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Broncos want to keep Brock Osweiler, but will have to pony up

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Broncos will need to pay to keep Osweiler (1:55)

ESPN NFL Insider Joe Banner discusses the market for quarterback Brock Osweiler and how the Peyton Manning decision is impacting Denver's ability to finalize a deal. (1:55)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Before free agency officially opens around the NFL at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, there is a two-day negotiating window that opens on Monday.

Players and teams can’t sign contracts in that preliminary window, but it is a formal chance for a player and his representatives to see what the market is for the player’s services.

So, here’s a one-a-day look at where things stand with the Denver Broncos' most prominent free agents.

Thursday: Brock Osweiler.

Friday: Malik Jackson.

Status report: As the Broncos' backup quarterback for four seasons, Osweiler is poised for the open market at a high-demand position in a league stocked with teams still looking for a solution. However, the Broncos are working hard to keep him and appear willing, barring a break-the-bank offer from elsewhere, to spend what’s needed to keep Osweiler in the fold.

The resume: The Broncos went 5-2 in Osweiler’s starts this past season when Peyton Manning was out of the lineup with an injured left foot. He showed some late-game chops in the Broncos’ overtime wins against Cincinnati and New England, and both of those victories were key reasons why the Broncos had home-field advantage in the AFC on the way to a Super Bowl 50 win. For the year, Osweiler threw for 1,967 yards in eight games with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had three games with at least 296 yards passing, including 299 yards passing in the win over the Bengals.

The Broncos’ position: They have invested four years in Osweiler’s development since they made him, as a 20-year-old, a second-round pick in the 2012 draft. They’ve seen him handle the high-pressure atmosphere on the field in his stretch-drive work this past season and seen his off-the-field composure in how he handled his situation with Manning’s injury as the Broncos essentially named a quarterback on a week-to-week basis from mid-November until the end of the regular season. There is some concern, from a football perspective, that Osweiler was sacked 20 times in his seven starts, 23 times in the eight games, and appeared on the injury report with shoulder, elbow, rib and knee injuries during that stretch as well. He needs to find the balance between making a play down the field with the punishment he is willing to take. It’s unlikely he would have been able to start the Broncos’ playoff opener because of the knee injury if Manning had not already been named the starter in the game.

Osweiler’s position: The guy is a quarterback who has shown he can win important games and keep his head in a high-profile situation. He helped a Super Bowl winner on the way to a title. Guys have gotten significant windfalls for a lot less than that. And after he waited more than three years to make his first regular-season start, no one should really begrudge the guy for feeling like he has waited his turn. When Sam Bradford got a two-year, $36 million deal to stay with the Philadelphia Eagles in recent days -- $26 million of that guaranteed -- that showed the cost of teams doing business in the quarterback aisle.

The bottom line: While it cannot be said definitively that Osweiler’s career sample size -- seven starts -- is enough to make him a slam-dunk franchise quarterback in waiting, he is likely the best option for the Broncos and that’s why Denver has tried hard to re-sign him before free agency opens. Should they succeed in re-signing him, the numbers in the deal will reflect those efforts. Then, they will need him to play to that deal if they are going to keep being an annual postseason participant.