Brock Osweiler returning to Broncos as backup QB
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Brock Osweiler is returning to Denver 18 months after jilting the Broncos in free agency.
The Broncos agreed to terms with Peyton Manning’s former apprentice Saturday on a one-year deal after the quarterback was cut by the Cleveland Browns. Provided he passes his physical Monday, Osweiler will serve as Trevor Siemian’s understudy in his second stint in Denver.
The Broncos needed another QB because Paxton Lynch, their 2016 first-round draft pick, will miss a month or more with a sprained throwing shoulder.
General manager John Elway said Osweiler will be the backup “until Lynch gets healthy,” and the Broncos will re-evaluate their quarterback situation at that time.
Among the cuts as Denver trimmed its roster Saturday was three-time Pro Bowl strong safety T.J. Ward , a move made possible by Denver’s depth in the secondary, which was known as the “No Fly Zone” ever since Ward’s arrival in 2014.
Osweiler went 5-2 in relief of an injured Manning during the Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning season two years ago before bolting to Houston in free agency for a four-year, $72 million deal, about $8 million more than the Broncos offered.
After just one season, the Texans traded Osweiler in March to the Browns, who will pay Osweiler his $16 million guaranteed salary this season minus the offset from the Broncos. The minimum for a sixth-year pro is $775,000.
No matter how long Osweiler’s return to Denver lasts, his weekly salary of $941,000 dwarfs the $36,136 Siemian will make every week.
Osweiler started the final seven games of the 2015 season while Manning was sidelined with a foot injury. When the Broncos’ offense sputtered in their final game, Manning replaced Osweiler and led Denver to a 27-20 comeback win against San Diego that secured the AFC’s top seed. Manning then took every snap in the playoffs.
“Without Brock that year, we don’t win the Super Bowl,” Elway said Saturday. “He had a lot to do with that year. But I’m sure it’s probably been a long 18 months for him. He’s been through a lot. … I’m sure with everything he went through in Houston and then going to Cleveland, I’m sure he’s going to need a little football rehab. We know that. We’ll welcome him with open arms and give him some love.”
Elway said there are no hard feelings from their previous split.
“He made the decision that he thought was best for him,” Elway said. “And so it’s just kind of funny how these things worked out with our situation and Brock being available. We know that Brock can win football games with us. He’s got a lot of experience and so that was one glaring hole we had when Paxton hurt the shoulder. So, we were able to get it fixed.”
Siemian emerged as the Broncos’ starter last year following Osweiler’s departure 48 hours after Manning’s retirement. He had to win the job again this summer after Vance Joseph replaced Gary Kubiak as head coach.
Siemian went 8-6 in Denver last year but the Broncos’ five-year playoff run come to an end. Osweiler had an identical record in Houston and led the Texans to a win over Oakland in the playoffs before losing to New England.
But Osweiler played poorly, got benched and didn’t get along with coach Bill O’Brien, so the Texans traded him and a second-round draft pick to the Browns in March. Osweiler was subsequently beaten out by Browns rookie DeShone Kizer.
As for Ward, Elway said it was difficult cutting the veteran who set a nasty tone for Denver’s defense as a founding member of the “No Fly Zone” secondary.
Ward was due $4.5 million this year but his release was a product of Denver’s depth at the position. He missed most of training camp with a pulled hamstring and second-year pros Justin Simmons and Will Parks played well. So did undrafted rookie Jamal Carter, who led the team with 19 tackles in the preseason.
“Obviously with T.J. not working the entire training camp, for the most part, Justin and Parks got a chance to play a lot,” Joseph said. “Opportunity leads to promotion.”
Still, teammates expressed disbelief on social media Saturday that Elway would part with such a key leader and tone-setter.
Elway said he understands those sentiments .
“It’s always hard. I was in that locker room and I didn’t agree with every move that management made,” Elway said. “I hope they understand we had to do what we believe is best for the Denver Broncos. When you make tough ones like this, they’re not always going to be popular. But I trust the young guys will step up and fill those shoes.”