Rebuilding the Broncos: Offseason outlook, Part 1

I spent much of yesterday evening watching film of the Broncos' SB 32 win against the heavily favored Packers, a therapy which I prescribed to treat a case of the almost-past lockout blues. It was a nice memory to revisit, too: In a showing packed with memorable moments, perhaps the most telling comment came from then-Packer Aaron Taylor, who simply said, “I think that they wanted it more than we did.” It was true, too - what stood Denver above the Packers was that the Broncos, to a man, just weren’t going to see John Elway locked out of the finishing touch to a brilliant career by losing a fourth SB. That kind of loyalty is a potent weapon, and the ability to earn it says a lot about why Elway was so successful.

In a game filled with extraordinary performances, the other thing that stood out to me was the play of the Denver offensive line, particularly that of RT Tony Jones, who completely shut star DE Reggie White down and out of the game. Eugene Robinson later commented that as much as Terrell Davis’s performance was brilliant, the offensive line deserved a lot of the credit for the length of many of his runs. It’s a lesson that can’t be overstated in the NFL - if you want to have a running game, you’re going to need a talented line. Watching TD's gutsy play in producing 157 yards despite the lingering effects of a killer migraine was amazing: it was a performance that earned him the SB MVP that year. It also reminded me what you can achieve when you have good offensive line players like Jones, Gary Zimmerman, Tom Nalen, Mark Schlereth and Brian Habib and when the group instinctively plays together as a unit.

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The Daily Lard 7-18-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Revisiting the Steve Wyche/Bucky Brooks podcast from yesterday's Lard, both Brooks and Wyche are convinced that Tim Tebow will be the Broncos' starting QB in 2011. Brooks says that from his time working with John Fox and the Panthers in a scouting capacity, he believes Fox wants a QB who possesses the "It" factor, and that Tebow will be an ideal fit within the more balanced offense Fox prefers. Meanwhile, Wyche says he's spoken with enough people that he's comfortable in stating that the starting gig will be Tebow's to lose, and that he'd have to be a complete flop in training camp or get injured to do so. Wyche also believes that while the Broncos are seeking a second-rounder in return for Kyle Orton, they'd take a third-rounder in exchange for the veteran QB, and that Jake Delhomme is going to land in Denver once Cleveland lets him go.

Wyche also states with great confidence that the Broncos are going to make a major push to sign DeAngelo Williams, although he also puzzlingly suggests the team could be interested in signing another LB in free agency (Brian Xanders has pretty much ruled that out, at least publicly). Brooks thinks defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Barry Cofield would be excellent fits for Denver, with the aging Pat Williams as a fallback. If you'd like to listen for yourself, the segment where Wyche and Brooks discuss the Broncos begins at the 14-minute mark.

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The Daily Lard 7-17-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Chris Mortensen writes that the new CBA will be a 10-year deal, and hopes are that a deal will be reached in time for the players to recertify their union and ratify an agreement on Wednesday, with the owners following suit at their meeting the next day. With an agreement nearing, Mort is hearing the players are looking to be compensated for $320 million in benefits that were lost due to the uncapped 2010 season, and to have franchise tags limited to a one-time use for each player. The other remaining issues as reported previously are resolution of the Brady suit and the TV lockout fund, and worker's comp.

Mortensen also writes that going forward, two-a-day practices will be eliminated from training camps, while OTAs would be shortened and start later than they had in prior years. Teams will reportedly have a 72-hour period to re-sign their own free agents, including in the Broncos' case UFAs DT Marcus Thomas and OT Ryan Harris. As Lindsay Jones reported in June, K Matt Prater and LB Wesley Woodyard will be restricted free agents requiring draft-pick compensation to Denver should other teams sign them.

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Top 10 signs you are ready for the NFL lockout to end

Drew Brees says the lockout will be over soon.

Since you can always trust a guy from New Orleans to give you a calm and reasonable assessment of any situation, I'd say Brees is on to something.

We're about to get NFL football again.

I'm ready to stop fantasizing about Hope Solo; Tim Tebow is ready to stop wearing purple; Roger Goodell is ready to begin fining James Harrison for theoretically not peeing on him while being (theoretically) on fire.

The signs are there.  Here are ten for you:

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The Daily Lard 7-16-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Albert Breer writes that an agreement on a new CBA is expected to be reached early next week, while lawyers for the two sides will continue meeting over the weekend. The most significant progress of yesterday's talks was that the owners altogether dropped their demand to have rights of first refusal on a number of their own free agents, and the two sides apparently agreed upon offseason programs and player safety issues. Plus, it is expected that players will receive their full offseason workout bonuses as was previously contracted.

Remaining items include retiree benefits, drug testing, and settling the Brady suit and TV rights case, although these are not seen as potential stumbling blocks. According to Breer, the players have ceded the right to renegotiate contracts until after their third season in the league - Andrew Brandt writes that undrafted players had been able to renegotiate following their second season. Also, the fifth-year options for first-rounders mentioned yesterday will be based upon salaries during the third year of a contract; in other words, Denver's 2015 option on Von Miller will require the Broncos to guarantee him the average salary of the NFL's top 10 linebackers as paid during the 2013 season.

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Revelation of NFLPA’s lockout insurance may have forced concessions from owners

Apparently De Smith isn't the thoughtless/reckless goon he was made out to be a month or two ago. As Jim Trotter writes for SI,

slightly more than a year ago he received approval from the executive committee to secure insurance that would pay each player roughly $200,000 if there were no football in 2011

Trotter goes on to say that "only a handful" of people outside of the NFLPA's executive committee knew about the lockout insurance, and when talks appeared at a standstill on Wednesday old friend Domonique Foxworth dropped the proverbial bomb on ownership. Mike Freeman openly wondered this morning what had taken place to spur so much progress on Thursday, and now we know. (Thanks, Chibronx)

You Got Served: Impending CBA edition

Happy Friday, friends.  As we seem to be nearing a CBA settlement, I’ve decided to re-engage on some of the substance of the issues, as reported in the last day.  As usual, I have thoughts.  Ready… BEGIN!!!  (It feels good to say that, and to give y’all a healthy serving.)

1.  The news about the agreement on the rookie wage scale is major, but not unexpected.  The reporting in recent days has been that that was the dominant topic, and as engaged as the two sides have been, and now that they’re both negotiating fully in good faith, it’s no surprise that an accord was eventually reached.  (Too bad that doesn’t hold true on the federal government’s debt ceiling negotiations.)

Assuming the reporting is correct, the NFL has essentially copied the only smart thing that the NBA has been doing with their salary structure.  They’ve introduced an honest-to-goodness risk management plan, and fundamentally re-valued draft picks.  This is great for the quality of the NFL, and its ability to promote parity across the entire league landscape.

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The Daily Lard 7-15-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Last night's labor talks, which reportedly included agreements on a rookie wage scale and a 2011 salary cap, wrapped up around 10pm ET and will pick up again this morning at 9am ET. According to Chris Mortensen, the fifth-year option included in rookie contracts for first-rounders would mean for a player drafted in the top 10 (like Von Miller) a salary equal to the average of the top 10 players at his position. For the rest of the first-rounders (picks 11-32) that option would be worth the average of the player salaries ranked 3-25 at their respective positions.

In the case of all first-rounders, a team would be able to exercise that fifth-year option following the player's third season and his salary would then become guaranteed. This latest report doesn't specify what, if anything, changes about the option if it is exercised following the player's fourth year. So under this framework, Von Miller will be under contract through the 2014 season, with the Broncos holding an expensive option to keep him through 2015 - relative to 2009 data, that salary would be around $10 million.

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Agreement on rookie wage scale and 2011 salary cap reportedly reached

Adam Schefter is reporting that the players and owners have agreed upon a new rookie wage scale and are one step closer to reaching a new CBA. According to John Clayton, all first-round picks would receive four-year rookie contracts with fifth-year options which teams would be able to exercise following the players' third and fourth seasons.

Although the two sides were not previously scheduled to meet tomorrow, they are now expected to continue their talks late into the night and reconvene tomorrow. The issues yet to be resolved include workers' comp, settlement of the TV damages suit and the Brady suit, and the extra rights of first refusal owners are seeking to help them retain free agents this year. According to ESPN's report, the owners are (of course) asking that the players recertify their union and omit judicial oversight from future labor disputes.

UPDATE 9:50PM ET - Clayton is now reporting that the two sides have agreed to set the 2011 salary cap at $120 million with a salary floor close to 100 percent of that number, while Sal Paolantonio says an agreement is close at hand

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Thomas denies allegations he received improper benefits at GT

Second-year Denver WR Demaryius Thomas, who is rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon, has denied an allegation that he received $312 worth of clothing from a sports agency employee in 2009 while a member of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. GT vacated its 2009 ACC football championship game victory, was fined $100K and its football and men's hoops programs were placed on probation until July of 2015 for failing to cooperate with the NCAA in its investigation of the school. Thomas, a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2010, disputed the validity of the report in a text message to the DP. The NCAA said that GT should have declared (Thomas) ineligible for its final three games in 2009, including its ACC title game victory over Clemson and Orange Bowl loss to Iowa.

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