After winning the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos are suddenly short-handed at quarterback with the retirement of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler’s surprising move to the Houston Texans in free agency. It is a rough position to be in and one they wouldn’t be facing if they had not made two minor trades during the 2012 NFL Draft.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Broncos originally had the No. 25 pick overall. They then made a pair of trades, first swapping picks with the Patriots and moving back to No. 31 overall, and then later trading with the Buccaneers and moving out of the first round to No. 36 overall in the second round.
The feeling at the time was that the defensive players the Broncos were targeting had already been taken, so why not move back a few spots. By moving down 11 spots, the two trades ultimately netted the Broncos what amounted to an extra fourth-round pick. But the moves also cost them a starting quarterback for the 2016 season.
Clearly the Broncos liked Osweiler out of Arizona State. They also clearly felt they would still be able to draft him with the No. 57 pick (their second pick in the second round), which the ultimately did do. But that came at a cost.
Players drafted in the second round or later are given a 4-year rookie contract. Players drafted in the first round get a 4-year rookie contract that also has an option for the team to extend it to five years.
If the Broncos had used either the 25th pick or the 31st pick on Osweiler, they would have exercised the option on his contract and he would be their starting quarterback in 2016. Instead, he spurned the Broncos in free agency and signed a $72 million contract with the Texans.
This is exactly why we see teams trade up into the back-end of the first round to draft quarterbacks who are viewed as projects even if they don’t have first-round talent. By taking a quarterback in the first round, it gives teams five years to develop a quarterback that might be rough around the edges, instead of four. Teams that wait are at a bigger risk of losing a player just as he is starting to mature into the position.
That extra year might not seem like much, but it was costly for the Broncos as they are now looking to defend their title with Mark Sanchez under center.