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Ownership looms over the Broncos’ GM search

Who will the new boss really answer to if John Elway and Joe Ellis are gone?

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Both John Elway and Joe Ellis have contracts set to expire after the 2021 season. With news that Ellis will not seek an extension, a far brighter light is cast on the looming ownership questions facing the Broncos. Earlier this week I explored how I’d approach the open GM spot with John Elway, but now that Ellis is on the outs I have to admit it impact my first question.

“What is the plan up top? I get with a lawsuit looming, everything is uncertain. The plan seems to be Brittany Bowlen, but she’s not even sitting in my interview?”

Admittedly, I’m pretty bad at interviews. This would probably kill my odds at the job, but every candidate worth their salt is wondering about it.

It seems odd that a lawsuit could feasibly prevent the presumptive owner from participating in such a critical move in the Broncos future, even if she’s doing nothing more than listening. As I worked this out with Jeff Essary on Cover 2 Broncos, I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s a clear sign the Broncos are barreling towards the highest bidder.

As Jeff and I worked through it, I couldn’t help but wonder what that kind of question means in terms of pressures. Until Monday, it looked like the Broncos were content to roll with Drew Lock and “competition” at quarterback. The names that looked likely were ho-hum names like Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. Safe because they’ve played well more recently than Joe Flacco and also because neither will actually threaten Drew Lock’s hold on the locker room.

If a new GM believes the Broncos will undergo a change in ownership during his tenure, there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t also feel some pressure to win immediately. It’s simply the smart career move. Most ownership changes around the NFL lead to a new front office and vision for the franchise. If the new GM knows he has say two years to make an impression and help himself land on his feet, he’ll want to have playoff games to show for his previous stint. He also has no emotional investment or stake in any player on the current roster.

This is all to say there’s a real possibility that the 2021 Broncos look quite different than what looked likely a week ago. It’s impossible to say right now without being a fly in the wall on some of those conversations. Who knows, maybe John Elway steps into Joe Ellis’ shoes on a new extension that begins in 2022?

I do know that right now it looks like the new salary cap will be $176 million. If that’s the case the Broncos are set to have roughly $20 million in cap space. While that may seem like a lot, it’s already more than 17 teams. A couple of cuts, trades, or extensions with Von Miller, Kareem Jackson, Jurrell Casey, and A.J. Bouye could create as much as $53,249,750 in additional cap room while incurring just $7,007,353 in dead cap. The Broncos would have almost as much cap space as the Jaguars.

That’s enough cap space to re-sign or chase after anyone.

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