DENVER – With Peyton Manning’s arrival as a Bronco only held up by completion of a contract between the two parties, the Broncos’ Plan A at quarterback has come to fruition.
Plan B — the search for a rookie quarterback to push the incumbent — now looks a bit different if the Broncos trade Tim Tebow, who is young but whose contrasting style makes it unlikely he could step into a Manning-centric offense and flourish if the 15-year veteran is injured.
The draft-eligible quarterback who appeared to be the most prominent target of the Broncos’ search until recent weeks was Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, who dined with John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders in Stillwater, Okla. on March 8, met with Broncos officials at the Senior Bowl and reportedly met with then at the Scouting Combine. But Weeden is 28 years old, and with Manning hoping to play multiple years before ending his career, selecting Weeden doesn’t reprint the bst possible value — for both himself and the Broncos. The team that selects Weeden needs him on the field before the end of his regular season, otherwise he will turn 30 during his first season as a full-time starter.
If the Broncos had whiffed on Manning and wanted Weeden, they might have been forced to spend a first-round pick on him. His rising stock and pro-ready skill set likely meant he wouldn’t have been available when the Broncos pick in the second round.
Now, they can’t afford to pick a quarterback in the first round — even if they wanted to.
With Manning’s salary set to consume approximately 50 percent of the salary-cap room left after the signing of safety Mike Adams and the return of linebacker Joe Mays — and the offense around Manning in need of supplemental parts not currently on the roster — the Broncos may be forced out of necessity to pick a defensive tackle in the first round.
This wouldn’t be a bad thing, given the depth at the position this year. The Broncos are likely to get terrific value from a defensive tackle at the No. 25 slot.
But then the quarterbacks could be back in the Broncos’ crosshairs. Passers like Arizona’s Nick Foles (whom the Broncos’ brass scouted at Boulder’s Folsom Field last year) and San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley (who not only has many habits that remind one of a young Jake Delhomme, but who said at the Senior Bowl he’d spoken with Broncos officials there) are developmental/backup possibilities the Broncos could examine in the second round and beyond.
The goal of the Broncos would be to do what the Colts couldn’t with Manning — develop a viable young backup for the long term. Picking a quarterback in the first three rounds would help their odds — and potentially solve a long-term problem, too.