It's been a strange couple of days in Broncos Land. For some fans, Denver has, in that time, gone from a potential 8-10 win team to a franchise that is clearly "going for it" and "putting all its eggs" in on the 2012 campaign.
It's as if they've upped the prescriptions on their orange-colored glasses.
All this, because Maurice Jones-Drew is unhappy with his contract situation in Jacksonville.
Mind you, these dramatic phrases were not used to describe the acquisition of Peyton Manning as recently as Monday or Tuesday.
Now that MJD might be available in trade (probably not, actually), Peyton's arm is suddenly thisclose to falling off, and the "window" of his status as a top quarterback is closing in but a year or two.
The antidote for this puzzling new mindset is a reexamination of what happened at Dove Valley this offseason.
Yesterday, we looked forward to explain why the potential costs of acquiring and then paying MJD are too high for Denver.
Today, let's look back to see whether the Broncos are truly in an "all-in" mode.
We'll start with the obvious:
Sure, it's been said and written that John Elway & Co. went after Manning because they figured he would make them an overnight contender.
But for however much that is true, it's at best half of the story.
Let's not forget, Elway pursued Manning because he had a Tebow problem. Signing Peyton was as much about finding a cure for Tebowmania as it was about writing a prescription for another Lombardi Trophy.
The move also addressed both the present and future of the franchise; Manning's addition allowed Denver to draft an unpolished passer in Brock Osweiler to be groomed under Peyton's tutelage.
Manning has indicated that he plans to play for another three or four years; Elway has set the bar at two SB titles for a successful Peyton/Denver marriage.
And naturally, Peyton didn't come to Denver to build for a run in 2014 or 2015. 2013 is more realistic, given where he's been with his injury.
But as always, rather than focus on what's said at Dove Valley, let's examine the team's actions.
Manning's five-year deal is structured to protect Denver from a worst-case scenario in which an injury prevents him from playing beyond 2012. If he's on the roster at the end of the 2012 league year, the next two years of Peyton's contract will become guaranteed, essentially converting it to a three-year deal.
This is not a contract for a guy who intends to play for one or two years; it's a deal that says he plans to be around for at least three seasons.
Other offseason moves
What about the rest of Denver's transactions? Let's take a look at every player acquired by the Broncos since February, excluding those who have already been jettisoned:
|Veteran Starters||Joe Mays, Wesley Woodyard, Tracy Porter, Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Justin Bannan, Drayton Florence, Jim Leonhard|
|Veteran Backups||Manny Ramirez, Andre Caldwell, Jason Hunter, Caleb Hanie, Brandon Stokley, Keith Brooking|
|Draft Choices||Derek Wolfe, Brock Osweiler, Ronnie Hillman, Omar Bolden, Philip Blake, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan|
|Undrafted Rookies||Jamie Blatnick, Anthony Miller, Gerell Robinson, Aaron Brewer, Elliot Coffey, Duke Ihenacho, Jerry Franklin, Wayne Tribue, Austin Wuebbels, Steven Johnson, Mike Remmers|
|Bubble Vets & Camp Fodder||Austin Sylvester, C.J. Davis, Jason Hill, Anthony Perkins, Cameron Kenney|
Do these names read like the acquisitions list of a desperate, win-now, costs-be-damned team?
Florence and Leonhard were not signed to be starters, and it remains to be seen whether Leonhard will even make the 53-man roster.
And there's quite a bit of generosity in characterizing Woodyard, Dreessen, Tamme, and Bannan as starters; Woodyard and the two tight ends have never been first-teamers without an injury or suspension to thank. That's not to say these players won't fill significant roles on the 2012 Broncos; they're just not major acquisitions by any stretch.
These Broncos are not a player or two away from being among the league's best. And given the theoretical $10M per year in cash and cap space that would be required of an MJD acquisition (if Denver can even afford it, which is far from a safe assumption), it's easy to come up with positions that would be better served by a salary infusion.
Significant upgrades at any combination of left guard, center, right tackle, wide receiver, either defensive tackle spot, middle and weakside linebacker, and either safety position, would make more sense for the Broncos than a single running back.
Have we already forgotten that Willis McGahee rushed for 1,199 yards and a 4.8 per-carry average last season?
It's always fun to talk about the Super Bowl, and having Peyton Manning on your team certainly makes such a conversation more reasonable than not having him.
But the Broncos were a four-win team just two years ago, with a point differential of minus-127 - the worst such mark for Denver in over forty seasons. Last year, they eked their way to eight wins, but still sported a dreadful point differential of minus-81 (that deficit expands to 110 points if we include the playoffs).
Peyton will make a serious dent in those figures; there's no doubt about that. Whether that will be reflected in the standings, is impossible to predict.
But studying the roster, revisiting the offseason moves, and watching the offense work to get into sync with Manning, says the Broncos are not yet an elite team. They are not one or two players away; they are not in "all-in" mode. That talk should be tabled until 2013.
It's plain for all to see, unless you're wearing a pair of these: