Fax fiasco won’t define Broncos’ offseason

Isn’t it amazing in this era of technology where people can communicate across thousands of miles in nanoseconds that a fax machine ­— yes, some people still use them — can do so much damage?

Surely all of you Denver Bronco fans are aware of the Elvis Dumervil contract fiasco Friday that resulted in his being released.

It put a rather good-sized dent in what had been an incredible first few days of free-agency signings by John Elway and his staff.

And although Elvis may indeed return to the building after what may even become legal wrangling, the Broncos now move on with roughly $8 million left in salary-cap space, meaning, if they think they need to, they can replace Dumervil.

One choice the Broncos have is to play Robert Ayers and/or Jason Hunter in Dumervil’s stead and spend the $8 mil elsewhere, like at safety or running back or some combination of both.

Another choice would be to depend on the draft, where there are an abundance of quality defensive ends (read pass rushers). However, the cream of the crop will be long gone by the time the Broncos would draft 28th.

And there is always the free-agency ploy, with several veterans still out there as of the weekend, including Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, who both visited with the New England Patriots on Friday but escaped unsigned.

So, let’s not let this Elvis incident ruin our good-vibe feelings just yet. Let it play out.

What the Broncos have done so far is upgrade their passing game with the addition of slot receiver Wes Welker, upgrade their rushing game (and thus their pass protection) with the addition of guard Louis Vasquez, add plenty of beef to the interior defense by signing defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, and add a starting cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

That’s a lot of upgrading on a team that went 13-3.

What remains to be addressed other than the Dumervil-or-lack-thereof situation?

Much depends on the health of players who were injured last season, running backs Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, center J.D. Walton, and right guard Chris Kuper, who may be moved to left guard if he can come back from his repeated ankle woes.

The Broncos also are banking on improvement from within at the safety spots from Rahim Moore and Mike Adams and from young defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Mitch Unrein.

Another thing to keep in mind as this free-agency period, while not finished, reaches the stage where signings will be a trickle between now and the start of training camps in July is how the team rosters have changed because of the salary-cap situation. Some teams have had as much as $50 million to spend on free agents. Some have had to release quality starters because they were over the cap.

It is amazing how fluid team rosters have become.

Those of you who are my age or close will remember the days when you knew who the Oakland Raiders had been for the last several years and who they would be for the next several.

You knew Big Ben Davidson was a tall, nasty hombre that you had hated for as long as you could remember, and could still be detested into the foreseeable future.

You knew Ken Stabler was a quirky drunk who had always been able to throw darts to Fred Biletnikoff — and would continue to do so until he was too old and beat up to put on the pads.

Ditto with the Chiefs and Chargers, the Packers and Bears, and, yes, the Broncos.

The Broncos, depending on the decade, were Steve Tensi and Half-a-Loaf Lou Saban, the Orange Crush or John Elway and Terrell Davis. And whatever they were, pathetic or powerful, they stayed that way for a lengthy period of time.

Free agency and the salary cap changed things.

Check out the defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens (still bites at the craw, doesn’t it?): They lost linebackers Ray Lewis to retirement and Dannell Ellerbe to the Dolphins, defensive end Paul Kruger to the Browns and released safety Bernard Pollard. At midweek, they had only five defensive players under contract.

For the other side of the coin, go to the San Francisco 49ers, who fell just short in the Super Bowl, and to their upcoming rival, the Seattle Seahawks. Both added huge chunks of defensive talent through free agency and should be even better next season.

Such is life in the Not-For-Long League.

And while the Broncos have just suffered this Fax Fiasco, they still are on track to live up to the high expectations of their fans.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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