- Ed Andrieski/AP
After winning the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos are suddenly shorthanded 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 draft, the Broncos originally had the No. 25 pick overall. They then made a pair of trades, first swapping picks with the New England Patriots and moving back to No. 31 overall, and then later trading with the Tampa Bay 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, 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 that they would still be able to draft him with the No. 57 pick – their second pick in the second round – which they ultimately did. But that came at a cost.
Players drafted in the second round or later are given a four-year rookie contract. Players drafted in the first round get a four-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 or 31st pick on Osweiler, then 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 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 one who might be rough around the edges – instead of training 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.