The first quarterback domino fell in NFL free agency on Monday night. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Kirk Cousins. Case Keenum became the first quarterback to come off the board, verbally coming to terms with the Denver Broncos on a deal that will be signed when free agency officially kicks off Wednesday. According to a team source, two factors solidified Denver’s pursuit of Keenum: The strong support of Broncos senior personnel adviser Gary Kubiak, and a player-friendly contract structure that is being pursued by Kirk Cousins. Those two realities made Keenum the more attractive choice for the Broncos – creating an aggressive push to get a deal hammered out on Monday afternoon. It’s a tide that is believed to have begun shifting at the NFL scouting combine, as word circulated around the league that Cousins could open the free-agent negotiating period looking to secure a shorter-term, fully guaranteed contract. That kind of structure was expected to cause some attrition amongst the teams expected to pursue Cousins – and it ultimately became a reality when Denver began laying plans for the first day of free agency. Conversely, word spread around the combine that Keenum would not necessarily wait for a Cousins deal to find an NFL suitor, choosing instead to strike quickly in the process. The Broncos ultimately decided not to make Cousins an offer on Monday, a team source said. Kubiak gave Keenum his start in the NFL, signing him to the Houston Texans’ practice squad after he went undrafted in 2012. The Keenum deal officially removes a suitor for Cousins, although as of Monday afternoon it appeared the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets would be making the strongest push to land the former Washington Redskins starter. The Arizona Cardinals also remain in the mix for Cousins, although financial implications could continue to complicate their pursuit. Of that trio, the Vikings are the favorites to land Cousins. In what could end up tipping the current state of negotiations, Cousins posted a farewell letter to Redskins fans on his website Monday that was initially hash-tagged with two NFL teams: the Jets and Vikings. Those tags were eventually removed from the post, but not before it had made the rounds on social media. And not before many had noticed the Broncos were not among the teams to get the initial shout-out.
The Bills sent Glenn along with the 21st pick in the first round to Cincinnati in exchange for the 12th pick in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft. The Bills also sent the Bengals a fifth-round pick with a sixth-round pick coming back in return. The deal is an apparent move for Buffalo to position itself for one of the several quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round of the draft. The Bills dealt Tyrod Taylor, who played in the team’s first playoff game since 1999, to the Browns on Friday and are in obvious need of a quarterback. Glenn, a second-round pick in 2012, started at left tackle for the Bills since his rookie season. A foot injury has limited the 28-year-old to 16 starts in the last two seasons. The Bills now have the 12th and 22nd (from Kansas City) picks in the first round, as well as the 53rd and 56th (from Rams) picks in the second round and may not be done dealing as they look to land their quarterback of the future. The move further solidifies a change in direction from general manager Brandon Beane, who took over last spring and inherited Taylor and Glenn.
Quarterback Drew Brees is a New Orleans institution as the face of the Saints, but other teams have reportedly inquired about his availability. The Minnesota Vikings called about Brees. Pelissero noted Minnesota’s “plan going into the day was to engage agents for all their QB options”. Still, Brees’ pedigree alone makes the call worthwhile for teams looking for quarterbacks. He is an 11-time Pro Bowler and captured Super Bowl XLIV MVP honors in New Orleans’ victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. He has led the league in passing yards seven times during his tenure the Saints spanning from 2006 through 2017, doing so as recently as 2016 (5,208 passing yards). While he is 39 years old, the Purdue product was still effective last season with 4,334 passing yards, 23 touchdown throws and only eight interceptions for a New Orleans team that won the NFC South. From Minnesota’s perspective, it needs a reliable signal-caller with Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum all ticketed for free agency this offseason. It is in win-now mode with a defense that finished first in the league in yards and points allowed in 2017, but the ceiling is limited without an effective quarterback.