The Denver Broncos are synonymous with playoff runs and contending for Super Bowl titles but, for the last three seasons, the team has been the definition of mediocre as they desperately tried to avoid the most dreaded words in sports – a rebuild.
They’ve patched together the offensive line without success, recycled through four-quarterbacks and spent too much on injury prone free agents.
Following Thursday night’s blowout loss to the Chiefs at Mile High, it’s time the Broncos accepted reality and embraced the rebuild.
There’s no easy way to go about this. It won’t be a short road back to success, but it can be accelerated if the front office starts to think about 2020 immediately.
How does Denver get back on the right track?
The quickest way to get the rebuild moving is to become sellers at the October 29 trade deadline. There are a number of candidates contending teams have already inquired about, including Chris Harris Jr, Emmanuel Sanders and Von Miller.
There is no doubt that trio will go down as some of the greatest players in franchise history, but to improve you, unfortunately, have to give up some assets and the aforementioned group will fetch more than a bag of chips.
Sanders is the most likely to be move. He seems fed up with the inept offence the team has been dishing up – and who would blame him when you remember the halcyon days with Peyton Manning?
His explosive playmaking ability is being wasted at the moment. This season, Sanders has caught 30 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns – there are teams, like the San Francisco 49ers, desperate for some help at wide receiver.
Denver could expect to receive a late pick similar to what Houston gave them last year for Demaryius Thomas.
Chris Harris’ trades stocks are expected to rise now that Jalen Ramsey is off the market. A contender like the Seattle Seahawks are one to watch for CHJ.
The Broncos, however, are unlikely to net a haul for Harris given he is out of contract at season’s end.
Any move would be more for Chris Harris’ benefit – as a thank you for his years of service.
A deal for Von Miller remains unlikely, as he has another year to go on his large contract and his production isn’t matching that level, but the market for pass rushers is hot right now and it is one to watch as we move closer to the deadline.
Getting front office positions correct is of upmost importance in the NFL and, as hard as it is for Broncos fans to accept, it is time for John Elway to move on.
Denver has won a measly 13 games in two and half seasons and a lot of responsibility falls on the general manager.
His quarterback selection problem and inability to select quality talent in the first rounds of the draft since Super Bowl 50 (the infamous Paxton Lynch pick will not be forgotten anytime soon) has paved the way to the team we see today.
No one can take away what Elway achieved on the field, nor him being able to lure Manning to Denver, but the franchise needs a fresh start for a brand new.
The Joe Flacco era – or error – needs to end and it isn’t because of his level of play.
The Broncos need to find their quarterback of the future, someone that is going to help them enter an arms race with Kansas City for the next ten years.
Luckily, that change can start as soon as rookie Drew Lock recovers from his preseason thumb injury.
The rest of 2019 becomes a free swing and becomes the perfect opportunity to see if Lock can hang on Sundays. The former Missouri star wasn’t regarded as the perfect player out of college due to his footwork and some of the mental aspects of the game.
He may struggle to start with but if the team finds a long-term starter, they can salvage something from this train wreck.
The Broncos are very likely to head into next year’s draft with a top-five pick and what they do with it depends on Lock’s output during the second half of the season.
If he is not the guy, the draft has plenty of potential top quarterbacks, including Tua Tagovailoa out of Alabama, Jake Fromm of Georgia as well as Justin Herbert from Oregon.
While it remains unlikely the Broncos will end up with Tua, he is the pick of the quarterbacks and looks like a can’t-miss prospect. He has all the skills to win at the highest level; he is tough, mobile and can throw the pig skin.
But if Lock proves he can be the guy, they will have the opportunity to rebuild other positions of need, instead of having to overpay in free agency.
Starting with the offensive line, a logical pick would be to draft Georgia’s Andrew Thomas. He looks physically ready for the NFL; his frame is strong, he has long arms and comes in a well built at 6’5″, 320 pounds (198 cm, 145 kgs)
He is a true offensive tackle – not a project player. He needs to work on his hands and become better at pass protection, but he is a player the Broncos would love.
The cornerback options are a little thin at the top end, but there are some options if they choose to go down that route; mainly, Jeff Okudah from Ohio State.
Okudah has been nothing short of phenomenal this season, especially in in pass coverage.
He already has three interceptions and 16 tackles and looks destined to be the top CB prospect in the draft. His stock will only improve as college football reaches its crescendo and he gets more time on the national stage.
The Denver Broncos are currently in ownership transition, being run by a trust that the late Mr Pat Bowlen set up before he stepped down in 2014 as he battled Alzheimer’s.
The trust includes Joe Ellis (Broncos president/CEO), Rich Slivka (team’s general counsel) and Mary Kelly (Mr Bowlen’s attorney). They are responsible for passing down the team to whichever Bowlen child matched all the necessary qualifications.
But five years later, they still haven’t decided who will run the team. Ownership battles are never as black and white as they seem, but the trust and the Bowlen family need to figure it out quickly.
Mr Bowlen wouldn’t have envisioned his beloved team being in the predicament it is now.
To be successful on-field you need to be successful off it and big part of that is having stable ownership.
This is just a tiny part of the blueprint, but Denver can longer kid themselves on where this team is. These are the darkest days since the 1960’s and the fans are fed with the product on the field.
It’s time to embrace the rebuild.