The defending Super Bowl champions need to start over at quarterback. Brock Osweiler is heading to Houston.
In the most stunning news of free agency thus far, NFL Media's Rand Getlin reported that Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans have agreed in principle to terms on a new contract, according to a source informed of the negotiations. The new deal is worth $72 million over four years -- including a $12 million signing bonus -- a source told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. NFL Media's Albert Breer reports the deal includes $37 million fully guaranteed in addition to $21 million in 2016 and $55 million in the first three years of his deal, according to a source informed of the contract.
"It was very difficult to leave Denver," Osweiler told reporters after arriving in Houston on Wednesday night, via the Houston Chronicle. "I'd be lying if I said anything else. I had a tremendous four seasons in Denver.
"Those are four years I will always hold close to my heart," Osweiler continued. "Coming to Houston was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
The news will set the quarterback carousel spinning madly again. The Broncos suddenly have Trevor Siemian as the only quarterback on the roster, although he won't be considered a serious contender to start in Week 1 for Denver. Osweiler, meanwhile, becomes the presumptive "franchise quarterback" for a playoff team in Houston that has struggled to find a starter for coach Bill O'Brien.
"Quarterback was our No. 1 priority," Texans owner Bob McNair told the Houston Chronicle. He (Osweiler) was the one we wanted. (General manager) Rick (Smith) said he was going to get him and he did."
Rapoport reported that Colin Kaepernickcould be an option for the Denver Broncos if Osweiler moved on. At the time, we thought that information might have been used as leverage in negotiations with Osweiler. But we now know the Texans were deadly serious about completing a deal and the Broncos didn't pay Osweiler what he wanted.
The Texans are taking a risk by putting so much faith in an unknown quantity, even as it leaves an AFC rival caught flat-footed. Osweiler was streaky in seven starts last season. He handled himself well for a first-time starter but also went through long droughts where he could not move the offense. He showed good arm strength and pocket movement but was slow to make decisions like many young quarterbacks.
This is a player the Broncos benched just a few quarters before the playoffs. But the Broncos clearly valued him highly; NFL Media's Albert Breer reported that Osweiler was offered a $16 million-per-year contract by Denver, which included $30 million in guarantees. Rapoport noted that Osweiler's move to Houston was motivated in part by him taking his benching personally.
"This is not a surprise. It was clear to John (Elway) last week that (Osweiler) didn't want to be here," a Broncos source told NFL Media's Jeff Darlington.
Texans general manager Rick Smith and coach Bill O'Brien, meanwhile, are betting their football futures on Osweiler. Along with the signing of running back Lamar Miller, the lackluster Texans offense now looks a lot different. Osweiler will find a receiving group in Houston that does not measure up to Denver's crew, and the Broncos' defense was the best friend a quarterback could have.
"If we waited for the draft, we would have had to give up three picks to move up," McNair told the Houston Chronicle. "That's three quality players. Now we can take the best players."
In the end, Brock Osweiler followed the money and bet on himself. The Texans matched that bet, and the result of the gamble will help shape the next few years of football in Houston and Denver.
Houston's scheduled trip to Denver suddenly looks like a strong candidate to be the NFL Kickoff game in Week 1.