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Case Keenum lines up a Broncos deal that should get the quarterback market moving

Case Keenum has lined up a deal with the Broncos. (John Bazemore / Associated Press)
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The Denver Broncos have their quarterback, and it isn’t Kirk Cousins.

Case Keenum, regarded as the consolation prize in free agency for quarterback-needy NFL teams, has lined up a contract with the Broncos. He is set become Denver’s new starter when free agency opens Wednesday and the deal becomes official, according to a person familiar with the situation. The pending agreement was first reported by ESPN.

The Broncos will become Keenum’s fourth NFL team after the Houston Texans, Rams (in both St. Louis and Los Angeles) and Minnesota Vikings. He had a breakthrough 2017 season with the Vikings in which he threw for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, playing at a near-league-MVP level and helping Minnesota to reach the NFC title game.

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But Keenum and fellow Vikings quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are eligible for unrestricted free agency, and the team chose to move on. The Vikings opted against using their franchise-player tag on Keenum, and many within the sport expect them to sign Cousins, the consensus top quarterback in free agency who’s coming off three straight 4,000-yard seasons with the Washington Redskins.

The Broncos are taking a bit of a chance on Keenum, given his journeyman history. Before last season, Keenum had 24 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions in the NFL. He hadn’t been the answer at quarterback for the Texans or the Rams through two stints with each franchise.

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But the Broncos are desperate to get back to contender status after slumping to a record of 5-11 in a 2017 season in which they tried Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler at quarterback. They traded up in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft to get Lynch, but he has not solidified the position through his two disappointing seasons in Denver. John Elway, the Broncos’ front office football czar, has settled on Keenum as his latest attempt to fix the quarterback situation.

“I still think that we’re not too far away,” Elway said at the recent NFL scouting combine. “Obviously we’ve got to get better at that position. We didn’t play well there last year. But that doesn’t go all on the players, too. There were some things we should have done, that we should have done differently that we didn’t do. I feel like we can get right back in the thick of things rather quickly because I think we still have a good defensive football team. I think in the offense we’re gonna get better …. I think we’re gonna step ahead and figure out what we do at the quarterback position. I’m excited about where we are and think that we have a chance to get back in the thick of things quickly.”

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The Broncos are two seasons removed from a Super Bowl title won in Peyton Manning’s final NFL season. Now they will count on Keenum to get them back into the playoffs and, they hope, be in the mix to advance deep into the postseason.

They also have the fifth overall selection in the NFL draft, and it seemingly remains possible that they could consider taking a quarterback early in the draft. It is believed that Keenum’s contract will be relatively short-term, according to the person with knowledge of the situation. That leaves open the possibility that he would be a placeholder at the position until a young quarterback taken in the draft is ready to play.

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