‘We’ll find the right player’: Peyton Manning-less Denver Broncos find themselves scrambling for QB

The general manager of the Super Bowl champions, John Elway, has a huge hole to fill with Brock Osweiler bolting to the Houston Texans 48 hours after Peyton Manning’s retirement.

John Elway is scrambling again. The general manager of the Super Bowl champions has a huge hole to fill with Brock Osweiler bolting to the Houston Texans 48 hours after Peyton Manning’s retirement.

That leaves Trevor Siemian as the only quarterback on the Denver Broncos’ roster. The second-year pro has taken just one NFL snap, a kneel-down at that. If Elway’s sweating it, he’s certainly not showing it.

“We’ve stayed true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here. That’s been a successful approach for us,” Elway said.

“While we did offer a very competitive and fair long-term contract to Brock, we ultimately had to remain disciplined while continuing to assemble a roster that can compete for championships.”

So, now the man who famously declared there was no Plan B when he lured Manning to Denver four years ago must find a passer who will defend Denver’s title in 2016.

“We are confident that we’ll find the right player,” Elway said.

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Elway could turn to free agents such as Robert Griffin III or Ryan Fitzpatrick – whose agent, Jimmy Sexton, also represents Osweiler. Or he could pursue a trade – Colin Kaepernick, anyone? He will almost certainly select a quarterback in the early rounds of next month’s draft, too.

Osweiler made US$660,000 (Dh2.4 million) last year and Denver offered him about $16m a year. ESPN reported Osweiler’s four-year deal with the Texans is worth $18m annually with $37m guaranteed.

“Shocked,” tweeted Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “I thought Brock wanted to play with us lol”

Instead, he will play against them – the Texans are among the teams that will visit Denver next season when the Broncos become the sixth team to open the defence of their Super Bowl championship with a new quarterback under centre.

They are the first to lose their top two quarterbacks and face this level of uncertainty.

The Broncos also will have to replace defensive end Malik Jackson, who went to Jacksonville for six years and $90m, and linebacker Danny Trevathan, the leading tackler on the league’s No 1 defense, who rejoined John Fox in Chicago on a four-year deal worth $28m.

The Broncos knew they would lose several key members of their team after beating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, although Osweiler’s price tag took may by surprise.

Elway’s main off-season priority was keeping Von Miller, so he placed the exclusive franchise tag on his star linebacker. That bought him more time to work out a long-term deal with the Super Bowl MVP – and paved the way for Osweiler’s big payday.

Osweiler’s value skyrocketed when Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford re-signed with their respective teams in recent days, leaving Osweiler as the top QB available, and then the Texans decided he was their man.

Osweiler served as Manning’s apprentice for three-and-a-half years, then had a 5-2 record when Manning was sidelined with a torn ligament in his left foot last season.

Manning worked his way back into shape with the help of an orthotics guru who set up shop in his garage and stealthy workouts with practice squad receiver Jordan Taylor and sidelined tight end Jeff Heuerman.

Finally, Manning was summoned from the bench in the third quarter of the season finale against San Diego when Denver’s offense sputtered under Osweiler. Manning led a comeback that secured the AFC’s top play-off seed and coach Gary Kubiak named him the starter for the play-offs.

Although he was disappointed at being demoted, Osweiler pledged his full support for Manning and Kubiak. At the Super Bowl, Osweiler provided encouragement on the sideline as Manning struggled, completing just 13 passes for 141 yards.

Thanks to Denver’s dominant defence, it was enough.

And in the aftermath of Denver’s win, Elway said he wanted Osweiler back, proclaiming: “We wouldn’t have been world champs without Brock.”

Denver’s recent offer sat for several days without a reply, however, and another ominous sign came Monday when Osweiler was a no-show at Manning’s farewell news conference.

Osweiler was the only quarterback ever drafted with the explicit intent of one day succeeding the icon, who the late Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams dubbed “the Great Peyton Manning”.

Instead, he’s replacing Brian Hoyer.

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