A rather absurd post was published yesterday accusing the Denver Broncos of failing Peyton Manning this offseason. The author of this post, Ross Tucker, opined that John Elway asking Manning for a pay cut was as disrespectful of a future first ballot Hall of Famer as a general manager could get.
Just for fun, let's pick apart his logic with simple reality, shall we?
Let's start with the pay reduction itself first. It was a gift from Manning to GM John Elway and the Broncos. Nothing more, nothing less. The Broncos reportedly asked him to consider taking an even smaller salary, which takes a lot of guts considering they had no leverage whatsoever. What were they going to do if Manning said no -- cut him? It had already been reported that Manning wanted to play another year, and even at his age and after playing injured the last month of the season, he still is far and away the best chance the Broncos have to win a Super Bowl next season.
So Manning gave up $4 million in 2015, lowering his salary to mediocre (at least as starting QBs in the NFL go). He's now at $15 million per year, even as guys he's outperformed the last three seasons, like Ben Roethlisberger, sign new deals averaging close to $22 million per year. Manning sacrificed for the good of the team only to see the team fail to respond in kind. It's disturbing, really, and it all starts with the details of the restructured deal.
Conveniently, he ignores the fact that Manning can earn every penny of his original contract back by winning the Super Bowl in 2015. The way he words these paragraphs, it almost reads as though Elway put Manning on the cross and sacrificed his goats for more gold ducats ... or something like that.
To suggest that the "team failed to respond in kind" is asinine. Peyton Manning got paid in full for 2013 and 2014 amid an Elway spending spree in the hopes of helping surround Manning with the talent for that highly coveted ring. Now at 39, it is unlikely Manning will be able to be as effective as he was at 37, but Elway also knows he is still the best possible option he could ever hope for at this point in his roster development. Elway wants Manning, but needs to begin thinking beyond Manning. That's just what an executive must do and there is no malice in it.
The bigger question might be: Why did they ask Manning to take a pay cut in the first place? So they could watch tight end Julius Thomas, offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, and safety Rahim Moore all walk out the door without much of a fight?
Their four best free agents are gone and the Broncos are attempting to "replace" them with less expensive, less desirable alternatives such as Owen Daniels, Shelley Smith and Darian Stewart.
I laughed out loud when I read this snippet. I'll concur that losing Orlando Franklin hurts, but Julius Thomas was only good when he wanted to be and that was about half the time and Owen Daniels was ranked the 6th best tight end in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus. Hardly a scrub replacement.
Ross Tucker here uses phrases like "best free agents" to suggest that the players being lost were a death blow to a roster struggling with talent. I'm sorry, but Terrance Knighton has been unable to stay in shape and Rahim Moore is, at best, a starter somewhere. So what, the Broncos are still loaded with Pro Bowl talent all over their roster - offensively and defensively.
If the Broncos were so eager to get additional cap room in order to field the most competitive team possible in 2015, there are minor adjustments they could have made to Manning's contract. Something as simple as adding an additional year to the deal and converting $6 million of Manning's 2015 compensation into a bonus would have freed up $4 million more on this year's cap -- but the Broncos declined to do that. That's because they don't want to take the chance of having additional dead money hit their cap in future seasons if Manning retires after the 2015-16 season. That's well within their right and smart long-term cap management, of course, but a clear example that they aren't as invested in this season as Manning is. At a minimum, they could have met Manning halfway. If he was willing to give up $4 million in actual dollars this year, they should have done a quick accounting calculation to free up $4 million more themselves.
That Tucker here believes the Denver Broncos should have sacrificed their future to pay Peyton Manning more money in 2015 is the most damning absurd belief he made in his entire hit piece.
He was right that by refusing to take any dead money hits in the future was a "smart long-term cap management" move, but incredibly wrong that by not sacrificing the future Elway is not invested in 2015 as much as Manning is. As a Broncos fan, there is little doubt in my mind that John Elway only cares about winning football games, but he is smart enough to know that Any Given Sunday applied to entire seasons as well. He will not shoot himself (and the Broncos) in the foot just to pay respect to an all-time NFL great.
As a fellow all-time NFL great, Elway doesn't need to prove he respect Manning. They are in the same club.
Oh, and by the way Mr. Tucker, the Denver Broncos are still a pretty damn good football team. How many All Pro caliber players do you see on this list? I count about a dozen players that are either surefire All Pros or on the cusp of becoming one.
What does Broncos Country think of all that this morning?
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