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Sports Authority

Ivey: Change hits Broncos Hard

| Thursday, March 17, 2016

It has been quite a month for the Denver Broncos.

Last month they defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, 24-10, and were on top of the football world. Now it looks like they are free-falling back down to Earth.

Last Monday, as was expected, quarterback Peyton Manning announced his retirement. Despite quarterbacking his team to a title, Manning had one of his worst seasons as a professional last year with the Broncos, posting career lows in passing touchdowns (9), completions (198), and quarterback rating (67.9). Manning was sidelined for part of the year with a foot injury and replaced by backup Brock Osweiler, who showed flashes of brilliance during his time in relief of Manning and led the Broncos to five wins in his seven games started. The theory was Osweiler would step in and take over the Broncos starting quarterback job when Manning retired.

But in a move that virtually no one expected, Osweiler left the Broncos and signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Houston Texans when NFL free agency began last Wednesday. Suddenly, the Broncos quarterback situation, which had been stable the previous four years, had been thrown into flux.

Reports broke out before Osweiler signed with the Texans that if he were to leave, the Broncos were prepared to attempt to trade for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But then Kaepernick expressed a desire to be traded to the Cleveland Browns and play for their new coach, Hue Jackson.

Instead of quarterbacking the defending Super Bowl champions, Kaepernick said he would rather play for the Browns.

Then, last Friday, the Broncos traded a conditional draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for quarterback Mark Sanchez. Yes, that Mark Sanchez. The quarterback, most remembered for the infamous “Butt Fumble” play during his time with the New York Jets, who served as a backup for the Eagles the past two seasons.

Now, the Broncos are currently negotiating a potential deal with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who spent last year as the New York Jets starting quarterback. But reports are saying that Fitzpatrick’s asking price is “too high” for the Broncos, and he might sign elsewhere.

That’s right folks. Ryan Fitzpatrick is considered too expensive to quarterback the defending Super Bowl champions.

But the Broncos have more problems than just those at quarterback. Their defense last year was the best in the league and considered to be the driving force behind their Super Bowl victory. But a few pieces of that defense have left via free agency in the last week, including linebacker Danny Trevathan who signed with the Chicago Bears, defensive end Malik Jackson, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and safety David Bruton, who signed with the Washington Redskins.

And the exodus may not be over just yet. Other key Broncos who could potentially leave in free agency are linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis, safety Josh Bush and guard Evan Mathis.

In a month, the Broncos went from having a legendary quarterback and historically-strong defense leading them to a Super Bowl victory to having possibly Mark Sanchez or Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the offense and a defense that continues to be gutted. Hopefully, John Elway and company know what they’re doing.

Who knows? Maybe Fitzpatrick or Sanchez will step in and operate well in head coach Gary Kubiak’s system and lead the Broncos, with a weaker but still strong defense, back into Super Bowl contention.  

One thing is for certain though: No team this year has had a free agent period quite like the Denver Broncos have.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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