Peyton Manning: One Answer Brings with It a Lot of Questions in Denver

Story posted March 20, 2012 in

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It was announced this afternoon that free agent quarterback Peyton Manning is planning to sign a contract with the Denver Broncos. With stable, respectable NFL figures like president John Elway and head coach John Fox involved, the Broncos were more appealing to Manning than the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans.

Before last season, Manning received a 5-year, $90 million contract from the Indianapolis Colts, and it appears that he will receive a similar contract from Denver. Despite the stability Manning brings to the starting quarterback position, the deal does bring with it a lot of questions. It remains to be seen with the Broncos will do in free agency, in the NFL Draft and with their new backup quarterback, Tim Tebow.


Free Agency

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John Elway (left) and John Fox (right) courted Peyton Manning early in the process

The Broncos were a playoff team in 2011, but despite winning a wild card round game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team lost embarrassingly to the New England Patriots in the divisional round. Consequently, they came into the offseason with a lot of questions about how to build upon the surprising playoff run.

The departure of wide receiver Eddie Royal to the San Diego Chargers leaves the Broncos with only Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas at the position. The loss of Royal means more than it appears on the surface, as he was a key contributor as the slot receiver and return man.

They also have a huge hole at tight end. The signing of Manning may bring with it a solution to this problem if the team can bring former Colts tight end Dallas Clark to Denver to reunite with his longtime teammate in Manning. Despite some injury issues in recent years, the 32-year old is still one of the better tight ends in the NFL.

The defense is not without questions either. Free safety Brian Dawkins was the leader of the defense last season, but he suffered a major neck injury that calls his 2012 season into question. When he missed time last year, his absence was very noticeable.

Meanwhile, linebacker DJ Williams has been suspended for six games after testing positive for a banned substance. Losing the team's best linebacker and veteran leader, as well as defensive coordinator Dennis Allen (hired as head coach by the Oakland Raiders) in one offseason means the Broncos need to fill in some holes on that side of the ball as well.


NFL Draft

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Could Brandon Weeden be a quarterback the Broncos draft have Peyton Manning groom for the future?

With the quarterback position locked up for several years, taking a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M is no longer under consideration. It now seems likely that Denver will use its first round pick on a defensive tackle, like Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State or Devon Still of Penn State. The Broncos' run defense ranked 22nd in the league last season, so a big lineman would fill a big void in the defensive scheme.

In the later rounds, Denver will look to create more depth with guys who can develop under the team's current talent. The Broncos may look for a quarterback of the future in the middle rounds, like Michigan State's Kirk Cousins or Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. Cousins is a prototypical quarterback who makes good decisions, and with a few years maturing under Peyton Manning, he could develop into a solid player down the road.

On defense, there is speculation that All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey may move to the safety position. This would create a hole at cornerback. The team may look to a corner in the second round by selecting a player like Brandon Boykin from Georgia. Boykin is a very talented corner who could learn a lot from Bailey, one of the NFL's best.


Tim Tebow

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Despite all the media attention and craziness, it appears that Tebowmania will come to a close in Denver

The big elephant in the room after all of this is Tim Tebow. He had a magical season in 2011, taking a team that started 1-4 to the playoffs, where they knocked off one of the best defenses of the last decade in the Steelers. Going 8-5 as a starter (including the postseason), Tebow re-energized the Denver faithful in a way unseen since the days of John Elway.

Now, with Manning entering the fold, the Broncos are looking to trade Tebow, and rightfully so. As a quarterback who has won at every level, even going to the playoffs as a starting NFL quarterback last year, Tebow deserves a chance to prove himself further in this league.

The two best fits for Tebow may be in his home state of Florida. The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins are two teams who should be more than willing to trade for Tebow. He does not just bring accomplishments on the field, but also excitement off the field.

For the Jaguars, Tebow would rejuvenate the fans and make them relevant for the first time in nearly a decade. A dynamic source of revenue in jersey and ticket sales, Tebow would cause a huge stir in his hometown of Jacksonville, where he was a tremendous high school player. Shahid Khan, the new owner of the Jacksonville franchise, has already stated that he would have drafted Tim Tebow if he was the owner during the 2010 NFL Draft.

As for the Dolphins, they have already struck out on Manning and new Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn, so why not Tebow? The fact is that they are now considering San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith to be their quarterback. Say what you want about Tebow, but he definitely has more appeal than Smith in the state of Florida. In fact, it was in Miami that Tebowmania began, when Tebow brought the Broncos back from a two touchdown deficit with just over two minutes left in the game. That game was in front of a sellout crowd. Every Dolphins game could be if the team is able to acquire Tebow.

Ultimately, both of these teams are good fits for Tim Tebow, but the Dolphins are the place for him. They have a very good defense, a good running game with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, a very good offensive line, decent weapons with Anthony Fasano, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, and the unquestioned support of the fans.

Denver's work is not done with the signing of Manning, who is indeed somewhat of a question mark himself, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for the franchise. Fans have a right to be as excited as they were when they saw John Elway carry the team to two Super Bowl championships and five AFC titles.


Joe Garafolo is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email