But it was owner Bob McNair got his wish after publicly pushing for the Texans to find stability at quarterback on the heels of a playoff loss in which 2015 starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was intercepted four times and lost a fumble.
Agent Jimmy Sexton fielded only one known offer from the Broncos -- three years for $45 million. Osweiler was a second-round pick of Denver in 2012 and started seven games, all in 2015, with Manning dealing with a foot injury.
Manning formally announced his retirement on Monday.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien spent Wednesday at the pro day for the University of Wisconsin but had some familiarity with Osweiler because of joint practices and preseason games against the Broncos.
O'Brien flip-flopped quarterbacks early in 2015, benching Hoyer for Ryan Mallett only to later release Mallett and call on T.J. Yates and street free agent Brandon Weeden when Hoyer suffered a concussion. In 2014, the Texans used Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum.
It could be telling that the Broncos developed Osweiler but did not budge off their set price of $15 million per season. Vice president and general manager John Elway drafted and developed Osweiler, who roomed with Elway's son at Arizona State.
Elway has been willing to make difficult decisions in free agency before, including letting defensive end Elvis Dumervil and defensive back Champ Bailey leave town.
Osweiler had 10 touchdowns and six interceptions for the Broncos in 2015. He was sacked 23 times in just 275 dropbacks. He was 5-2 fronting a the NFL's top-ranked defense.
The Texans were 9-7 in 2015 and have a star wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, who had 111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns despite a quarterback carousel in which five quarterbacks attempted passes in the regular season.