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Woody Paige: By the ides of March, Denver Broncos' QB direction should be clear

February 27, 2018 Updated: February 28, 2018 at 11:41 am
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Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis (85) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

Be aware of the Ides of March.

By or just prior to March 15, John Elway's plan "A" in regard to free-agent quarterbacks, one in particular, will be clear.

But, first, the Traveling Broncos Band (of 30-plus) must evaluate and compare 19 quarterbacks this week at the NFL combine. Five could be drafted in the opening round.

Which way, Elway - veteran or rookie, or both?

Six years ago he did both - signing Peyton Manning March 21 and drafting Brock Osweiler five weeks later.

At the Manning media conference, John famously smiled, sneered and shouted: "Plan 'B'? No, we don't have Plan 'B'. We're going Plan A.''

The Broncos currently have at least a dozen plans - including "C" and "K."

Insightful indications are the Broncos are going full-out for Kirk Cousins, as they did for Manning.

A forgotten journalist wrote that the Broncos' effort to entice an "aging, broken-down'' Manning with a $90 million offer was "absurd'' and the Broncos couldn't afford him under the salary cap. Manning agreed to a five-year, $96-million contract.

Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning celebrates running back Knowshon Moreno's first quarter touchdown putting Denver up 7-0 over the Chiefs Sunday, December 30, 2012 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Peyton was a Louisiana Purchase-type bargain, and the Broncos also had funds to attract six more free agents.

At least 10 NFL teams - including Tennessee, Miami, Washington, New York (Jets), Kansas City and Arizona - had made serious overtures to Manning.

Manning selected the Broncos because of his respect for Elway, coach John Fox and owner Pat Bowlen, the franchise's tradition and fan following, a solid young defense (still two years away from becoming the "No-Fly Zone''), his close friendship with receiver Brandon Stokley and the Denver metropolitan area's appeal for his family (his wife and 11-month-old twins). Manning likes Colorado so much he still lives here permanently.

Money didn't matter. Peyton could have gotten the same, or more, from the other competitors.

If the Broncos are to duplicate that triumph with Cousins, they obviously will have to pay him major Powerball money. But, as the Broncos have proven previously with Manning and Von Miller, they can massage and manipulate, and maneuver within, the salary cap.

However, the Vikings, who reached the NFL Championship Game, have become the front-runners in the Cousins Sweepstakes after declining to franchise Case Keenum on Monday. They also play in a domed stadium.

The Broncos will have to be more creative and captivating for Cousins.

On March 12, teams are permitted to "tamper with'' free agents by contacting their agents. The signing period begins March 14. Cousins is researching the contenders and, in all probability, will start visiting cities March 15.

Cousins came to the Broncos' headquarters at Dove Valley prior to the 2012 draft, but the Broncos didn't pick him (selecting Osweiler instead), and Cousins played at Mile High Stadium (under Washington coach Mike Shanahan) in a 2013 45-21 defeat.

His agent is Mike McCartney, who grew up in Boulder as the son of Colorado coach Bill McCartney. While serving as a Buffs assistant, Mike help recruit Broncos coach Vance Joseph to the university.

With Manning, Elway kept the meeting low-key. The two shared a quiet dinner at Cherry Hills Country Club, and Elway applied no pressure on the quarterback. A week later Manning announced he was coming to Denver.

Elway will engineer a similar approach to Cousins, but should consider enlisting the help of a few key men - Miller, Manning, Mike Shanahan and a local pastor. Miller already is the Broncos' vocal cheerleader for Cousins. As a youngster, Cousins idolized John, then Peyton (and always has worn a Manning-style face mask). Shanahan drafted and coached Cousins, and elevated him to starter over Robert Griffin III. Manning could invite Cousins to spend the night at his home and talk football and about Denver as a good home for years for his wife and young child. Shanahan could take Kirk to dinner at his restaurant and discuss the franchise's hallowed history.

And a minister would answers questions about Denver's religious community. Like Tim Tebow, Cousins is son of a pastor and a committed Christian.

If those positives are not persuasive enough for Cousins, Elway's Plan "B" could be one of these combine participants: Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson. The Broncos are devising their orange-and-blueprint.

Be aware of the Ideas of March and April.

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