Broncos Update Insider - 3/18

The Broncos took their case to the people in the wake of the failed CBA negotiations.

Team owner Pat Bowlen, co-chair of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee, drafted a letter to fans, apologizing for the breakdown that led to the current lockout and looming court showdown.

Bowlen's right-hand man, chief operating officer Joe Ellis, not only went the conventional route by talking to local media, he did a one-on-one interview with Mile High Report.

Ellis maintained that despite the frustration of the labor talks, the Broncos will conduct business as usual as far as the day-to-day club operations.

To that end, executive vice president of football operations John Elway, coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders conducted their Pro-Day tour, as scheduled.

The group not only scouted potential Denver top-five picks Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus and Von Miller at Auburn, Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively, but took a pit stop to Boca Raton, Fla., where the trio had dinner with No. 1 cornerback prospect Patrick Peterson of LSU.

Broncos scouts continued to circle the country, while individual workouts were in the process of being scheduled.

"We can't slow down preparations for the draft," Ellis told Mile High Report. "We have to be prepared in the event that cooler heads prevail and we come back, sit down and hammer out an agreement, which is what I think both sides ultimately need, understand and want."

Added Bowlen, "We will come to an agreement, and when a new deal is reached, the Denver Broncos will be ready to play."

The frustration of the labor talks were evident, though, in the public statements made by Ellis and Bowlen, with the latter issuing an "assurance" that the owners are committed to the process and "eager to return to the bargaining table."

Ellis, whose background includes a lengthy stint in the league office, was particularly prickly about, albeit resigned to, the collapse of union-NFL communications and the inevitable court battles ahead."The union ... clearly had a goal to go down a path of litigation," he maintained. "They would argue otherwise and that's fine. But I will tell you the owners are unified in their belief that this was the union's plan all along."

It was widely reported that the Broncos were willing to open their books in response to the sticking point that has engendered arguably the most distrust amongst the players during negotiations. That's only partially accurate, though, with the team only willing to comply on that point if requested by the management council's executive committee -- a query that doesn't appear in the cards anytime soon.

"They've had more financial information offered to them than they've had offered in any previous negotiation," Ellis said. "I think plenty was offered up. Why didn't they want to take it? Perhaps doing that, in this case, went against what their PR plan was, or their rollout plan of their litigation."

Reaction among Broncos' players was light in the social-media universe. Tackle Ryan Harris was the most direct, tweeting, "Always remember going forward it was the owners that ended our CBA by opting out two years ago."

So, as it stands, the Broncos - like the rest of the NFL clubs - are left with contingency plans. Denver has had numerous meetings regarding a post-lockout NFL and the expectation is that employees will have to make financial sacrifices. At the same time, no furloughs or layoffs in the short term are anticipated, and it's the Broncos' goal to keep everyone on staff.

Bowlen, Ellis, Elway, Xanders, Fox and other Denver staff will be in attendance at the annual league meetings next week in New Orleans.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox appeared in court March 10 in the latest legal machinations relating to sexual-assault allegations.

Cox's lawyer waived the right to a preliminary hearing for fear of information damaging to the second-year player going public and potentially muddying the eventual jury selection process.

Cox was arrested Dec. 9. Documents detailing the incident that resulted in charges of sexual assault while a victim was physically helpless and incapable of determining the nature of the conduct have been sealed.

The preliminary hearing would have included testimony from investigators regarding the nature of those two counts.

Cox's trial likely won't occur until next fall. He could face repercussions from the league, regardless, under its personal conduct policy.

--Denver skipped LSU's Pro Day but given Peterson's eye-popping combine performance and Broncos' management's in-person roundtable with the player in Florida, it was largely unnecessary.

Peterson is a real option with the Broncos' first-round pick, should Carolina pass on him with the No. 1 overall pick, though it could involve a trade-down scenario since cornerback hasn't been a top-five trend in recent seasons.

There is a potential need, outside of Peterson's talent. Not only is Cox facing legal hurdles, but Denver starting right cornerback Andre Goodman endured a hip/quad injury that lingered last season and he's crossed the age-30 plateau.

The fact that Denver holds two second-round picks in a draft exceptionally deep on the defensive line could create a scenario where defensive tackle, particularly, is addressed later rather than sooner.

--NFL.com reported that Denver was one of three teams setting up private workouts with University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

Locker reportedly already has auditioned for Minnesota. Tennessee also will get a close-up look at the 6-2, 231-pound strong-armed prospect.

Quarterback isn't a high need area for Denver with Kyle Orton still in the fold and Tim Tebow preparing to push the veteran for the starting job. But should Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert go off the board quickly in April's draft, and the Broncos prospectively dealing down, Locker could be intriguing trade bait at the very least or a long-shot choice.

The fact that a rookie wage scale likely will be in place could secure Locker on the cheap, relatively speaking.

It also could reopen trade discussions for Orton, netting Denver a valuable pick as part of its continuing rebuilding process. Of course, no trade can occur until the lockout ends.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He is a guy that can do a lot of different things for you. Athletically he is as good as anybody in the draft. He can run and he has good size for a corner ... and is a guy that can make some big plays. I think especially at the cornerback position, you like those guys that can make those plays, because those are game-changers." - John Elway, at the scouting combine, sizing up LSU's Patrick Peterson.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

TEAM NEEDS

1. Defensive tackle: The Broncos are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front so adding bodies is a necessity. The good news is that this year's draft is extremely deep on the defensive line. Dareus and Fairley will be dissected often in coming weeks.

2. Linebacker: D.J. Williams is the lone sure bet. Miller has shot up draft boards with his Senior Bowl and combine performances. His versatility in coverage and as a pass rusher, especially teamed with Elvis Dumervil should he land at weak-side linebacker, would be a nightmare for offensive coordinators on passing downs.

3. Free safety: Denver's seeking to improve the athleticism and speed overall on defense and those are traits that have been missing from the unit's deepest defender. The draft is thin up top at the position, but Peterson (6-1, 219) has the size, speed and ball-hawking ability to play the position effectively, should the Broncos choose.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--CB Champ Bailey: Potential UFA; $43M/4 yrs, $22.5M guaranteed.
--DT Kevin Vickerson: Potential RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--OG Manny Ramirez: FA; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST
--DL Justin Bannan (released).
--TE Daniel Graham (released).
--NT Jamal Williams (released).



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