To see a starting quarterback with franchise quarterback potential (and that is the key word in all of this, potential) change hands in free agency is the football equivalent of seeing a unicorn. However, yesterday Brock Osweiler decided to leave the world champion Denver Broncos and the role of heir apparent to Peyton Manning to sign a 4 year, $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) with the Houston Texans, and in one move everything changed for those two franchises.
We never see moves like this in the NFL, and we rarely see Houston as the epicenter for anything remotely close to this. The last time the Texans got as much attention as they did Wednesday afternoon was when they were getting ready to make Jadeveon Clowney the number one pick in the 2014 draft. Since that time, they've muddled through two 9-7 seasons with a half dozen or so different quarterbacks.
The offseason marching orders this spring for general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O'Brien from owner Bob McNair were clear — enough with the Hoyers and Malletts of the word; find us a franchise quarterback!
In the NFL, there are two forms of equity with which to embark on Operation QB Search — draft choices or dollars under the cap. The Texans, quite simply, chose the latter. Perhaps it was because, as in the past two seasons, O'Brien wasn't all that enthused about the incoming rookie class, or perhaps it was because the team has coveted Osweiler for some time now, likely a little of both, but whatever the case, O'Brien has now FINALLY pushed his chips into the middle of the table with a relatively young quarterback entering his prime. Long time coming.
With any major, franchise-altering decision, there are winners and losers. Let's examine those here...
4. Brock Osweiler
We will learn more over the coming days as to why Osweiler chose to leave a franchise on the short list of Super Bowl contenders this coming season for a team going through a massive rebuild on offense. Certainly, the shadow of Peyton Manning and the daunting task of filling Manning's shoes had to weigh into the decision, but maybe, too, Osweiler wanted to run his own crew, stake his own claim and put a franchise whose closest journeys in January have ended in divisional round losses on the championship map. For his part, Osweiler won't have to worry about moments like these anymore...
However, he also will have nowhere to hide after losses or midway through, say, a 3-5 season. Osweiler is the man now, whether he likes it or not. When a Sunday ends poorly, it will be his locker around which the media gathers, wanting answers. These are the problems that come with $72 million, and this will be the biggest adjustment for Osweiler. If it doesn't work out for the Texans, the contract is set up for them to eject after two seasons with relatively minimal dead money damage ($6 million in the third year).
3. Lamar Miller
The Texans filled a few needs in the first day of free agency. Certainly, Osweiler was the biggest fish they caught, but they also found the next in line to follow the Arian Foster era as starting tailback next season, and they did so with a guy who tore the ass out of their own defense last season with 175 yards rushing, a guy who singlehandedly may have ended the career of Rahim Moore! Lamar Miller, late of the Miami Dolphins, signed a four-year, $26 million deal ($14 million guaranteed) to take over as the Texans' lead running back, solving another major positional need and freeing them up to use their higher draft equity on other needs. If you want to feel good about the Miller signing, I recommend watching his highlights from the Dolphins' win over the Texans this past season...
There. Now how does THAT feel? They signed a total Hall of Famer, am I right?!?
2. DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins has been a big-picture winner all week long as salary explosions set him up for a bonanza of a payday later this offseason, but within the football framework of the Texans, the Osweiler signing assures Hopkins of a capable quarterback throwing the ball to him immediately, as opposed to some Hoyer-like stopgap in 2016 and having to wait for a rookie draft pick to take over later in the season or sometime in 2017. The Miller signing gives the team some juice in the running game, which can only help the passing game, and the Osweiler and Miller signings both free the Texans up to draft another offensive weapon in the first round, which will also draw some attention away from Hopkins.
1. Colin Kaepernick (possibly RG3, or, dear God, Fitzy!)
So where do the Broncos go from here? Speculation has them looking at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, or possibly free agents Robert Griffin III or (GASP!) former Texan Ryan Fitzpatrick! Let's examine each of these. Kaepernick would be easily the most costly of the three, as the Broncos would need to send some sort of compensation, likely a draft pick, to the 49ers for the right to pay Kaepernick around $12 million next season. Griffin would probably end up being the least expensive of the three possibilities, but possibly the best fit for what Gary Kubiak likes to do offensively. Fitzpatrick is holding out for one last big contractual score after throwing more than 30 touchdown passes last season. The irony of the Broncos defending their Super Bowl title with Ryan F-ing Fitzpatrick at quarterback is delightfully hilarious.
4. Brian Hoyer
The signing of Osweiler likely signals the end of the ill-fated Brian Hoyer era in Houston. Sure, Hoyer will remain a Texan into OTAs and maybe training camp, but like Matt Schaub, Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum before him, I think the Texans will flip Hoyer for a late round pick to some QB-starved team in training camp. If I had to guess, Tom Savage would enter the season as the primary backup, and the Texans could still take a quarterback in the middle rounds of the 2016 draft. (Dak Prescott in the third round is my dream scenario, for the record.)
3. The losers in this TMZ video
A few days ago, TMZ posted a video online of Osweiler getting into a spat with some patrons outside a Scottsdale pizza joint. In the video, as you can see below, at one point Osweiler gently nudges a woman who is leaning on his back. Of course, the vultures hanging out near the pizza joint screamed about how "HE HIT THAT WOMAN!" Judge for yourself...
Sorry, losers. No easy payday for you.
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2. Gary Kubiak
I alluded to it before, but it bears repeating — there's currently around a 20 percent chance Kubiak winds up with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback in 2016. This is beyond hysterical to me.
1. My analysis
A few weeks ago, I listed the "Five Moves the Texans Should Make to Kick Off the 2016 Offseason." Let's look at all five things and see how I'm doing:
5. Cut Brian Hoyer and sign Brandon Weeden to a modest, Hoyer-like deal.
Hoyer is still on the team, and honestly, none of the "veteran QB" conjecture matters anymore, since Osweiler will be the starter from Day One. Moderate fail by me.
4. Pray Malik Jackson doesn't sign with the Broncos.
He didn't sign with the Broncos (yay!), but he did sign with the Jaguars (boo!). Huge fail by me.
3. Find middle "salary cap" ground with Arian Foster.
The Texans released him last week. Gargantuan fail by me.
2. Sign Ben Jones to an extension.
Jones signed a four-year, $17.5 million deal with the Titans. Jumbo-size Texan Burger fail by me.
1. Sign DeAndre Hopkins to a long-term deal.
Dear football gods, please don't let me fail on this one.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.