It is well known that the hardest part of the NFL offseason is surviving the lack of action between the end of mandatory mini-camp and the start of training camp closer to August. Luckily, last week we were presented with an interesting headline that the majority of fans probably swept under the rug. Involving arguably the best quarterback to play this game and a player considered to be NFL royalty, it was reported via Benjamin Allbright of Denver 94.1 FM that the Denver Broncos had discussed trading Peyton Manning to the Houston Texans.
Before the NFL world entered complete chaos, we found out that there was not much substance to the report after the Broncos aggressively denied the news and the trade talks were reported as “very preliminary.” Case closed, right? That is of course if you are looking at the situation solely on its surface. Read carefully between the lines here, and John Elway’s nose continues to grow.
There is an expression that I was consistently exposed to growing up and it reads like this: Where there is smoke, there is fire.
And the smog in Denver right now is at an all-time high.
The Manning trade rumors were not an attempt just to put a headline out there. This was no accident. Instead, it should signal that John Elway and the Denver Broncos front office is not all that comfortable with their 39-year-old quarterback who is entering his 18th season. Yup, Manning is no different than any player who has ever played in this wonderful league. His time has come and gone. He is mortal. The end of last season showed us first hand that all good things must come to an end. There was the letdown in St. Louis, the unraveling against Cincinnati on Monday Night Football, and of course the playoff game. Boy, was that ugly. Peyton completed 56.5% of his passes and finished with a QBR rating of 27.9.
Elway’s not stupid. He was one of the best to play the position and was winning Super Bowls at Manning’s age. He saw the pieces fall apart just like the rest of us last year, and so it is no surprise that he would field calls about Manning’s value. Now, if the Broncos were truly talking to Houston about Manning and nothing ever amounted from it, common sense tells us of course they were going to deny the reports to the media. But even if Denver is telling the truth about their signal caller, Manning still had to take a pay cut this offseason of four million dollars. Not that bad, until ProFootballTalk released that Denver initially wanted the quarterback to take a 10 million dollar cut. That is by no means chum change, and it indicates that Denver believes Manning’s performance has significantly dropped off and he is no longer the same player.
One thing is for sure, the Broncos have made clear of their doubts with Manning this offseason.
When Peyton got his restructured deal done months ago, a no-trade clause was attached to his contract in return. In hindsight, it makes sense why he would have pushed for such a thing if he knew the Broncos were looking to throw his name out on the market. Be assured, a Manning deal really never had a shot of going down. With that being said, do not be naive enough to think that the Broncos did not try to weigh their options with number 18.
The talk is that many within the organization feel like backup Brock Osweiler’s time has come and that he is a better fit for new head coach Gary Kubiak’s offense. Kubiak likes to utilize play action and bootlegs, and so a more mobile quarterback suits as a better fit. Julius Thomas is gone, the offensive line is not the same unit now that Ryan Clady tore his ACL, and Demaryius Thomas is still in a contract dispute. There is a lot of moving parts in Denver heading into 2015, and where Manning is at this point in his career, it makes it that much harder to compete for a championship.
Although we may just see Manning’s play deteriorating, one has to wonder where he is physically and mentally. Is the desire and motivation still there to compete? For someone like Manning, the easy answer might be yes. However, the body takes a toll, and the journey to get deep into the playoffs and contend is a long one. Especially when he has struggled to exercise the demons he has consistently seen in the playoffs. These were certainly all variables Elway and the front office considered.
With a talented roster, the Broncos will more than likely find themselves in the playoffs again with a chance to make a run. Manning gives them the best chance to win, but he will need all the help in the world this season. Chances are he will not be winning another ring. So, why not see what you could possibly get for a name like Manning from a team who is thirsty for a quarterback? After the playoff game, Elway knew the show was over. That is why he most likely did talk to Houston and tried to get Peyton to take the big cut. He is uneasy about his future hall of famer at quarterback, but he certainly is not going to let anyone else know about it.
This ought to be the last rodeo for The Sheriff, and if Elway’s actions are any indication, it could get ugly.