The Denver Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year contract in March, and Keenum is installed as the team’s starting quarterback.
But there are questions behind him.
After being booed off the field in his home stadium last week, 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch has been demoted to third-string, and 2017 seventh-round pick Chad Kelly, who has yet to play a regular-season snap, was promoted to backup.
If Keenum goes down, is Kelly really the answer? Broncos fans are wondering, and general manager John Elway was asked about the No. 2 spot on Thursday.
‘He had his chance to be here’
When asked, Elway said, “I still feel like we have time” to figure out the team’s backup spot.
As a follow-up, Nicki Jhabvala, who covers the team for The Athletic, asked Elway about the possibility of signing free agent Colin Kaepernick.
Elway’s answer was … interesting. And assumes no one has Google.
“Well, you know what and I said this a while ago, Colin had his chance to be here,” Elway said. “We offered him a contract. He didn’t take it. And I said in my deposition, and I don’t know legally if I’m able to say this, but he had his chance to be here. He passed it.”
Jhabvala responded to a query on Twitter about whether Elway was talking about 2016, when he was in talks with San Francisco to acquire Kaepernick in a trade, or maybe 2017 or ’18, meaning the Broncos had circled back to Kaepernick after he became a free agent. Jhabvala said 2016.
Wanted Kaepernick to take a huge pay cut
Kaepernick, did in fact have a chance to join Denver in during the 2016 offseason; the Niners and Broncos talked for a couple of weeks about a trade, and reportedly settled on the parameters of the deal.
But the major sticking point, and what Elway is hoping you’ve forgotten, is that he wanted Kaepernick to either take a massive pay cut or for the 49ers to offset his pay.
Via an April 2016 story on NBCSports Bay Area, Kaepernick was slated to earn a guaranteed base salary of $11.9 million from San Francisco in 2016; Elway wouldn’t pay more than $7 million, a 41 percent cut in pay – and wanted Kaepernick to be the starter.
It didn’t get better after ’16. Denver wanted Kaepernick to agree to $7 million base again for 2017. Had he agreed to the deal, he would have walked away from $12.4 million in base salary and as much as $16.2 million over those two years.
Not only was it sound for Kaepernick to say no (he did reportedly agree to a smaller pay cut, but the Broncos wouldn’t budge), especially since solid veteran backups can make $7 million a season, let alone starters, he would have been setting a bad precedent for other players and with the union.
Kaepernick wound up earning around $14 million in 2016 with salary plus bonuses, roughly equal to what Denver wanted to pay him for two seasons.
This was a few weeks after the Broncos had offered Brock Osweiler a three-year, $49.5 million contract with $30 million guaranteed to remain with Denver. Osweiler spurned Elway and the Broncos to take a larger deal with Houston, yet was still welcomed back last year when the team needed a quarterback and was terrible.
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