The seemingly never-ending NFL season is underway with organized team workouts commencing and the draft and free agency in the rear-view mirror. The Denver Broncos, after a busy few months of change, are ready for another run at a championship but three things in particular should cause a twinge of panic even three months away from meaningful snaps.

Demaryius Thomas remains absent from team activities while attempting to negotiate a long-term deal with the team, NFL owners are voting on point after touchdown proposals today while the Broncos still have big questions at kicker and the starting middle linebackers on the roster are limited or unable to practice.

The Broncos are stacked with talent. They have great pieces on both sides of the ball heading into the 2015 season but the biggest weapon and arguably the most talented player on the roster is missing at Dove Valley. Thomas was franchised tagged on March 2 and will play the 2015 season under a one-year roughly $12.8 million deal unless the sides can finally reach a long-term solution.

The Broncos have begun phase two of organized team workouts and phase three in which they can begin playing offense versus defense begins next Wednesday. June 11 the team will begin mandatory minicamp and it looks like Thomas will miss all of it. Four short weeks ago, during a mostly light-hearted press conference, John Elway quickly turned serious in regards to his highly valuable wide receiver’s contract situation.

“To be dead honest, I see absolutely zero value in him being away from here—zero value for him,” Elway said. “As far as negotiations and his new deal and what’s going on, we’d like to get something done. By him being away from here, there is zero value not only to us, but also to him.”

While it is not abnormal for a franchise tagged player to miss workouts it is becoming more and more of an issue as Thomas’s July 15th deadline to sign his contract nears. There are consequences on and off the field for his absence. On the field he will be missing vital time to get acclimated to Gary Kubiak’s offense and missing film study and meetings puts him behind his teammates as well.

The contract negotiations should heat up as the deadline approaches but both sides would benefit a great deal by getting a long-term solution done. If Thomas signs his franchise tag the drama would continue for possibly an entire year. The contract could snowball into not just problems with missed workouts but issues that effect games in December and January.

Another issue that has gone mostly unnoticed is the Broncos’ kicker situation. Conor Barth played well after joining the team on November 24 but has yet to show a consistent high-lofting kick that can be counted on through an entire season. The team also signed a YouTube sensation, Karl Schmitz and brought back Brandon McManus to the roster. While Barth remains the clear leader as the field goal kicker the team should still be worried about the upcoming season.

Barth went 15 for 16 on field goals in 2015 and his only miss was between 40-49 yards. However, it is his career stats and a rule change that should alarm the team moving forward.

Today the NFL owners will review new point after touchdown (PAT) rules. There are three proposals that are up for vote today and according to most experts one will likely pass and change the rules for at least the 2015 season.

All three proposals have a choice between a two-point attempt (from the 1, 1.5 or 2 yard line) after touchdowns or a PAT, snapped from the 15 yard line (essentially a 32 or 33 yard attempt). The impact will effect the strategy of the game and create more excitement after touchdowns than the current, near-automatic extra point of the last hundred or so years.

One of the three proposals will force Barth to carry the pressure of the new rule. He has a career 88.6 percent accuracy between 30-39 yards, which would be where the extra points would fall into which is a big dip from the league’s 99.5 percent accuracy on current extra points. The drop in percentage would create a gamble for the Broncos if Barth were to struggle with extra points under a new rule. Also his career accuracy falls to 81.6 percent from 40-49 yards and only 65 percent from 50-plus on field goals.

The Broncos surely are hoping Barth has gotten back in the swing of things after missing the 2013 season and only playing in five games in 2014 but it will likely remain a mystery until September.

Lastly, the Broncos are continuing to monitor their two starting inside linebackers and a lot of questions remain. Danny Trevathan is participating in organized team workouts on a limited basis thus far after suffering two injuries to his left leg and knee that kept him out of all but three games in 2014. Brandon Marshall, who played exceptional well in Trevathan’s absence in 2014, quietly underwent foot surgery in March to repair a Lisfranc injury and has yet to return to workouts.

“‘Greek’ (Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos) says they should be ready for training camp. It’s not going to help them missing the OTAs, but that is what it is. They should be healthy by training camp,” Elway said on April 23.

While Elway remains optimistic neither player has recovered from their serious injuries yet. The Broncos will rely heavily on both players in 2015 as the team shifts to a 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips. The back ups inside have some experience but the talent level would be a huge drop off after Trevathan and Marshall.

Trevathan’s injuries have had extensive time to heal and should be less of an issue but his overall propensity to get injured will be an issue for the remainder of his career. Marshall’s injury should be far more alarming for the team and fans alike. Lisfranc injuries are a notoriously fickle type of problem. It is an injury that can linger or flare up quickly and has a huge effect on a player’s ability to cut and plant, especially in pass coverage. The same injury plagued the last few seasons of former Bronco, Champ Bailey.

Much like Thomas’s absence, Marshall being sidelined will allow players like Todd Davis, Lamin Barrow, Reggie Walker, and Steven Johnson an opportunity to hone there skills. On the downside, it will put Marshall behind in his progress transitioning to the 3-4 scheme.

May is a time that usual garners very little panic and the Broncos should be optimistic about their chances in 2015 but some issues remain just under the surface that if not addressed, will fester into full-blown fiascoes for the Broncos brass. The coming weeks will force the team to address all three of the panic-button issues facing the team today.

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