Eighteen years ago, John Elway ducked out of training camp for a couple of days in order to go on a recruiting trip. The then-quarterback of the Broncos traveled to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D. in an effort to convince a future Hall of Fame left tackle to give him one more season in the trenches. In the end, No. 7 got his man, as Gary Zimmerman returned for one final year in orange and blue, a key moment in Denver’s first Super Bowl season.

It’s time for Elway to hit the road once again, whether it’s to Knoxville, Indianapolis, Miami or wherever he needs to go. Now the general manager of the Broncos, another recruiting visit is necessary.

This go around, it’s not for an offensive lineman. It is to convince someone who is ultimately bound for Canton to give it one more season in the Mile High City. And once again, No. 7 needs to put forth a great sales pitch, convincing a player to come out of retirement and help save the day.

That’s right, Elway needs to coax Peyton Manning back to Denver for one more season.

Anyone who watched the Broncos’ second preseason game, a 31-24 loss to the 49ers on Saturday night, understands why. None of the three quarterbacks currently on the roster has any business trying to defend Denver’s championship; even at 40 years old, Manning does.

Plenty of people will laugh at the notion, thinking that No. 18 is an over-the-hill, washed-up version of his old self. But those are folks who put way too much emphasis on statistics. Yes, Manning’s numbers were abysmal last year, as he threw 17 interceptions and just nine touchdowns in 10 appearances, but those were mostly a byproduct of three correctable factors – an atrocious offensive line, a system that doesn’t fit his talents and a foot injury that lingered throughout the season.

When Manning was allowed to be Manning – think the fourth quarter at Kansas City or the second half in Indianapolis – he showed flashes of still being a prolific quarterback. When he was forced to play Gary Kubiak’s system, or some version of it, he looked like a fish out of water.

Right now, however, there are certainly reasons to question the head coach’s approach to offense. The Broncos are once again sputtering, as five different quarterbacks have now struggled to find a rhythm running Kubiak’s attack, a trend that dates all the way back to last preseason. Other than the aforementioned bright moments from Manning, as well as Brock Osweiler’s highlights during the first half in Pittsburgh and the fourth quarter against New England, anemic production was the norm in 2015 and has continued this year. Perhaps it’s time to consider some changes.

That would certainly make the pitch to Manning simpler; let the quarterback run the system he’s always run. His offense, paired with Denver’s devastating defense, would make the Broncos the prohibitive favorites to once again hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

It’d be possible because of the changes the team has made to its offensive line. They’ve replaced four of the five starters from Super Bowl 50, an 80 percent overhaul that demonstrates just how overmatched that group was on a weekly basis last season. Manning would have a much better chance for success behind a line that features Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson at tackle, Max Garcia and (hopefully) Ty Sambrailo at guard, and Matt Paradis back at center.

Assuming Manning’s foot has healed, something that seven months of not participating in OTAs, minicamps or training camp should have aided, the stage would be set for one final season. And there’s little doubt that the future Hall of Fame quarterback would like to go out on a better note, at least in terms of his play, than he did last season; it can’t sit well with him that most people claim that he was simply along for the championship ride.

On that front, Elway can share his own history; he can remind Manning how he won a title despite not having a great day, only to return for another championship season that was capped by an MVP performance in Super Bowl XXXIII. Such a scenario would have to be appealing to Manning.

Back-to-back titles are certainly possible in Denver; they have the roster, especially on defense, to make another run. But it’s not happening with any of the current quarterbacks at the helm. Mark Sanchez has proven that he hasn’t been able to shake the turnover bug that’s plagued him throughout his career. Trevor Siemian looks like a guy who has never thrown an NFL pass. Paxton Lynch is less than one year removed from starting against Missouri State.

Yes, Lynch is the quarterback of the future in Denver; the preseason has proven that to be true. But the defending champs need a bridge to their young quarterback; they need someone that allows them to not squander their current opportunity, while still getting ready for the transition.

Manning would be the perfect guy for that role; he only has one more season in him – an all-too-appropriate 18th campaign in the NFL – so his presence wouldn’t stunt the development of Lynch. And he’s clearly capable of leading this Broncos team to a title, as he’s already done it once.

The Broncos are currently $5.7 million under the salary cap; they can save another $3.5 million by cutting Sanchez. That’s more than enough room to make a deal with Manning.

It’d be the comeback of all comebacks – The Sheriff riding into town to save the day, before heading off into the sunset once and for all. And all it will take is another August trip from the Broncos’ best recruiter.