That's not to say Elway didn't share Miller's interest in Cousins. Once he realized the price tag would skyrocket out of a comfortable range, though, Elway didn't want to get left holding the bag in a relatively deep quarterback market. As NFL Network's James Palmer reported on March 13, the Broncos decided to pivot toward a full pursuit of former Vikings QB Case Keenum when they realized on the Monday night before free agency they wouldn't get Cousins. They ended up never making an offer for Cousins, Palmer reported.
A mere hour after McCartney began fielding each team's allotted best offer, the Broncos landed Keenum on a two-year, $36 million contract.
When Elway stood before the NFL world last Friday and declared we got our guy, he had plausible deniability in his corner.
We may never know how the Broncos' front office graded Cousins' attributes and value relative to Keenum's. But we do know that Elway preferred the option of Keenum-in-the-hand on a $36 million, two-year commitment over the prospect of Cousins-in-the-bush at nearly $90 million in guarantees.