Speaking to a crowd of some of the more than 2,000 credentialed media members at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Wednesday morning, Kubiak addressed the future of the running back position for the Broncos, what his team’s needs will be in the upcoming NFL draft, and discussed a question on the minds of nearly every NFL fan: When does he expect five-time MVP Peyton Manning to make a decision about his future in football?
Kubiak said the Broncos position on Manning’s timeline hasn’t changed.
“I think the bottom line is we made a decision of how we’re going to about it,” Kubiak said. “Once again, it’s about him taking his time to work through things and think through things. There is no hurry here. I want him to enjoy what just took place. We’ll go from there. Nothing has changed from that standpoint.”
While the Broncos plans may be to let Manning take his time, there’s only so much time the future first ballot Hall of Famer can take. Either the Broncos or Manning will have to make a decision by March 8.
Manning’s $19 million salary becomes guaranteed the next day, and there’s no chance they’d be willing to have him back in Denver at that figure.
Thankfully, the Broncos likely won’t have to make that choice. During his press conference, Kubiak dropped hints that the nearly 40-year-old Manning may be nearing a decision.
“I think he and John (GM John Elway) have had some conversations,” Kubiak said. “I had a brief one with him yesterday. We will be talking probably today, or I know this week. We want him to take his time and we’ll work from there. Beyond that, nothing has changed.”
One can only speculate about the content of those conversations, but the fact that Manning is talking with the Broncos and by all accounts has yet to make a decision could lead to some serious eyebrow raising around NFL circles.
Whether Manning decides to retire or not, it’s almost a certainty that he will not be back for a fifth season with the Denver Broncos. Instead, the Broncos hope to re-sign 25-year-old Brock Osweiler to a long-term deal.
Kubiak spoke glowingly about the young man who went 5-2 in his starts with the Broncos this season before being benched for Manning after an ineffective performance against the San Diego Chargers in week 17.
“I think he has a bright future,” Kubiak said. “Obviously, he did a heck of a job for us. He played against some really good people in some tough situations. We want him to be a part of our football team. He’s been real special.”
According to sources, the Broncos are indeed negotiating with Osweiler. However, he could earn as much as $16-18 million per year on the open market, which very well could become too rich for the cap-strapped Broncos blood.
If Osweiler were to leave, one of the quarterbacks competing in drills at the Combine this week very well could find himself in Orange and Blue by May. With so many college quarterbacks playing in spread offenses these days, Kubiak spoke to the challenges it takes for a passer to adjust to the NFL game.
“A lot of it is projecting guys going under center. I know that sounds simple, but that is a little bit more of a conversion than you would think,” Kubiak said. “I think that’s part of the tough part, though.”
Quarterback is far from being the Broncos only need in this NFL draft. Some scouts have speculated the Broncos may be interested in taking a running back like Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott or Alabama’s Derrick Henry with one of their top two picks.
However, Kubiak hinted that the Broncos may be perfectly happy with the runners they already have on their roster.
“Well, Ronnie Hillman is a free agent. Juwan Thompson had some injuries for us. I think he has a bright future for us,” Kubiak said. “We’ve got a young man on our practice squad, Kapri Bibbs, who I think fits what we want to do. We’ve got four good young players, and hopefully Ronnie is still a part of that. We’ll go from there.”
John Elway is scheduled to speak to the media later in the afternoon and very well could provide more information about Manning’s future and how he views the 2016 NFL Draft class.
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