw a miracle touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs on the final play of a second-round playoff game to stun Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
As of Sunday night, a source told 9NEWS Broncos general manager John Elway was planning to negotiate with two free-agent quarterbacks – Washington’s Kirk Cousins, who was the consensus top prize, and Keenum, who was considered a strong No. 2 choice, when the free-agent negotiating period opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
The Broncos did hold a negotiating session with Cousins' agent on Monday but apparently didn't like they heard and quickly moved on to Keenum, league sources told 9News.
But by the time the free-agent negotiating window did open, Elway had settled on Keenum. Cousins reportedly was seeking a three-year contract worth at least an NFL record $28 million a year. Keenum figured to be had for around $18 million.
One source said the Broncos had serious concerns about the contract structure, and total guaranteed dollars, Cousins was seeking.
Although the Broncos had serious interest in Cousins throughout the process, Elway figured his team was a longshot to land him, with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets the favorites.
The Vikings because they had the best team – with Keenum as their quarterback, Minnesota advanced to the NFC Championship Game – and the New York Jets because they had the most cap space.
Gary Kubiak was a strong connection between Keenum and the Broncos. Keenum was undrafted out of the University of Houston when he signed with the Kubiak-coached Houston Texans as an undrafted college free agent in 2012.
“He gave me a shot,’’ Keenum told 9NEWS during the NFL Honors red-carpet ceremony on the eve of Super Bowl LII. “No one in the NFL called after the draft besides the Texans. That was coach Kubiak.
"The amount of football I learned those first two years I can’t even put into words how much he’s meant to me in my career.’’
Keenum actually went 0-8 in his first eight NFL starts for Houston in 2013 – when Kubiak was fired. Kubiak is now the Broncos' front-office consultant. In 2016, when Trevor Siemian unexpectedly beat out veteran Mark Sanchez and first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch to win the Broncos’ starting quarterback job, Elway nearly acquired Keenum in a trade from the Los Angeles Rams but backed off.
Not this time. With Keenum as their quarterback, the Broncos are expected to keep Lynch as their backup. It means the Broncos probably won’t take a quarterback with their No. 5 overall draft pick, although Elway won’t rule it out.
The expectation is the Broncos will soon try to trade away Siemian. Many Broncos players, most notably Von Miller, lobbied Cousins to sign with Denver. But not everybody in the NFL thinks Keenum is second to Cousins as a quarterback.
"After a year like Case had, I don't know how you don't go Case,'' said Cam Jordan, the Saints' best defensive player. "We beat Kirk, We didn't beat Case.''
NFL FREE AGENCY: Sam Bradford plans to sign one-year contract with Cardinals
NFL FREE AGENCY: Kirk Cousins, Vikings look to be nearing agreement
NFL FREE AGENCY: Drew Brees to re-sign with Saints for two years, $50 million