But what's becoming increasingly clear is that the 2011 season -- if there is one -- and beyond likely won't include cornerback Champ Bailey.
The future Hall of Famer won't come right out and say he'll eventually bolt, but his frustration is evident with Denver now going on five years without a playoff berth. He's frequently discussed having earned all the personal accolades the NFL can offer and that a Super Bowl ring is paramount. But with the Broncos again reeling, signs of an uptick don't appear immediate and the player's closing in on 33 years old next June.
Bailey had thought he was about to sign a contract extension in October before the negotiations suddenly stopped. Since then, he's discussed having "options" as Denver closes out 2010 with five games, beginning with a visit to Kansas City on Sunday.
Reading between the lines, only his loyalty to teammates at this point, it appears, will sway him to end his career with the Broncos.
"I just know where we could be," Bailey said after Sunday's loss to St. Louis, using words like 'disappointed,' 'frustrated' and 'very upset' to describe the last several seasons. "I just know where we could be, and Mr. B (team owner Pat Bowlen) does everything he can to put us in position to do that. But we just haven't gotten it done.
"When I got here, we made the playoffs the first two years and it was supposed to be a common thing. But it's been downhill ever since."
Bailey has played under a slew of defensive coordinators. There have been six overall since the 2000 season.
He's also watched as teammates have come and gone at breakneck pace.
Only 15 players remain since Mike Shanahan was fired two years ago.
The nine-time Pro Bowl pick admitted a lack of stability helped usher him out of Washington in 2004, though, he added, "it's just the way the business is these days."
As for his looming free agency, he's trying to stay even keeled. Denver could put a franchise tag on Bailey but that likely would cause animosity in the locker room as well as for the player.
"I'm pretty level-headed about it. I don't really want to say I'm happy about it. But if I signed (an extension) it would have been great. I didn't so it's great, too," he said. "There are opportunities out there for me now. I'm not worried about it right now. I'm going to take care of myself, play these games and try to help my team win."
--The Broncos may want to close the book -- or lens cap -- on Spygate II, but there are loose ends that will need tying up.
The fired videographer who supposedly acted alone in taping a San Francisco walkthrough in London, Steve Scarnecchia, still has to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell. If stories don't jive, the case could be reopened.
But even before that, Fox Sports has ruffled feathers with a report that at a staff meeting last Friday, coach Josh McDaniels told his employees that the videotaping scandal he'd previously been tied to in cursory fashion in New England was "practiced, coached and worked on" to glean information illegally.
There are two issues: first, if that conversation occurred, it would be an admission that New England knowingly skirted rules; second, McDaniels reportedly told his current staff that if the information got out, "jobs were on the line."
McDaniels was asked to react to the report Monday, and he said, "I don't believe that to be the case," adding, too, that if any information from a staff meeting indeed had been leaked, it's "disappointing" but that he doesn't know if that's the case.
"I'm not going to go chasing ghosts about what that is. I have a lot of faith and trust in our staff," he said. One thing McDaniels already knows for sure is that questions about his job security have arrived, and they will be a distraction in the near term.
"It's not my decision and not something that's in my control. I'm just going to worry about what I can focus on and control the things I can control," he said.
Denver is 3-8 and on the cusp of being eliminated from the playoffs.
--Coach Josh McDaniels is getting the majority of heat, but receiver Brandon Lloyd believes accountability should be spread among the players.
"We get paid a lot of money to do this," he said. "And the pride, putting on this helmet and going out there and being fortunate enough to play this sport, there's a lot of play for."
It was suggested how Denver finishes the last five games will somehow reflect upon the character of the group.
Lloyd countered, "It's not a character issue. It comes down to performance. Everybody plays hard. It's a performance issue. It's doing what we're coached to do every time we step out on the field, period."
--Robert Ayers was able to return Sunday for the first time since Oct. 10, when he hurt his foot.
The 2009 first-round pick said he had no ill effects from the injury and that he felt good cardiovascular-wise.
Denver did shift in Jason Hunter with Ayers so not to put a full workload on Ayers right away.
"I'd say there's still some rust from the time off," McDaniels said. "But I thought he did make some plays, did a good job of setting the edge. He got caught on one reverse inside and let the ball around the corner.
"But he's getting back into the physical part of his game, which you really can't work on for six or more weeks when you're not out there practicing. He started making some strides as the game wore on in his bull rush techniques and did a decent job in the running game."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--ILB Joe Mays has drawn praise for his aggressive play while starting over the last three weeks. Mays has allowed Mario Haggan to play OLB for several weeks and worked his way into a rotation now that OLB Robert Ayers is back off a foot injury. He's one of eight NFZL players with at least nine defensive tackles and two special-teams stops in a game (11/22 vs. San Diego).
--WR Brandon Lloyd has 58 catches for 1,122 yards (19.3) with nine TDs, making him the first player since Jerry Rice in 1989 to toal at least 1,100 yards and nine receiving TDs while averaging 19.0 yards per catch through 11 games.
--RB Knowshon Moreno has accounted for all three TDs Denver has scored on opening drives the last three weeks, including two 4-yard rushes and a 17-yard reception from QB Kyle Orton in the first KC game on Nov. 14.
--P Britton Colquitt has a gross average of 50 yards or higher in five games this season but still struggles with consistency and generating hang time. His net the last three weeks prior to the Rams was 23.0, 33.2 and 31.6.
--QB Kyle Orton now leads the NFL with 3,370 passing yards, which ranks ninth all time after 11 games. The statistic is somewhat misleading given Denver's inability to create leads, which has put Orton in pass-only mode. An inconsistent run game has had the same sum effect.
--RB Lance Ball, Moreno's top backup, has 20 career carries - including runs of 17 and 23 yards, pushing his per-carry average to a healthy 6.2 per attempt. Ball, Knowshon Moreno and LenDale White figure to be part of the core at the position moving into 2011.
--WR Eddie Royal leads all NFL receivers with 326 yards after the catch. He has nine catches of 20-plus yards to date.
--DE Justin Bannan became the first Denver defensive lineman since 2006 to record two pass breakups in a game. Bannan has been among the most consistent players along the front seven this season.
--NT Jamal Williams had eight stops against the Rams, the most he's recorded in a game since vs. Indianapolis on Nov. 11, 2007 while playing for the Chargers.
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