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A brutally honest John Elway divulged many of the Broncos' 2018 plans on Wednesday

Zac Stevens Avatar
March 1, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS — Once upon a time, John Elway refused to be a Colt, albeit a Baltimore Colt. Yet on Wednesday afternoon in the city now proud to call the Colts home, Indianapolis, Elway seemingly couldn’t wipe a grin off his face.

Whether his mood was perky because he had just identified his next quarterback at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine or he was thrilled to have 60-degree weather in the midwest in February will never truly be known, but one thing that was certain was his surprisingly good mood benefited everyone who wanted to dive into No. 7’s mind.

For two different media sessions spanning nearly 23 minutes, the nation learned a great deal about the makeup and mentality of the 2018 Broncos squad straight from the horse’s mouth.

Here’s what we learned.

Wide-reaching quarterback search

Every single stinkin’ quarterback option will be considered in Denver’s quest to find their new signal caller, as Elway made clear on Wednesday.

“We’re going to explore all options in free agency and see where that goes. Obviously, we’ve got the fifth pick in the draft, too. That will all play into it,” he said with unwavering confidence. “We’ll continue to look at all of the options out there when it comes to quarterback.”

The search will include every quarterback that won’t be under contract and Elway was confident the team will have enough cap space, or create enough cap space, to pursue any option available.

In this search, the Broncos will bring in Josh Rosen for a pre-draft visit as well as “probably” do the same for Baker Mayfield.

“He can throw it. Arm-talent wise, he can throw it as good as anybody,” Elway said about the 6-foot-4 Rosen. “He’s a competitor. He’s got the tools. Bottom line is, you’ve got to have confidence to play that position. So if he’s over confident that’s not bad.”

With reports surfacing that Rosen’s attitude may be difficult to get along with, Elway all but brushed those off by saying people very well may have said the same things about him when he was a prospect.

The Broncos aren’t giving up on Paxton Lynch.

“We’ve got control of Paxton; he’s under contract. I still think Paxton’s got the ability to have a great career in this league. By no means are we kicking him to the curb,” Elway said. “Paxton has got to get healthy. He’s going to come back, continue to get better and continue to fit in and see how he can continue to improve. That is what the expectations we have for Paxton is to come back and continue to work to get better.”

As for Lynch’s counterpart, Trevor Siemian, his future as a Bronco is undecided.

“We don’t have a plan for Trevor yet,” Elway stated. “We’ve got Trevor being on the football team. That goes to how everything falls out.”

The Broncos will “try to get as many good” quarterbacks as they can, Elway exclaimed before adding, “Bottom line is we need more than one, right?”

No. 5 overall pick on the table

The Broncos will be “open for business on the fifth pick depending on how things fall,” according to Elway. With almost exactly two months until the draft begins, Elway made it very clear the Broncos will be open to trading the No. 5 overall pick in the draft if the circumstances are right.

A major factor in this, of course, is whether the Broncos land their quarterback of the future in free agency or not.

Personnel decisions unfolding

Potentially the most surprising news of the day came when Elway publicly committed to moving forward with many players whose futures as Broncos seemed to be in question.

Menelik Watson “will be back” and “the plan is to have” Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas back, despite their expensive price tag.

“The plan is to have [Thomas and Sanders] come back and play like they are capable of,” Elway explained. “That’s the expectations that I have of them. I think they are still elite wide receivers. I think it was a down year for both of them as well as the rest of our football team. The expectations are for them to play like they are capable of because I think they still have a lot of football and are a top receiving pair in the league. High expectations, but they have to come back and play a lot better.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the plan is to pick up Derek Wolfe’s contract option despite offseason neck surgery.

“Sounds like he is doing really well,” Elway said of Wolfe. “He’s happy with the surgery so far. Everything that ‘Greek’ [Director of Sports Medicine Steve Antonopulos] has told me has been real positive with Derek. That is another one we plan on going forward with.”

The Broncos plan on pursuing Todd Davis in free agency even though the inside linebacker is unrestricted.

In terms of the restricted free agents, Elway stressed the importance of putting a high enough tender on Shaq Barrett and Matt Paradis so neither get plucked by another team.

In an opposite tone, Elway was non-committal on C.J. Anderson or Aqib Talib in terms of their future with the team.

“We’ll see. We’ll look at that. Like I said, we’re looking at every option that we can and where our football team is,” he said when specifically asked about Anderson and Talib. “I’m not saying they’ll be back for sure, but I’m not going to say they are gone. We’re exploring a lot of options on other players too. That is what you do this time of year. It’s not just isolated to those two players.”

The final personnel note was the Broncos fully intend to make second-year player DeMarcus Walker a defensive end after bouncing from DE and outside linebacker during his rookie season.

“We’ll keep the weight on him, put the weight back on him and get him doing what we want him to do and that’s rush from the inside and being there on nickel,” Elway said of Walker’s future. “That was the plan going into last year that took kind of a different direction.”

Offensive makeup

If Watson is indeed back in 2018, he’s scheduled to stay at the same position he played last year, “Right now he’s the right tackle.”

Ron Leary could be on the move, again. After playing at left guard to begin his career in Dallas, the Broncos switched him to right guard last year. This year, Elway’s open to moving Leary back to his original spot: “We’re talking about Ronald going back to left [guard], putting him back over there. Those roles always are fluid until we get there. Those are all ideas.”

Finding a starting quarterback is important, but that’s not what the makeup of the offense will be reliant on.

“We are still going to want to run the ball,” Elway said.

Improvement starts within

No, this isn’t the end of a sermon—although it is nearing the end of the article—but, instead, what Elway preached on Wednesday as to what’s the utmost importance for the team to improve in 2018.

The spark notes version: The defense needs to play better.

“I keep saying this, everyone wants to know what we’re doing in free agency,” Elway stated. “I think one of the key things is our team has to play better this year. We didn’t play well as a team—our starters didn’t play well, so we’ve got to get those players playing well. That’s step number one. Step number two is trying to find the components to add to that and go through the draft and have a good draft.”

“I don’t think our guys played to their ability on the defensive side.”

Of course, as noted by it being first in this article, finding a quarterback is priority numero uno this offseason, but Elway wasn’t afraid to challenge the defense on the final day of February—likely just a taste of what’s to come.

“Sitting in my chair, it was a long, long year,” he reflected on the team’s 5-11 season. “I’m sure you guys saw it that way too—it was a long, long year. Then you just got to wait for it to be over. Someone asked me why I’m so happy, I said, ‘Because 2017 is over and we get to go into 2018.’”

Amen.

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