Don’t beware the Ides of March.
Be aware, instead, of March 13, 2019 — New Year’s Day on the National Football League calendar.
Wednesday is when the Broncos endeavor to become relevant in the room again.
Feb. 7, 2016 seems so distant ago. Set your clocks ahead.
Since Peyton Manning retired three years ago in March, the Broncos have won only 20 of 48 games and wasted with — preposterously! — 10 quarterbacks. Count ‘em: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Mark Sanchez, Brock Osweiler, Kyle Sloter, Case Keenum, Kevin Hogan, Garrett Grayson and, lest we forget, Chad Kelly and Nick Stevens. Only Hogan and Grayson, who’ve never played a game for the Broncos and likely never will, remain.
Broncos antihero Joe Flacco officially will become the 11th quarterback of the P.M. (Post-Manning) Era Wednesday.
That’s also the day the Broncos can sign unrestricted free agents, make offers to restricted free agents and make trades.
The Broncos should strive to lure four Pro Bowl-caliber players to Denver in the semblance of 2014 when Aqib Talib, Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware agreed to contracts.
From 2016-2018, the Broncos managed to get only two worthwhile free agents — Ron Leary and Domata Peko. Last year they signed Keenum and Clinton McDonald. One didn’t play a down, and the other has played his last down here. It’s been a way-down forgettable period.
After the free agency frenzy, next is the draft April 25-27. The Broncos can’t miss.
They have only two players — Von Miller and Derek Wolfe — left from John Elway’s first five drafts (2011-2015), and 18 from the past three.
Coach Vic Fangio told The Gazette in an extensive exclusive interview he’s willing to be patient, but the word “rebuild’’ is not in Elway’s vocabulary. After three seasons of decrepitude, the Duke of Denver is anxious and agitated over the Broncos’ fall from grace.
So, he acquired Flacco, hoping to replicate the Momentous Manning Move. If his name were John Smith or Fred Elway, the Broncos’ president of football operations would be in deep trouble if the Broncos are shunned from the postseason for a fourth season. But Elway is polytetrafluoroethylene.
Although the league’s salary cap will increase significantly from $177 million to $188.2 million, and the Broncos have rolled over $8.3 million from last season, the franchise, I project, won’t have a ton of cap money — perhaps $30 million-$40 million max. They will add Flacco’s $18.5M salary. They can subtract $3 million after dumping Keenum, but still retain $7 mil of dead money on him and be stuck with a total of $14 mil in zombie hits.
The Broncos will pick up $4.8 million on the release of Brandon Marshall, could dismiss Ron Leary for another $7.5 million gain and might try to convert a percentage of contracts for Miller, Sanders and Wolfe to bonuses for more cap relief.
As usual, a horde of free agents, including 18 from the Broncos, are available. The Broncos should emphasize a quartet that includes a cornerback and a safety, and two offensive linemen or one and an inside linebacker.
The recruitment should start with a pair of Fangio prodigies — safety Adrian Amos and slot corner Bryce Callahan, late of the Bears.
They could be Vic’s Salve in the Broncos’ secondary and certainly would want to play for him.
The 25-year-old Amos is an archetype strong safety in the Fangio-Ed Donatell coverage scheme, and Callahan, 27, was exceptional last season until breaking his foot in the 13th game. Both made $1.9 million in ’18.
C.J. Mosley is the popular candidate at inside linebacker, but the Eagles’ Jordan Hicks, who is a superior cover linebacker, would be more affordable. He also had a $1.9 million deal last season.
Right tackle Daryl Williams would be the big-ticket item, but the correct choice for Mike Munchak’s offensive line. He tore his ACL in the Panthers’ opening game last season, but the ex-Pro Bowler is recovering and will command about $8 million a year.
To fill out the line and replace Matt Paradis, who will receive a massive payday ($11 mil per), the Broncos ought to pilfer free agent Mitch Morse, the Chiefs’ starter at center for four years. Morse, 26, hasn’t allowed a sack since he was a rookie.
Four of those five would be a coups de grass.
The Broncos must march in in March.