The Broncos want to bring in a third quarterback, but that player is likely to be either a young veteran or a draft pick, head coach Vance Joseph tells Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter links). Denver is apparently content to allow Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch battle it out for the starting QB job, meaning any new addition would be a third-stringer. Tony Romo, meanwhile, is looking like less of an option, as the Broncos are reportedly backing off their pursuit of the Cowboys signal-caller.
While it’s possible that free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s polarizing views have contributed to his inability to find a job this offseason, at least one team wouldn’t let his politics stand in the way of a deal. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam revealed Monday that he’d be open to adding Kaepernick, reports Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com.
“If football people came and recommended [him], we’d go with the football people,” said Haslam, though he noted that he and his co-owner and wife, Dee, “have not been involved in any conversations regarding Colin Kaepernick.”
Head coach Hue Jackson has chased Kaepernick in the past, and the Browns’ current veteran QBs – Robert Griffin III and Brock Osweiler – might not be on their roster next season. However, Jackson echoed Haslam’s sentiment in telling the NFL Network on Monday that the Browns haven’t had “any discussion” regarding Kaepernick.
Like the Browns, the Broncos also gone after Kaepernick before, but they no longer view him as a fit for their offense (and they like the QBs they have on hand), according to general manager John Elway (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today). The potentially backup-needy Lions don’t think Kaepernick is a match for their system, either, per GM Bob Quinn (Twitter link via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press).
Having drawn no interest from teams in need of a No. 1 passer, it’s clear the 29-year-old Kaepernick, a longtime starter, will have to settle for a reserve role – if anyone signs him. One team that could be in the market for a backup is Seattle, whose No. 2 option, Trevone Boykin, is facing two misdemeanor charges stemming from a weekend arrest.
The 23-year-old Boykin could easily continue with the Seahawks, but it’s worth noting that Kaepernick has a high opinion of head coach Pete Carroll, a source told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The two are quite familiar with each other, of course, as Kaepernick spent the first six years of his career with NFC West rival San Francisco and engaged in some memorable tilts with the Seahawks when he was a quality starter and the 49ers were contenders. It’s unclear, though, if Carroll is bullish on Kaepernick or if he’d be willing to ditch Boykin. What is clear, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, is that the Seahawks don’t want to invest much money in a backup for Russell Wilson. That could rule out any chance of a Kaepernick-Seahawks union.
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Quarterback Tony Romo presumably won’t be on the Cowboys’ roster next season, nor are they likely to find a trade partner for him, but he won’t be leaving Dallas imminently. There’s a possibility the Cowboys will retain the soon-to-be 37-year-old past the draft, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
The Cowboys have been hoping to trade Romo, who’s now behind Dak Prescott in their QB pecking order, but they’re lacking leverage. There are only two obvious possibilities for Romo, Denver and Houston, and the Broncos seem uninterested in acquiring the veteran. Even if the Cowboys release Romo, the Broncos don’t intend “to go that direction,” general manager John Elway told Mike Klis of 9News. Before his conversation with Klis, Elway indicated he’s content to let in-house signal-callers Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch compete for the No. 1 job in 2017.
The Texans, unlike the Broncos, don’t have anything resembling a starting QB on their roster. As a playoff-caliber team, they’re a clear fit for the accomplished Romo. One possible problem for the Texans is that they share a state with the Cowboys, whose owner, Jerry Jones, might not want to help out another Texas-based NFL franchise by cutting Romo and essentially giving him to Houston.
The likelihood is that Jones will eventually release Romo, who’s currently slated to rake in a $14MM base salary and count $24.7MM against the Cowboys’ cap in 2017. By designating Romo a post-June 1 cut, the Cowboys would save $12MM of spending space for next season. That would come in handy for a team with just under $5.5MM in breathing room at the moment.
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Cowboys backup quarterback Tony Romo reportedly wants Denver to be his second NFL stop, but if we’re to believe Broncos general manager John Elway, the feeling isn’t mutual. Elway once again gave votes of confidence to the Broncos’ top two signal-callers, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, on Monday, and indicated that the pair will engage in “a great competition” to decide the team’s starter for 2017 (Twitter link via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post).
“Like we’ve said, we really feel good about the two young ones we have,” Elway said of the 25-year-old Siemian and Lynch, 23. “Trevor did a good job for us last year and Paxton was young. The plan is to stay the course there and see what’s available in the draft.”
Considering Lynch was a first-round pick a year ago, it seems doubtful the Broncos will use another valuable selection on a passer this year. Although Lynch didn’t play much in his rookie season, when he appeared in three games and made two starts in place of an injured Siemian, the Broncos would reportedly prefer for him to win the job next season. That makes sense, as the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Siemian doesn’t match up with the 6-7, 244-pound Lynch in terms of size, arm strength or draft pedigree. To Siemian’s credit, though, the 2015 seventh-round pick was was reasonably effective in his first pro action last season, especially relative to his $615K salary. All told, Siemian completed 59.5 percent of throws, averaged 7 yards per attempt and tossed 18 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in 14 starts, eight of which resulted in wins for a 9-7 team that disappointingly missed the playoffs a year after winning the Super Bowl.
While Romo is obviously a far more proven option than either of the Broncos’ QBs and could theoretically help the club return to championship contention, he comes with myriad questions. Romo will be 37 in April, has barely played over the past two seasons because of injuries, and, if the Cowboys go the expected route and release him, would certainly warrant a higher salary as a free agent than those of Siemian and Lynch. Still, it’s not a lock those factors will combine to prevent the Broncos from at least kicking the tires on Romo if he reaches the market. As Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes (on Twitter), Elway’s not allowed to publicly discuss Romo because he’s still under contract another team. Thus, the Romo-to-Denver speculation probably won’t completely go away until his 2017 destination is actually known.
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The Broncos were reportedly all but out of the Tony Romo sweepstakes as of Friday, and nothing has occurred at the NFL owners meetings to suggest otherwise. Broncos general manager John Elway hasn’t engaged in any trade talks at the meetings with Cowboys CEO and fellow competition committee member Stephen Jones, as Mike Klis of 9NEWS writes. “We’ve been here all week and his name never came up,’’ said Elway, who also gave further votes of confidence to Denver’s current top two QBs, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, per Klis. Even if the Cowboys end up releasing Romo, the expectation is Elway will still pass on the soon-to-be 37-year-old, notes Klis, who nonetheless cautions to “never say never.”
- If pass-rusher serves as a glaring Saints need, the Broncos have one at left tackle. Alabama’s Cam Robinson will visit as a potential candidate to fill that spot, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets. The Broncos did not pick up Russell Okung‘s option and signed Menelik Watson likely to serve as their right tackle. Although they restructured Donald Stephenson‘s contract, the team might not view the 2016 UFA signing as a left tackle starter after he struggled on the right side last season. They have not selected a tackle in first round since Ryan Clady in 2008.
While multiple networks have now entered the Tony Romo equation, one suitor’s interest may be dwindling. The Broncos are not aggressively pursuing Romo, per Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com, who adds Romo now believes his options are the Texans or retirement (Twitter link).
Darlington notes the Broncos haven’t closed the door on Romo, but they may be a clear second behind the Texans at this juncture. Romo-pursuing talk has emerged from Denver more than Houston during this complex offseason for the soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback, but the Texans now have a bigger hole at quarterback and more cap space ($30MM to the Broncos’ $20MM) after making the unprecedented Brock Osweiler trade.
Romo has interest in the Broncos, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes. It’s unclear if that’s dissipated to the point a Denver route is no longer a reasonable consideration. Earlier this month, the Broncos resided as Romo’s preferred destination. Darlington’s report points to that no longer being the case. Renck notes the Broncos are still expected to express interest in Romo once he’s released, reiterating the team has “zero desire” to trade for him. The Cowboys are likely hoping to make one final push at adding something in return for Romo when the owners convene beginning Sunday for their latest meetings.
A Romo deal with the Broncos would be expected to be for $5-$8MM in base salary, Renck writes, with incentives that would possibly enhance the quarterback’s 2017 compensation to $14MM — his current Cowboys base salary. Neither the Broncos nor the Texans have a quarterback set to count more than $2.2MM against the cap this year. Houston backup Brandon Weeden is signed to a veteran deal but is only set to count $1.6MM against the Texans’ 2017 cap.
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The Broncos are still in the market for a left tackle, and the club has interest in free agent King Dunlap, according to Troy Renck of Denver7. The Chargers released Dunlap to make room for ex-Denver lineman Russell Okung, so the AFC West rivals would essentially be swapping blindside protectors if Dunlap signs with the Broncos.
While Denver has invested in several offensive lineman this offseason — including Menelik Watson and Ronald Leary — the team still has a hole at left tackle. If the season started today, Watson would probably line up on the left side, but he played only 328 snaps last season and earned a poor grade from Pro Football Focus. Incumbent tackle Donald Stephenson can also play on the blindside, but his performance was worse than Watson’s in 2016.
Dunlap, then, would immediately slot in at left tackle for the Broncos, though his health questions would mean Watson or Stephenson might see the field at some point. Nagging injury issues have forced the 31-year-old Dunlap to miss 13 games over the past two seasons. But Dunlap was exceptional from 2013-14 when his health allowed him to play, and his level of production enticed the Chargers to sign him to an extension.
Denver is also willing to engage in trade talks in the search for a left tackle, per Renck, and possesses 10 draft picks which could be offered in deals. Speculatively, the Broncos could approach the Browns about Joe Thomas (something they’ve done before), but Cleveland has been adamant that it won’t entertain a Thomas trade. Other alternatives could include Jason Peters (Eagles), Jared Veldheer (Cardinals), or Donovan Smith (Buccaneers).
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Connected to a high-profile quarterback acquisition for the second straight offseason, Broncos GM John Elway didn’t identify the team’s Tony Romo circumstances as being all that different from the ones that had Denver close to adding Colin Kaepernick last year.
“Yeah [it’s a similar situation], because we feel good where we are. There are so many things … everything gets ratcheted. I will just tell you this: There’s been a lot of things out there that are not true as far as what’s going with our quarterbacks. So that’s what happens. Everything gets frothed up,” Elway said, via Troy Renck of Denver7.
Renck adds that the latest coming out of Dallas is Romo is growing restless with the Cowboys’ tactics, with the franchise having backtracked on its intention to release him in order to pivot back to trying to trade the 15th-year quarterback. The Broncos remain unlikely to trade for Romo, per Renck, even after the Texans’ cap space-clearing trade of Brock Osweiler. It would be a “major upset” if the Cowboys found a taker for Romo’s contract in a trade, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
The Broncos nearly traded for Kaepernick last year, but the sides couldn’t agree on a restructured deal. Denver then selected Paxton Lynch in the first round but turned the reins over to Trevor Siemian for most of 2016. That competition would continue for a second straight year if the franchise doesn’t acquire Romo. Vance Joseph said the franchise is in good shape with Siemian and Lynch for “the next four or five years,” per James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Lynch is under Broncos control for four more years, with Siemian’s rookie deal running through 2018.
Here’s more from the Mile High City.
- Meanwhile, Elway said his understanding is Kayvon Webster wants to play more (Twitter link via Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post). Webster has been public about his desire to have a larger defensive role and he won’t get that opportunity in Denver, being blocked on the cornerback depth chart. Webster, who made our list of this year’s Top 50 Free Agents, has long been expected to leave. The fifth-year corner has served as one of the Broncos’ top special-teamers, but after a rookie season in which fewer obstacles resided in between Webster and a defensive role, the Broncos’ 2014 additions of Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby effectively buried him on the depth chart for the ensuing three seasons. Now employing his previous defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, the Rams are hosting Webster on a visit today.
- Domata Peko also received interest from the Bengals, Vikings and Eagles prior to signing his two-year Broncos accord, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets. Peko had obvious connections to the Bengals and the Mike Zimmer-coached Vikings but chose to join the Broncos.
- Elway said the team’s starting left tackle might not be on the roster presently, per Renck, but noted recent right tackle signings Menelik Watson and Donald Stephenson are options there. Watson served as an emergency left tackle after injuries ravaged the Raiders’ tackle corps at a point last season, but Oakland primarily utilized him on the right edge. Stephenson began the 2015 season as the Chiefs’ starting left tackle, when he took Eric Fisher‘s spot, but Andy Reid reversed course and placed Fisher back there. Stephenson didn’t get a starting job back and signed with Denver, where he struggled as the team’s primary right tackle starter.
- Denver still has interest in re-signing backup outside linebacker Dekoda Watson, according to 9News’ Mike Klis, who confirms the team’s interest in bringing back Vance Walker (Twitter link).
- Newly signed Kasim Edebali will likely compete for work behind Von Miller and Shane Ray at outside linebacker, Wolfe writes. He played defensive end in the Saints’ 4-3 scheme and 58.7 percent of New Orleans’ special teams snaps in 2016. The Broncos also have Shaquil Barrett as their top backup at outside ‘backer.
Zach Links contributed to this report.