From cornerback to quarterback, Broncos must blow up this roster and start over

Joe Flacco. Credit: Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports.
Joe Flacco. Credit: Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports.

If there were any question the Broncos are in complete and total rebuild mode, it can be put to rest. Because, first and foremost, their quarterback situation is a complete mess.

With Joe Flacco now sidelined due to a neck injury and placed on Injured Reserve, the Denver Broncos are poised to start Brandon Allen this week and to have Brett Rypien back him up. Add in Drew Lock on the IR and the Broncos have three quarterbacks who have played zero downs in the NFL.

What’s even worse; this is the perfect time to play Lock, the rookie second-round pick, and see what he’s made of. Instead, the powers that be have decided not to activate him off the IR to even allow the kid to practice. Not playing or practicing Lock is an absolute joke.

For the present and the future of the Broncos, it’s terrible personnel management by John Elway and Co. but may point to the fact that Lock is much worse than originally thought.

How the Broncos’ decision-makers came to that conclusion, we just don’t know. First-year offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello went around in circles last week saying Lock needed experience before he could earn his first start. Um, what?

The Broncos are 2-6 and will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, which is nearly unprecedented.

However, if you’ve been following this team for years, you saw this coming.

In terms of quarterback, Allen will become the sixth different gun-slinger to appear under center since 2015, Peyton Manning’s final season with the Broncos and in the NFL.

“The Sheriff” was fantastic, even on his last legs, but the Broncos’ deputies have been nothing but Barney Fifes. The greatest irony in all of American professional sports remains the fact that Elway — one of the greatest quarterbacks in history — can’t draft a quarterback to save his life.

But, again, we all saw this coming.

Back in 2012, Elway signed Manning and two years later, in 2014, he picked up huge free agent signings in Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward, DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib. After a year of gelling together, the “No Fly Zone” helped carry Manning back to the Super Bowl where they would win.

This year wasn’t all that different.

Elway went out and signed a veteran quarterback for huge coin (Flacco) which came with mixed results. But, he also signed a big-time free agent cornerback in Bryce Callahan, who’s yet to play a down. Another big-money free agent in Ja’Wuan James has been injured most of the year, and when he played last week, he allowed a sack.

In fact, of the four key free agents Elway signed this season — seemingly trying to mimic what he did back in 2014 — only safety Kareem Jackson has been worth the money.

One-out-of-four is bad. Very bad.

Elway should have seen this coming.

Sure, on paper, he signed a group of young, emerging free agents at positions of need for the team. It seemed like he was making the right moves.

The problem is, Elway was heaping those prized additions onto a foundation made of sand; it’s crumbled to the ground only halfway through this 2019 season.

See, it wasn’t just the additions to this team which put the Broncos in this 2-6 hole, it’s some of the subtractions as well.

Matt Paradis left to play with the Carolina Panthers and rightfully got paid. But, few thought his importance on the offensive line as the best player and anchor would be felt this much. What must hurt most for Elway is Paradis, a sixth-round diamond in the rough, was one of the only excellent offensive linemen the “Duke” has ever drafted.

Shaquil Barrett left, too, but there wasn’t much Elway could’ve done about that move. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are Nos. 1 and 2 on the edge; Barrett wanted to start and is a superstar in Tampa Bay with 10 sacks and four forced fumbles, each most in the NFL.

However, cutting Brandon Marshall was seemingly a mistake, especially given the injuries to Todd Davis and now Corey Nelson (torn pectoral muscle, IR) at inside linebacker.

Without a doubt, this is one of the worst rosters the Broncos have trotted out onto the field at Mile High since Elway took the reins of the team. There’s no quick fix, no group of big-contract free agents which can immediately make this team a contender.

The only solution for the Broncos is the long, arduous rebuild. From Allen to Isaac Yiadom, from cornerback to quarterback, they must blow this experiment up and start over.

It’s not all bad. There have been a few positives from this season in terms of personnel and looking forward. Alexander Johnson is raw but he’s a player with great instinct. He’s got to be part of this group in the near future, even if that just means as a key special teams contributor. Mike Purcell has been a pleasant surprise as well, and Dre’Mont Jones is showing flashes of brilliance on the defensive line.

Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons are all young cornerstones to build around; now Elway needs to find multiple offensive linemen, an inside linebacker and continue to create depth in Denver.

Of course, the biggest hole in the Broncos’ roster is a starting quarterback. And without one, they won’t go far, which is exactly why he turned to Manning in the first place.

But, this time, Elway must draft a quarterback and create a longterm solution there or the “Duke” will eventually be sent packing.

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