ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the second time in the past seven years, the Denver Broncos have roared into free agency to fix a quarterback problem.
In 2012, it was Peyton Manning, and this year, it’s Case Keenum.
Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the Broncos will reel in the 30-year-old Keenum to be their quarterback of the present and future when free agency officially opens Wednesday afternoon.
Keenum is expected to become the first of the high-profile quarterbacks in the open market to agree to a deal.
Keenum helped power the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season as Minnesota went 11-3 in his regular-season starts in place of an injured Sam Bradford.
Keenum finished the season with 3,547 yards passing to go with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Keenum also is a player the Broncos felt they knew well, given that the team’s senior personnel adviser and former coach Gary Kubiak coached Keenum for two seasons when Kubiak was the Houston Texans‘ head coach.
Kubiak has an increased role in the Broncos’ personnel evaluations this year and has been a major voice as Denver prepares for free agency and the draft.
Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway had made finding a long-term solution at quarterback the priority of the offseason, after the Broncos limped to a 5-11 finish in 2017 with an offense that finished the season tied for 26th in scoring.
Elway had said early in the offseason, “For us to have a chance to get better, we have to get better at that position.”
The Broncos had three quarterbacks start games this past season — Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler — but it was a bumpy ride on offense, as the Broncos were among the league leaders in turnovers and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired in November.
Only the winless Cleveland Browns threw more interceptions than the Broncos’ 22, and Denver had just one receiver catch more than 50 passes and finish with more than 560 yards receiving — Demaryius Thomas, with 83 catches and 949 yards.
At the scouting combine, two weeks before the start of free agency, Elway did compare the “fluid” nature of chasing a quarterback in free agency this year to the pursuit of Manning.
“Even with Peyton, we weren’t a for-sure thing with Peyton,” Elway said. “That was always fluid too, but he was our target.”
For Keenum, he will now face a pile of expectations in a quarterback-crazed region that saw its team win a Super Bowl just two seasons ago.
Keenum’s teams are 20-18 in his games as a starter, and he made both of his career playoff starts this past January for the Vikings.
The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs since their Super Bowl win to close out the 2015 season; their inconsistent play on both the offensive line and at quarterback have been big reasons why they’ve sat out the postseason.
Elway said in recent weeks that he still believed the team could get back into the postseason mix with an upgrade behind center.
“I still think we’re not too far away,” Elway said. “Obviously, we have to get better at that position. We didn’t play well there last year. That doesn’t all go on the players. There were some things that we should have done, that we should have done differently that we didn’t do. I feel like we can get right back in the thick of the things rather quickly. I think we still have a good defensive football team.”