Trust John…Don’t worry Elway knows what he is doing. I just kept telling myself that. And I had to remind myself of that often. Because of all the text from friends or the constant stories on TV or the Internet about how the Broncos are falling apart.
The easy narrative was that the Broncos are in trouble because Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler signed with the Houston Texans. Add that to the fact that the historically good defense lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. The media and my friends were having a field day making fun of the Broncos and John Elway. But Elway had a plan, was patient and the general conciseness now is that the greatest Bronco of all time did a great job.
5th and 10 did a draft preview podcast for all our Jaguars fans. And all you readers in Jacksonville know you had a great draft. You don’t need me to tell you that. I can’t wait to see that new defense on the field, and how the team as a whole handles the raised expectations.
While we didn’t get a podcast in before the draft for our fans in Denver, this article is for you. I want to lay it all out there to show you that the narrative that the national media has been feeding us everyday is wrong. That the Broncos and John Elway had a successful offseason and will be fielding a team that is even better than the one who just won Super Bowl 50.
- One year ago – The preparation for this offseason actually begun last offseason. The Broncos front office has done a fantastic job of drafting talent late in the draft, developing that talent, and then making the right decisions to let those players sign giant free agent contracts elsewhere. When that happens the Broncos are awarded compensatory picks in the following years draft. So when we let players such as Julius Thomas, Terrence Knighton and others walk, it set the team up with more picks this year. The same will happen next year. Most are projecting that the Broncos will get 4 compensatory picks next year.
- Lost players – the reason Denver will be receiving all those picks next year is because shockingly, every other team wanted to sign the free agents off of the Super Bowl Champions. Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, and David Bruton all helped Denver win its third Super Bowl. And I will love them for that, but can we go over quickly why it was the right decision to let them go
- Manning – Sat out almost half the season and still almost led the league in interceptions. Probably had about 10 more dropped by DB’s who couldn’t believe the ball was thrown right to them. He was an all time great and then Broncos wouldn’t be where they are without him, but it was time to retire.
- Osweiler – Yes the Broncos drafted him as the possible successor four years ago. And he was there if we needed him. But who knows him better than the Broncos, and they decided it wasn’t worth it to pay him starting QB money. Brock held the ball too long and got a lot of balls batted down. He’s good, but not $19/mil a year good.
- Trevathon – solid player that nobody nationally cared about until all of a sudden it was a huge deal that the Broncos lost him.
- Jackson – Great player. And I appreciate his honesty on why he left. “It was all about the money”. Denver will miss him, but the opportunity cost lost of paying him and Von Miller so much when we can use it on other assets is not worth it. Jackson is a great example of what we spoke about earlier. The Broncos drafted him in the 5th round, developed him and got 4 productive years on an amazing contract. And now will get a 3rd round pick for losing him. Pretty great deal!
- Bruton – great special teams player and solid backup. Glad he got paid.
- It doesn’t balance out – this is where the sharks smelled blood. We were losing all the big name free agents and the only players coming in were middle of the road players or players coming off injury. Lets quickly go over why these signings were smart because Elway never wants to draft for a need.
- Russell Okung – one of the top LT’s in the game when healthy, Okung signed a prove it deal. The deal was so team friendly that agents were actually mad that the Broncos got such a good deal. Could be a huge steal and if it doesn’t, it wasn’t a big investment.
- Donald Stephenson – what’s the next level below under the radar? This is my prediction for this year’s Darian Stewart signing. Nobody knows him now, but the right player in the right system can make a world of difference.
- Phil Taylor – former first round pick. Giant man. Those are the two descriptions most used to describe Taylor. Do you know what happens when players get drafted by the Browns? Nothing good. Can’t wait to see what Taylor does in a real organization. Reminds me when we brought in Pot-roast a few years back and all of a sudden he could play football again.
- Jared Crick – Hard working, solid player. This was a depth signing in case the draft didn’t fall the right way (spoiler: it did)
- Garrett Graham – knows Kubiak’s system. Will be a good fallback if Jeff Huerman doesn’t come back as quickly as expected.
- Today and Tomorrow – In his 5 years running the Broncos front office, Elway has shown a knack for the small details in stocking his team with assets that help the team now and set them up for success in the future. He will never allow himself to be painted into a corner or be desperate in any situation. Speaking of…
- You want how much!? – Denver kicked the tires on almost every quarterback that was available this offseason. They were linked to such Gridiron legends such as Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon, Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown, Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Colin Kapernick. Every situation was different, but the consistent factor was Elway wasn’t going to bring in a guy that wasn’t on his terms. The free agents wanted too much money. He wasn’t going to mortgage the future by giving up draft picks. And he wasn’t going to take on a bad contract in a trade. It doesn’t solve your QB problem by bringing in just anybody. And it hurts your team on so many levels to overpay a back up with starters money.
- Sanchez – in comes Mark Sanchez. Along with our other free agent signings, this was for depth and buys the team some time to look at younger options. Sanchez is in his eighth year now. He will probably never be a franchise guy. But he is a great locker room leader. He proved with the Jets that if you don’t ask too much of him, he can manage an offense and let a great defense win the game. I can easily see Sanchez starting every game this year for the Broncos and doing well. I can also see Paxton Lynch developing fast and taking over and Sanchez becomes who Gary Kubiak was to John Elway during their playing careers. Give me Sanchez at 4 million over any of the other QBs.
Matt Russell, Tom Heckart, John Elway and all the boys down at Dove Valley have a great eye for talent. Of course they aren’t 100% correct with every pick, but no one is. Picking at the end of the round every year is tough. It’s a whole different game than some of the teams that constantly have top ten picks. We have enough of a sample size now to really appreciate what the Denver front office and scouts have accomplished over the past few years.
As discussed earlier, the Broncos often find themselves with extra draft picks from letting free agents go the year before. This gives them flexibility to trade up and be aggressive when they see value in a player. We have seen this the past two years in the first round with Shane Ray and Paxton Lynch. It is not as big of a deal to give up a third round pick to move up when you have two. Another advantage coming Elway’s way next year is the league is going to allow teams to trade those compensatory picks.
2016 was the first year that Denver chose an offensive player first under Elway’s lead. I read often that he leans toward drafting defense first because he knows exactly what kind of player scared him to go against. Or what kind of player he really struggled against. This strategy has obviously paid off with Denver having one of the best defenses the league has ever seen.
And last, Denver has been able to get tremendous value out of late round and undrafted players. This is part of the reason why the Broncos were able to sign Aquib Talib, TJ Ward, Demarcus Ware, and Peyton Manning. Denver has young cheap talent that is contributing all over the field. Jackson and Trevathon were 5th and 6th rounds respectively. Guys that played a role last year and that the Broncos are expecting big things from this year include CJ Anderson(6th round), Bennie Fowler(undrafted), Jeff Heuerman(3rd round), Shaquil Barett(undrafted), and of course the great Chris Harris(undrafted).
In addition, this year’s class will be pushing veterans for playing time all year. Speaking of this years draft class (award winning transition), lets look at the picks quickly and how they fit into Elway’s master plan
- Paxton Lynch – huge upside. Potential franchise QB. But most importantly, he will make 9 million dollars over the next four years while Brock Osweiler will make 72 million. And Lynch might be better at football right now!
- Adam Gotsis – Australian. Beast of a man that is still learning the details of playing football. I’m excited about this one. At the very least he will sound cool in his interviews.
- Justin Simmons – Amazing athlete. Can learn from Ward and Stewart while he destroys people on special teams.
- Devontae Booker – Will be Broncos starting RB by the end of the year. Can’t believe we got him in the fourth round
- Connor McGovern – Really strong guard. Will push Sambraillo and Garcia for playing time.
- Andy Janovich – Ball of Muscle. Likes to hit people really hard. Have read that he is awesome on special teams too.
- Will Parks – the thing I keep reading is that he is a special athlete. I hope he’s good at football too.
- Riley Dixon – He kicks the ball extremely high and far. That’s a good thing.
When watching the draft, a pattern came up after the Broncos would pick. The draft experts would keep saying that the pick was tremendous value or “I can’t believe this guy is available for them to take”. Obviously the draft is a crapshoot. But the guys that were saying this have watched thousands of hours of tape and are taking an educated guess on how these players will transition to the pro game. So I’ll take.
Defending the Championship
I’m guessing by now you can tell that I’m not too worried about the departures during free agency. I’m really excited about the draft class and what they can bring to the team this year and how they develop in the future. But what I’m really excited for and is the reason why I think the Broncos could be even better next year is the offensive line and quarterback positions.
O-Line- the Broncos were devastated by injuries on their line last year. They had so many guys go down at tackle they had to bring in a retired Ryan Harris in off the couch. They played guys like Tyler Polumbus and Michael Schofield. It was a mess. And it showed. The holes weren’t there for the running game and both QB’s would be rushed into making throws. This year should be much better with Okung and Stephenson or Sambraillo. Guards Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez played well but their best days are behind them. I’m excited to see Garcia, Sambraillo, and McGovern come in. They are much better suited for the system. It’s possible the Broncos have 4 new starters along the offensive line. And that’s a good thing.
Quarterback – People focus too much on losing the name of Peyton Manning or assume that Brock Osweiler is great because he got a big contract. But I think how bad the QB play was for much of the season last year. If we just get average play from this position it will be a huge step forward for the team. I think Sanchez will be a good short-term option. He will excel in the bootleg 2 read plays. He will really appreciate Demaryus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders ability to catch the ball in traffic. And I think we can expect a break out year from TE Jeff Heuerman. Sanchez can hold down the fort this year and Lynch can take over next year for the two time defending champions.
Way too early predictions for next year
- Sanchez will start every game this year
- Broncos will sign Arian Foster in August, Ronnie Hillman won’t make the team
- Broncos sign Von Miller to long term deal before season
- Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor become weapons
- The Raiders are over-rated. They made some great signings, but Jack Del Rio will hold them back
- Broncos win the AFC West for the 6th year in a row
Thank you for reading this small novel. And now when you take your mom out to brunch tomorrow and she starts telling you how worried she is about the Broncos, you can show her this article and give her the best Mother’s Day present possible…peace of mind.
In John We Trust.