Jussel: New era for Broncos may begin in 2015

I’m moving on. You should, too.

2013 is done, history, all but forgotten.

2014, as we will come to know, is the here and now for John Elway, John Fox and the rest of the Denver Broncos.

To get a clue about what is going to happen next season, however, we have to look farther down the road — to 2015.

Why? Because 2015 will likely become the start of a new Bronco era.

All good Bronco fans know 14 players on the current roster are officially free agents early next month, among them stars like wide receiver Eric Decker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, linebacker Shaun Phillips and running back Knowshon Moreno.

Tough decisions will have to be made on whether to bring any or all of the 14 back.

This coming year, however, pales in comparison with what is going to happen in 2015.

In 2015, 28 current Broncos will be free agents, 18 of them unrestricted.

Wes Welker, Orlando Franklin and Julius Thomas all started in the Super Bowl on offense and will be free to ply their wares elsewhere after next season, barring a change in their contract status between now and then.

Ditto for Champ Bailey, Terrance Knighton and Nate Irving, who started on the defensive side in the Super Bowl.

More than one-fourth of the Bronco Super Bowl starters will be unrestricted free agents in 2015.

Oh yes, there are a few names I forgot to mention. Other free agents-to-be in 2015 include: superstar linebacker Von Miller (injured); starting safety Rahim Moore (injured); starting defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson (injured); onetime starting safety Quentin Carter (injured); and the rest of the tight end corps — Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen and Virgil Green.

Add to the list record-setting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who will be restricted, meaning he will be a free agent, but Denver has the right to match offers from other teams.

Whew!

That’s a bundle of talent, a bundle that can go looking for greener pastures, or in some cases simply start looking for another line of work.

One more thing, and it could prove to be fairly significant in 2015: It has to do with a certain quarterback who was brought in to change team fortunes a couple of years back.

Yes, Peyton Manning.

We’re going to assume Manning is going to pass his team physical and give the go-ahead to play another season in 2014.

He is and will be 37 years old and probably still should be relatively effective, seeing as how he broke record after record last season and will not, Super Bowl performance aside, suddenly forget all about the art and science of playing quarterback in the National Football League.

Come the 2015 season, however, the Broncos brain trust is going to have to make a serious decision.

In 2015, Manning will eat up more than $21 million in salary-cap space for the Broncos, be another year older and, as you can see from the above, may be playing with virtually an entirely new roster.

A 39-year-old quarterback making $21 million leading a rebuilding effort? It does not compute.

This does: Manning’s contract for 2015 is not guaranteed, if he is not on the team’s active roster at the end of 2014.

Those 2015 possibilities are reasons 2014 becomes so important for the Broncos. It will likely be the last gasp for the team that we have come to know and love.

This next season should be, and likely will be, constructed with 2015 in mind, one last go-round for Mr. Manning and his crew.

Then, we will likely be on with the Brock Osweiler Era, or the Zac Dysert Era, or ...

Rick Jussel’s Broncos-related columns are also published on SI.com’s “Predominantly Orange” and “Fan-sided” websites through the football season and beyond.


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