Broncos should franchise tag Osweiler if deal with Miller is reached
The Denver Broncos have a problem, and it’s one that few Super Bowl champion teams ever have. With Peyton Manning expected to retire and Brock Osweiler heading for free agency, they need to decide what to do at the quarterback position. At this stage, the best option seems to be to place the franchise tag on Osweiler, and give themselves another year to figure out if he is their QB of the future. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that, seeing as they have two other key contributors set to hit free agency as well: Von Miller and Malik Jackson.
Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Osweiler has played just 642 regular season snaps in his career, making an evaluation of his long-term viability all the more difficult. To his credit, he actually flashed some potential this past season, with his best performances coming against the Patriots and Bengals. He was even grading positively in the Week 17 game against the Chargers before he was benched in favor of Manning, seeing three of his eight incompletions in the game come as a result of dropped passes.
There could have easily been a quarterback controversy heading into the playoffs, but head coach Gary Kubiak was quick to quell that, and the rest is history. Still, the trouble now is deciding if he is the quarterback of the future—and just how much he is worth. So, based on his play, what does he deserve to be paid—and by whom?
Osweiler was our 20th-ranked quarterback in terms of overall grade, and if you look at the basic average yearly salary of quarterbacks on OverTheCap.com, 20th is Nick Foles at $12.25 million per year. Over course, that is taking salaries at their most basic level, and ignores things like guaranteed money, but it does give an indication of what his play is worth, in terms of a new contract. What makes things tougher for Denver is that Osweiler is just 25 years old, and doesn’t turn 26 until late November, so he has added value considering that he’s yet to hit his prime—especially when he hasn’t even played 1,000 regular season snaps yet.
Osweiler ranked 20th in overall grade among QBs, 17th in accuracy percentage, and 17th in accuracy percentage under pressure. Those rankings paint the picture of a very average quarterback, and not one that a team should be jumping right in and signing to an expensive long-term contract. Simply put, while they don’t know that he isn’t the future of their franchise at the position, they also don’t have enough proof that he is.
The next part of the problem for the Broncos is that there aren’t a lot of quarterbacks out there, and they don’t have a high enough draft pick to have a shot at Carson Wentz or Jared Goff. Could they draft a player like Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, or Brandon Allen in the late first or second round? Sure, but there are certainly no guarantees with drafting a QB, and for a team that wants to be in position to defend the Lombardi trophy in early 2017, it’s worth considering just how difficult that would be with a rookie signal-caller.
Few teams find success in grabbing a quarterback in free agency, and it’s unlikely that Kirk Cousins or Sam Bradford reach the open market; even if they did, the Broncos would face the same dilemma with Cousins in terms of how viable he is as a long-term option. With all that in mind, it seems like the best player to start at quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2016 is, in fact, Brock Osweiler.
The good news for Denver is that the franchise tag is a serious option, and one that would allow them to have another year to evaluate how good he really is. They will save $19 million in cap room if and when Manning’s retirement is confirmed, while the franchise tag for a quarterback this year comes in at $19.9 million. Would the ideal scenario be signing Osweiler to a long-term deal that didn’t cost almost $20 million a year? Of course, but until they can find out whether or not he’s the right player to build their offense around, a long-term deal would be foolish. Instead, bring him back under the franchise tag and re-evaluate the decision next offseason when, all being well, they’ll have a full season on which to base their opinion.
To do that, though, they are going to have to get a long-term deal with Von Miller done. As important as having a quarterback is, Miller is one of those rare players with the type of talent that very few possess, and we saw in the Super Bowl just how dominant he can be, making huge play after huge play on his way to the game’s MVP honor. Malik Jackson is a talented player too, but isn’t close to Miller’s level, so the priority is still getting Miller signed long-term, especially knowing just how good he is, and then placing the franchise tag on Osweiler.