DENVER - This time there is a Plan B.
How you feel about Tony Romo quarterbacking the Broncos depends on how you feel about the presumptive alternatives, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch: Is the 'B' for (B)roncos savior or (b)ackup?
"We got two young ones that we're happy with, that we think can be very good football players in this league," Broncos general manager John Elway said, aiming a fire hose at the Romo speculation burning through Colorado.
Not (b)uyin' it. Imagine the thing you love the most. Then you get $42 million to do it.
I think that's Elway in NFL free agency.
"I feel more comfortable if we can take care of some needs in free agency. I believe that there's a good blend in both, that free agency is there for a reason," he told reporters at the scouting combine in Indianapolis about weighing free agency vs. the draft.
This time the prize is a quarterback who was undrafted out of a Division I-AA program, Eastern Illinois. The last time it was a quarterback drafted No. 1 overall out of an SEC program, Tennessee. The Broncos are really digging through the scrap heap this time, huh?
From Peyton Williams Manning to Antonio Ramiro Romo, the parallels are striking, entertaining and helpful in predicting what happens next. Like Manning, there is an injury risk. Like Manning, there is a high draft pick already here - Brock Osweiler then, Lynch now.
These days the Broncos operate more like the Yankees than the Rockies. Denver's M.O. is to lure proven, title-hungry veterans in lieu of drafting and hoping for the stars of tomorrow. With a $12 million jump in the salary cap and only nine teams with more to spend, according to OverTheCap.com, I expect the Broncos to enter free agency like it's Black Friday.
NFL teams can negotiate with free agents on Tuesday. It's Tuesday. Those deals can become official as soon as 2 p.m. MST on Thursday. Welcome to Broncos Christmas.
Manning was cut by the Colts. Romo probably will be cut by the Cowboys. The upset of free agency won't be if Romo signs with Elway and the Broncos. The upset is if he doesn't. Elway was 37 and 38 when he won Super Bowls here. Peyton Manning was 39. Romo turns 37 on April 21. To say Romo fits a franchise that has A) two quarterbacks, so it has none B) a long history of turning aging quarterbacks into Super Bowl champs is suggesting a Patagonia outlet store would do well in Denver.
How many more boxes need to be checked?
"I think when you start talking about a veteran quarterback - and everyone thinks we just talk about next year, but we don't - we talk about the impact that has two, three, four years down the line," Elway said.
We're all guessing here. With more cameras allowed in an Elway Uber ride than in the Broncos meeting rooms, all we have to work with is what's happened before. And what's happened before - when the Broncos fail to win the Super Bowl in some fashion or another - is Denver going all in.
"Any time you lose a guy like Peyton Manning at the end of his career and then you transition into a new young guy as you try to find that next guy is going to be difficult," Elway said.
The quickest road back to the Super Bowl has four stops: offensive line (first and foremost, no matter the quarterback), running back, defensive line and, yes, quarterback. Siemian or Lynch could get there. Romo could get there quicker.
"When it comes down to a quarterback it's (about) competitiveness and toughness and it's mental toughness," Elway said. "It is a tough game and a tough position. It's a great position, but it's a tough position, because of the expectations that go along with it, the pressure that goes along with it."
This time feels like last time.