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Brock Osweiler gives Houston a QB solution, as Broncos now seek starter

Brock Osweiler ditched the Denver Broncos to sign with the Houston Texans on the first day of NFL free agency. (Jack Dempsey/AP Photo)

The fortunes of two NFL franchises changed considerably Wednesday when quarterback Brock Osweiler left the Denver Broncos, the recently crowned Super Bowl champions, to agree to a handsome deal with the Houston Texans as a free agent.

The deal, lined up shortly before the official opening of the NFL’s unrestricted free agent market at 4 p.m. ET, gives a major boost to a quarterback-needy Texans team that managed to reach the playoffs last season even without an established player at the sport’s most important position.

Osweiler’s departure left the Broncos without a clear successor to the just-retired Peyton Manning at quarterback. The list of possibilities for John Elway, Denver’s chief roster architect, includes trying to trade for the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick or signing Robert Griffin III, released Monday by the Washington Redskins, or 2015 New York Jets starter Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency.

2016 NFL free agency and trade grades

The Broncos are considering Griffin, according to a person familiar with the situation, but it was not immediately clear how prominently Griffin features in the Broncos’ contingency plans.

The agreement between Osweiler and the Texans is for approximately $18 million per season, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. ESPN reported that the contract will pay Osweiler $72 million over four years. The Broncos apparently were unwilling to offer more than $16 million per year. Denver’s proposal contained a total of about $30 million in guaranteed money, roughly $7 million less than Osweiler gets in his Houston deal.

The Broncos could have ensured Osweieler’s return with the use of the team’s franchise tag, but the quaterback was left free to test the market when the Broncos used the designation instead on standout pass-rusher Von Miller, the Super Bowl MVP.

The Osweiler contract, negotiated by high-profile agent Jimmy Sexton, falls in line with the $18 million per season that Sam Bradford received to re-sign with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason, and is just shy of the $19.953 million that Kirk Cousins receives under his one-year franchise-player deal with the Redskins.

Osweiler, 25, has made seven NFL starts, all of them this past season when Broncos Coach Gary Kubiak ordered Manning out of the lineup to spend time rehabilitating a foot injury. Osweiler, a fourth-year pro, also made one relief appearance and had 10 touchdown passes, six interceptions and a passer rating of 86.4 in his eight games last season. He threw for 1,967 yards.

Kubiak returned the job to Manning during the regular season finale and reinserted Manning into the lineup as the starter for the postseason.

Osweiler had played 13 games and had thrown a total of 17 regular season passes for the Broncos in his first three NFL seasons.

The Texans lost an opening-round AFC playoff game to the Kansas City Chiefs in which quarterback Brian Hoyer threw four interceptions. Osweiler’s arrival potentially could stabilize the position for the Texans, who have the 22nd overall selection in the first round of the NFL draft and perhaps were not in position to be able to choose a quarterback ready to be a starter in 2016.

Osweiler’s exit leaves the Broncos with one quarterback, Trevor Siemian, on their roster. He played in one game last season as a rookie and has not thrown a regular season pass.

The Broncos perhaps could chase Kaepernick, the former Super Bowl starter for San Francisco whose representatives reportedly sought permission from the 49ers to seek a trade. Griffin, the 2012 offensive rookie of the year, is available after losing the starting job to Cousins last season. Fitzpatrick, also represented by Sexton, had a productive 2015 season for the Jets in helping that team to a 10-6 record, falling just short of the playoffs.

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