Get ready for more twists and turns in Denver
The Denver Broncos on Monday went from 100-to-1 or more odds of winning the Super Bowl to somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-to-1.
All in the short amount of time it took for Peyton Manning to dial John Elway and tell him that he was coming to Denver.
Peyton Manning has been better than anyone else ever to play the position of quarterback — maybe even better than the afore-mentioned Elway. Assuming he has a few years left in his neck, arm and the rest of his body, he will own every passing record in history.
And the Broncos are betting roughly $90 million that he will hold up for three, four or five years, with the final year or years on the contract obviously not nearly as important at this stage than this season.
So, is it time to start making reservations for New Orleans and the impending date with destiny on Feb. 3, 2013, Super Bowl XLVII against the defending champion New York Giants and little brother Eli, with Dad Archie looking on after walking maybe the three or four blocks to the stadium from his house?
Err, hold on just a minute.
Sure, this is a huge coup for the Bronco brass, ranging from owner Pat Bowlen, who opened his pocketbook, to Elway, who did the recruiting, to John Fox, who agreed to change his way of doing things offensively if Manning would take over.
But there are a few items that still need addressed.
First, foremost and most obvious, there is No. 15. With Manning saying he would gladly take No. 16, his college number over the Frank Tripucka’s No. 18, his Colt number, there would seem to be a question as to whether the most famous, most sought-after jersey in the world will be worn again in Denver by Tim Tebow.
Will Tebow become a second-stringer in Denver or will he become trade bait, possibly for a backup to Manning (Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville?), or draft choices needed to bolster the defensive line?
The Tebow Watch may become as widely chronicled as the Manning Watch we witnessed over the past eight or nine days.
If we can, let’s get past the Tebow thing; there are other items that need be addressed with Manning now the guy.
First and foremost, Manning must remain upright and untouched. Denver’s offensive line was super last season — at rushing the football, not at pass protection. That certainly must be addressed.
Can the current group, Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Chris Kuper and Orlando Franklin from left to right, pass block? Kuper underwent surgery for a broken leg sustained in the last game of the regular season and Franklin, a rookie last season, was a super run blocker, but struggled when pass blocking.
Next, the Broncos must address the receiving corps.
They have two young studs in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker at wideouts, but lost Eddie Royal to free agency and the San Diego Chargers. Royal has to be replaced — possibly by someone who is a deep threat, with Decker moving to the slot.
It has also been widely chronicled that Denver had virtually no tight end threats last season as receivers. More on that later.
Willis McGahee was a horse last season and will be again at running back, but the mode of transportation will be a bit different, with play-action runs and short flare passes being the preferred Manning method. One thing that may come into play here is the health of Knowshon Moreno, the oft-injured third-down type who may benefit significantly from Manning’s presence.
I have pointed to some possible problem areas — and many obvious answers are out there with Manning in the fold, especially at tight end, where Dallas Clark, Manning’s favorite target for years over the middle of the field, is a free agent. Hello, Dallas. Welcome to Denver.
It’s too bad that Reggie Wayne, Manning’s favorite outside receiver, just re-upped with the Colts, or he certainly may have fit into the picture.
Another ex-Colt who could fit into the picture is free agent center Jeff Saturday if Fox and the rest of the staff deems him a better fit (read pass blocker and brains behind the blocking schemes on each play) than Walton.
There is also the little matter of the defense — which has among other needs, the long-standing interior of the line problem, perhaps a matter of replacing linebacker D.J. Williams, who was suspended by the league for eight games for substance abuse (he is suing the league and may be eligible to play as long as the case is in court), and maybe the need of another corner.
The Broncos have signed free agent safety Mike Adams, who started in Cleveland.
So far, Denver has done virtually nothing publicly in the free agent period than court Manning. It is certainly the hope of Bronco fans everywhere — and Manning himself — that those in charge of upgrading talent have not been asleep at the wheel for the last week plus.
It’s a new road, a vastly different route than the one we were just traveling, with lots of twists and turns to come.
And the Bronco bus is still a helluva long way from New Orleans.