The offseason for any World Champion team is a roller coaster—marked by parades and fan and media adoration. In the era of free agency, such teams are often stripped of vital pieces in order to supplement the championship aspirations of other teams.
In this case, the Denver Broncos were no different. To say that it was a ho-hum offseason, though, would be underselling it by quite a bit.
If I were to ask GM John Elway how he spent his summer, I bet he would give us a shrug and flash his toothy smile, like he always does when deflecting hard questions. But in all honesty, this offseason could be counted as one of the most tumultuous ones in his tenure as the head of football operations.
While he famously said when the Broncos signed Peyton Manning that “there was no Plan B”, the time between the last play of the Super Bowl and the start of training camp has to fit in that context. The Broncos are now in the uncharted waters of that contingency plan.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1688594-mhh-premium-how-you-can-s... My question is this. In this crucial offseason, did John Elway do enough to keep the Broncos in a Super Bowl-winning window?
There was also the "Peyton Manning retirement watch" to see if the legendary quarterback was going to lace them up for another year. In seeing Elway work his free agent magic in the past, most fans would have assumed that at least two out of the three players would come back.
But that's not how it worked out.
Jackson would parlay a solid season into a huge contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, signaling the first domino to fall in the process. Osweiler, as well, would find a deal well above the Broncos' assigned value for him and jet to Houston. In a matter of days, the euphoric air was let out of the balloon most fans were still feeling from February, leaving everyone feeling deflated instead.
Manning would not only say farewell to the Denver Broncos but to football as well. Following his teary goodbye, the five-time MVP left a sizable shadow at the most important position on the field—which will be cast on the next would-be starting quarterbacks in Denver—and rode off into the sunset of an illustrious career. But the exodus would not stop there.
The departures would keep on coming. Leading tackler Danny Trevathan would bolt for Chicago, as would solid contributors like safeties David Bruton, Jr. and Omar Bolden, who found greener pastures and dollars with the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears, respectively.
Even depth players, like offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus, retired and starting left tackle Ryan Harris departed for Pittsburgh. And when all signs pointed toward C.J. Anderson accepting an offer from Miami, fans were asking, was anyone going to stay?
As cool as John Elway was on the field for so many of his fourth quarter comebacks, he showed equal resolve in the front office, moving to match Anderson's offer sheet, keeping him in Denver.
During that turbulent period, however, Elway showed that great character of all solid, winning franchises. Without being held hostage by players and the salary cap, he showed that despite all the losses, he had a plan in place.
Elway's plan to reshape the Broncos would start before the Draft, when he orchestrated a trade with Philadelphia for quarterback Mark Sanchez—a veteran experienced in the West Coast Offense
Next, when the NFL Draft rolled around, Elway took a bold step and moved up to snag promising Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. It wouldn’t stop there, as Elway would then pick up a promising defensive end in the Malik Jackson-mold, Adam Gotsis, and ballhawking safety, Justin Simmons.
Within the first two days of the Draft, Elway had found players who fit within the offensive and defensive schemes of the team, while also getting younger and more athletic players.
Outside of the Draft, Elway went bargain-shopping in free agency and brought in solid stop-gap players in two former Gary Kubiak disciples—defensive end Jared Crick and tight end Garrett Graham. While both players aren’t the most sizzling options available, they each fit a need on the roster. Their strengths can be easily blended in for the departed.
Lastly, but certainly not least, Elway executed his top priority in the re-signing of Von Miller. In negotiations that started off as peaceful and had many peaks and valleys in between, Elway, along with the front office team, came up with a deal that kept Miller in the orange and blue for the prime of the perennial Pro Bowler‘s career.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1688172-sly-kube-let-us-know-he-s... In an effort that cannot be under-stated , Elway managed to give Miller what he wanted, as far as total dollars and guaranteed money, while also keeping the team fiscally healthy for at least the next couple of years.
By no means has John Elway been perfect. It could be argued that by waiting on deals for both Miller and Osweiler, he let the market establish a value for them that the Broncos would struggle to match, especially for Osweiler.
There was also talk that some of the unorthodox “championship” negotiation tactics taken by the front office were too hard-lined and rigid during the Miller contract talks. But in spite of so much that did not go according to plan during this offseason, John Elway still found a way to close the deals—and provide a much-needed win in the personnel department.
As for the hole at quarterback, Elway drafted the future heir-apparent, while also bringing a capable and scheme friendly veteran for this season. While no one could dispute that the losses of Jackson, Trevathan and Bruton could hurt, the Broncos could still be better off in the long run with younger, more promising players.
In Garrett Graham and Andy Janovich, Elway also helped out Gary Kubiak by bringing in players that will better fit the type of offense he's used to running. Most importantly, Elway did what he needed to, and kept the cornerstone of the franchise in place—Von Miller.
It was a turbulent offseason that saw many faces come and go. While teams like the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots made moves to shorten the gap between them and Denver, they didn’t close it all the way.
With savvy free agent pickups and keeping up with the development of drafted players, John Elway still has the Denver Broncos in the driver’s seat, not only in the AFC West but as a team poised to defend their World Championship.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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