Words such as failure, pathetic and inexcusable are populating social media feeds in an egregious manner in order to describe the Broncos lack of big splash signings 24 hours into the 2015 Free Agency Period.
Such fuss lacks perspective, although I can empathize with fans who desire to see improvements to the squad, given the ambiguity Denver has at a variety of positions. Rest easy my friends, everything will be fine and the team we love dearly won't be turning into the Cleveland Browns any time soon.
Expectations in Dove Valley remain high and for good reason. This is an historic franchise that exemplifies excellence and has consistently set forth a winning tradition. John Elway and the Broncos Brass have put together an excellent blueprint, mastering the free agency period the past three seasons by signing marquee free agents that included Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Terrence Knighton. All of the aforementioned had an enormous impact on the teams success last season and years prior, despite failing in their ultimate goal — hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
We have endured a storm of emotions due to the disappointing finishes the past few years, so it is understandable to see such angst and reactions to yesterday's events. Even so, it is my firm believe that such sentiments are unreasonable -- and with that said, I offer my thoughts and perspective as to why.
Casual observers of the team usually use the salary cap as an indication of what the Broncos have to work with to sign players in free agency. While the salary cap space is important to such dealings, it is hardly the be-all-end-all that fans make it out to be. The Denver Broncos are an enterprise and must adhere to sound budget process in order to be successful.
John Elway and team contract czar Mike Sullivan are well aware of this concept. The cash commitment in regards to bonuses and other miscellaneous figures are reaching high amounts and simply put, there isn't much cash allocation left to endure another market shopping extravaganza. The team didn't empty owner Pat Bowlen's checkbook to the felt, but money doesn't grow on trees and it is quite evident that the Broncos will be living within their means the rest of free agency.
Dealing and accepting reality isn't always easy, but I can assure you that doing so is better than ignoring it. Bottom line, the Broncos simply do not have the cash (or cap space) to snag big name players over the course of the next week, though they will make improvements to areas that need bolstering.
With the departures of Julius Thomas and Orlando Franklin, the Broncos will likely receive fourth round compensatory picks based on their contract value and other miscellaneous factors. When Rahim Moore and Terrance Knighton are officially ex-Broncos, you can chalk up another few selections towards their 2016 Draft arsenal which will be filled with ammunition in every round. It’s a small reward for losing such quality players, but understand that the Broncos had no intentions of bringing these players back in the first place due to the restrains outlined above. If that isn't clear yet, it should be now.
Let us not forget some of the bright spots that transpired over the past few weeks.
Offseason victory numbers already happened when Elway pulled another rabbit out of his hat and extended All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on an extremely affordable deal. Compare his contract to what Byron Maxwell received and you can't help but feel good about it. Harris' singing should be heralded as it unquestionably ranks as one of the best deals that will transpire for any team this offseason.
Additionally, the team continues to work diligently on securing a long-term deal with star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. They know he is a top five talent at his position and is a crucial building block for the efficacy of the Broncos not only this season, but for seasons down the road. While it hasn't happened yet, I have no doubts that the two sides can come to an agreement that will keep Thomas in orange and blue for the remainder of his professional career.
Looking forward, the Broncos have roughly 30 players under contract for the 2016 season, with available cap space around $40 million. Operating under the assumption that this season is Peyton Manning's last ride with the Broncos, that figure rises another $20 million to $60 million to spend next offseason.
Realizing this is important, as it shows the Broncos will have ample room to retain homegrown assets which is paramount to the long-term success of the franchise.
If there any viable criticism that can be placed upon the front office, it would be its ineptitude in regard to drafting. Truth be told, the organization has always struggled with finding premier talent early in the draft. That failure has lead to one of the most shocking discoveries I've stumbled across during my time covering the team.
The last time the Broncos extended a second round selection beyond his rookie contract was Lennie Friedman from the Draft Class of 1999. Fifteen drafts filled with talented players and the Broncos have only re-signed one of them past their rookie deal.
Don’t believe me? Take a look:
Second Round Draft Selections in Broncos History That Weren't Extended
2011: Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin
2010: Zane Beadles
2009: Alphonso Smith, Darcel McBath, Richard Quinn
2008: Eddie Royal
2007: Tim Crowder
2006: Tony Scheffler
2005: Darrent Williams (Rest In Peace)
2004: Tatum Bell, Darius Watts
2003: Terry Pierce
2002: Clinton Portis
2001: Paul Toviessi
2000: Ian Gold, Kenoy Kennedy
1999: Montae Reagor, Lennie Friedman
Now that is something disturbing that is worth getting upset about. In summation, it is my belief that the Broncos cannot afford to continue to spend wildly in free agency in order to create the best team possible. It is an opinion shared with John Elway, who has been adamant in discussing the importance of the draft and it being their primary tool to keep the team competitive. With those words said, it is imperative they improve on finding players early who can make that desire come to fruition.
Regardless of what happens over the rest of Free Agency, this is a team that will compete at a high level from here on out as long as it drafts well with the wealth of selections they will have in 2015 and 2016.
With new head coach Gary Kubiak and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips commanding our squad on the gridiron, the team will be forging a new identity in the next several seasons that will look much different than years past.
My advice to you is to enjoy the ride. Realize that this is a year of transition, one that will have its share of obstacles, but with a few necessary changes, the team will be formidable now and from now on.
That is truly the Bronco Way.