Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

John Elway didn’t need to cheat to throw well

John Elway 'never even thought about' deflating footballs

“I never even thought about it,” John Elway told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday afternoon.

Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-general manager of the Denver Broncos, played in all sorts of weather conditions in his 16-year NFL career and dismissed the idea that quarterbacks would want to alter the level of inflation in a ball to help gain a better grip.

As for cheating to get under the salary cap, well...

Should Britton Colquitt really be Denver’s ninth highest paid player?

Lessons learned: The just so-so special teams

Couple those issues with a ho-hum season from Colquitt – his 37.6 net yards per punt was his lowest showing in net yardage since 2010 – and a lack of an overall impact, save for Omar Bolden’s work late in the season, in the return game, and new special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has a big to-do list.

Colquitt is schedule to be the Broncos' ninth highest paid player in terms of cap value, and remains the highest paid punter in the league relative to AAV, despite being the league's fifth-worst in terms of net average. Cutting him (post-June 1) would leave $750K in dead money and save $3M against the cap.

Montee Ball plans to trim down for 2015

Briefs: Broncos LB Von Miller looks at Pro Bowl as chance to end well

Ball said he is prepared for the challenge. He plans to play at 210 pounds next season after bulking up 10 pounds for training camp last season.

“I will push the reset button and work even harder to come back ready,” Ball said. “I will be ready.”

Ball was listed at 215 pounds, which is just a pound over his weight at combine two years ago. Can't wait for those "I'm in the best shape of my life and feel faster" stories.

Somewhere in this quote is one of the reasons John Elway fired John Fox

Broncos' Gary Kubiak is fine with John Elway's high expectations

“If you make any kind of decisions that you want to do something, all you have to do is tell me why. I want a reason why. I want to know that it is thought through, that when we made this decision it was the best decision we could make. If I don’t get a why, then you need to help me here.”

To speculate wildly, it might have been the offensive line changes, a restriction on Peyton Manning's ability to audible, leaving the team's playoff chances to a coin flip, or a slew of John Fox Specials. Chances are, we'll all hear and read over the coming months more hints of what drove Elway and Fox apart.

Some free agent ideas for the Broncos from Bill Barnwell

NFL Playoffs Postmortem: What’s Next for the Eliminated Teams?

Could they go after somebody like Ndamukong Suh and build a devastating defense behind Kubiak’s perennially effective rushing attack, perhaps with C.J. Anderson splitting time alongside Justin Forsett?

That sort of cap space is exciting to think about given how close Denver was last season, but seeing as the alternative at quarterback is Brock Osweiler or a trade for somebody like Jay Cutler, I’m guessing that Broncos fans would rather Manning come back and try for one last ring with much of the current roster in 2015.

If your eyes haven't rolled back into your head from the Cutler idea, you'll see the other names Barnwell floats: Michael Crabtree, Cecil Shorts, Jordan Cameron, and Owen Daniels.

Kiszla: Departure of Dumervil scarred Denver locker room

Kiszla: Team-first players right for Broncos

Elway can stand in front of the Broncos and passionately demand championship intensity from his players. Bless him for caring. Inspirational speeches, however, don’t leave as lasting an impact in a locker room as the hole left by pass rusher Elvis Dumervil when squabbling over money sent him packing to the Baltimore Ravens.

As I've often mentioned recently, I think the failure to re-sign Dumervil is John Elway's biggest mistake to date. Yeah, I know DeMarcus Ware is better against the run, but in a passing league, I'd take Doom's 11.9% Pass Rushing Productivity in 2014 over Ware's 8.8%. The difference was even starker in 2013, when Doom's PRP was 15.1% to Shaun Phillips' 8.6%.

Brad Johnson knows the value of a doctored football

Bucs QB Johnson paid to have footballs altered before SB 37

“I paid some guys off to get the balls right,” Johnson now admits. “I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them.”

Rick Stroud notes that Rich Gannon threw five interceptions throwing the same balls as Johnson. One might view this is a suggestion of a level playing field, but our read is that the balls were doctored to Johnson's preference, and not Gannon's. Either way, we're just grateful the Raiders didn't win another SB.

Paige: Peyton Manning wants to return in 2015

Paige: You can expect Peyton Manning to return to Broncos

According to three trustworthy sources, Manning wants to return to the Broncos, but won’t and can’t make a final decision until he takes an annual physical examination mandated by his contract. Last year, the test results were learned at the beginning of March. The Broncos have requested that Manning let them know his plans by March 9 — the day before teams must exercise their rights on veteran players under contract.

Per Woody, Manning has many reasons to come back, including the desire for another SB ring, legacy, all-time passing records, and money.

Jim Nantz probably thinks Phil Simms invented water

Jim Nantz, Phil Simms discussion adds context to deflated football talk

Nantz: We talked to [Aaron] Rodgers about ‘How do you like your footballs?’ Because, you know, you can rub them up before the game. [Phil], you really kind of created that for everybody else in the league.

This, of course, is the genius who thinks Simms belongs in Canton, on the basis of one half of one football game. Give it a rest, Nantz.

Legwold: Expect big changes on Broncos’ offensive line

Lessons learned: Offensive line makeover is coming

The key phrase there is “change of scenery,” as in someplace else. The Broncos have two starters who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents—guard Orlando Franklin and Montgomery.

New head coach Gary Kubiak’s arrival, with his playbook in hand, also means more zone blocking and a little more emphasis on movement skills up front. The starting point for rebuilding the unit is likely Louis Vasquez and Ryan Clady—both have been Pro Bowl selections in the past two seasons.

How would you suppose Peyton Manning feels about playing behind a new offensive line, where the incumbents need to learn a new blocking system?