ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — A lot of fans were stunned by Denver Broncos general manager John Elway's decision to replace quarterback Case Keenum with Joe Flacco.
Count Keenum among them.
Appearing on the Sports Spectrum Podcast this week with his wife, Kimberly, Keenum said he was caught off guard when he was informed the Broncos and Ravens had the framework in place for a trade that will end Keenum's stint as the Broncos starting QB after just one season.
Neither the Broncos nor the Ravens, or even Flacco, can formally acknowledge the trade until it becomes official when the new league year begins March 13.
Keenum is under no such gag order.
"Elway called me that morning and we had a great conversation, which he didn't have to do, and I appreciated that," Keenum said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast this week.
"I was definitely shocked, it was a surprise for us ... we're definitely disappointed, it's not something we wanted to happen. I know that everybody's doing their job and John feels like that was a chance for him to help the Broncos out."
A year ago, Keenum was a hot commodity, second only to Kirk Cousins among available veteran quarterbacks. He was coming off a breakout season in Minnesota, where he went 11-3 and helped the Vikings reach the NFC championship game.
When the Vikings signed Cousins, Keenum inked a two-year, $36 million deal with Denver that included $25 million guaranteed. The couple bought a home in Denver and Keenum said he hoped to turn his short-term deal into a long-term situation.
He got off to a slow start last season, however, throwing interceptions in Denver's first eight games on his way to a career-high 15 interceptions, which tied for second-most in the NFL.
Preaching patience became a weekly mantra of his with Keenum expressing confidence he and his new teammates and coaches would eventually adjust to each other in time to make a late-season run.
By December the Broncos weren't rolling but staggering, bedeviled by an injury epidemic that had waylaid three O-line starters and the team's top two tight ends. On Dec. 5, Emmanuel Sanders, who rose to No. 1 receiving threat when Demaryius Thomas was traded to Houston, tore an Achilles at practice.
The Broncos lost their final four games, finishing 6-10 for their first back-to-back losing seasons since the Nixon Administration. That led Elway to fire Vance Joseph and replace him with Vic Fangio . Keenum wasn't among the players who attended Fangio's introductory news conference because he was on vacation out of the country.
As he cleaned out his locker after the final game, Keenum said, "I learned a lot this year. I learned what it is to be a franchise quarterback."
Elway clearly didn't see Keenum in that way.
So, he's moving on to another veteran in Flacco, 34, who will be Denver's fifth starting quarterback since Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl three years ago.
Keenum is slated to count $21 million against the salary cap next season, which is actually more than Flacco's $18.5 million salary cap hit.
That Broncos are hoping a trade partner emerges or that they can restructure Keenum's contract to a figure more befitting a backup. Otherwise, releasing him would cost them $7 million but save them $11 million.
Keenum seems to believe his time with the Broncos is over.
"My time with the Broncos has been really special," he said on the podcast. "I have enjoyed every second of it. I have absolutely been so proud to wake up every day and to walk into that building to represent the Broncos as their quarterback. ... It was an honor."
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton