After a 12-4 finish and another early playoff exit in 2014, the Denver Broncos came up short of their Super Bowl-or-bust goal for the third season in a row.
The ensuing offseason for the Broncos has been interesting to say the least. Although Peyton Manning has one, maybe two seasons left at best, John Elway decided it was time to change absolutely everything. Basically, Manning is the only person that wasn’t in danger of being kicked out.
First, Elway and John Fox decided they disagreed on how to make it back to the Super Bowl; and so Fox left to coach the Chicago Bears. Adam Gase left, Jack Del Rio left, and then suddenly Elway found himself needing to replace the three most important coaching positions on the team. Honestly, Elway is lucky Manning didn’t leave with all the turmoil in the organization—in fact, it looked like Elway was trying to push the future Hall-of-Famer out for a while there.
Elway does deserve credit however for responding quickly and finding the best candidates for the job. Gary Kubiak was brought in to replace Fox as head coach, and Wade Phillips was brought in as the defensive coordinator. These two coaches have worked together before with the Houston Texans, and they worked magic there considering the quarterback was Matt Schaub. With Manning under center the sky is the limit.
Overall, the team didn’t take any huge losses during the offseason. Julius Thomas walked to join the Jacksonville Jaguars (maybe he got tired of winning?), but Virgil Green and Owen Daniels together show enough promise that Thomas shouldn’t be missed too much.
The team did retain Demaryius Thomas with the franchise tag, who has become Manning’s favorite target over the past few seasons. Definitely better to keep D. Thomas than J. Thomas.
The Broncos made their biggest moves in the 2015 NFL Draft. With no real backup quarterback (sorry Brock Osweiler) and no plan to draft one, Elway and the Broncos are going all-in for one more Super Bowl-or-bust season; and they certainly did their best to surround Manning with the talent he’ll need to make said run in 2015.
Their first round selection of Shane Ray was arguably the steal of the draft. The potential top-five pick dropped over growing health concerns and his marijuana citation, and the Broncos moved up to 23rd to grab him.
Ray has made it clear that he does not need surgery on his foot; so barring any other off-the-field issues, he will provide depth and quality assistance to Von Miller and Demarcus Ware on the defensive line. Ware is getting older, but he’s not playing like it with 10 sacks in 2014. Miller chipped in another 14 sacks.
The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year couldn’t have asked for a better situation to be drafted into—Miller and Ware are too much for offensive lines to handle by themselves, so adding another big threat to that defensive line will only make things worse for opposing quarterbacks.
The Broncos also found an upgrade at right tackle bringing in Ty Sambrailo with their second round selection. Lorenzo Doss from Tulane is a solid cornerback; and although he was a fifth round selection, don’t be surprised if he’s in the rotation come Week 1.
Overall, not a bad offseason for the 2013 AFC champs at all. With any luck as far as health goes and some defensive improvement under Wade Phillips, the Broncos just may find themselves competing for that Super Bowl berth again in 2015.