ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos know a proven starting quarterback doesn’t make it to the open market unless his former team elected to let him go or he has some baggage.
That baggage can be past injuries or surgeries, it can be of the worn-out-the-welcome variety, or it can be that somebody else decided it was time to make a change. But bottom line is the slam-dunk, can’t-miss guy behind center isn’t out there very often.
Former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese once said, “You have a better chance of signing Bigfoot."
Enter Mark Sanchez, the first of the Broncos’ moves to fill the depth chart at quarterback. On Friday, the Broncos traded a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire the 29-year-old Sanchez.
Sanchez has four playoff wins but was little more than parsley on the plate for the Eagles, with Sam Bradford having just signed -- for two years, $36 million -- to be the starter and Chase Daniel having just signed to a three-year, $21 million deal to be the backup.
Sanchez, as Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said on Twitter, is just the first step. The Broncos are still looking for veteran help and will give heavy consideration to using a premium draft pick on a quarterback in April.
But the Broncos have entered the quarterback market on Elway’s watch before, and they made it work -- in historic, championship fashion -- when they signed the surgically repaired Manning in 2012. They have been forced into a position to try this again, to replace Manning with Sanchez and another player or two to be identified later.
Sanchez, who signed with the Eagles in 2014, certainly fits the available-former-starter model. He hasn’t started more than eight games in a season since 2012, but overall, he is 37-35 as a starter in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs.
Sanchez will turn 30 in November, but he gives the Broncos a player with 78 career starts -- regular season and postseason combined -- to start the reconstruction. He is in the final year of a two-year contract signed with the Eagles in March, and he was slated to have a $5.5 million salary-cap charge in the upcoming season, which would give the Eagles three quarterbacks with cap figures of at least $5 million -- a good indicator of why they were ready to move Sanchez.
Sanchez joins Trevor Siemian, who worked as the Broncos’ No. 2 quarterback last season, when Manning missed seven starts with a left foot injury. Siemian was a seventh-round pick by the Broncos last year, and coach Gary Kubiak has said he “has a pro arm, no question." The Broncos see him as a player who could compete to start down the road.
Even so, the Broncos aren’t finished. They’ve talked plenty inside the walls of their suburban Denver complex about how Robert Griffin III would fit in their offense. Griffin will likely take team visits, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Griffin had a visit scheduled with the New York Jets. The Broncos have talked with the San Francisco 49ers about a trade for Colin Kaepernick, but Kaepernick's current contract doesn't match the Broncos' salary-cap room and would need significant adjustment.
Almost immediately after Osweiler moved on, Elway said the Broncos would explore “other options" at quarterback. Getting a former starter for a conditional seventh-round draft pick made Sanchez a low-risk investment as the team's opening move.
The Broncos aren’t finished, but less than 12 hours after Osweiler was formally introduced as the Texans’ new franchise-quarterback hopeful, the Broncos showed that they too have already moved on.