It is still going to be extremely hard to imagine Peyton Manning taking the field for any other team than the Indianapolis Colts. By all accounts, I thought that the future Hall of Fame quarterback would end his career where it began in 1998.
But, as is the nature of the beast in professional sports, finances played a larger role in the Colts release of Manning and his subsequent signing with the Denver Broncos.
This is the major story around the National Football League, and obviously the biggest bit of news to hit Denver since John Elway led the franchise to back-to-back Super Bowl Championships over a decade ago.
By adding Manning to the mix Denver put themselves in position to contend for a conference championship. That being said, they needed to add more pieces to the puzzle in order to be considered one of the favorites in the AFC.
Denver did a damn good job adding cheap talent around Manning on the offensive side of the ball. Tight ends Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme both add talent, experience and previous success to the mix between the hashes. We all know how much Manning loved using Dallas Clark in Indianapolis, so it should not come as a surprise that Denver focused on improving that position.
The Broncos also went out there and got Manning a couple receiving weapons. Andre Caldwell wasn’t an ultra-productive performer for the Cincinnati Bengals in his first four seasons in the league. That being said, he still possesses some upside and is just two years removed from a 51 reception season. They also brought back veteran Brandon Stokley, who had the best seasons of his career with Manning in Indianapolis. In fact, his only 1,000 yard season came with the Colts in 2004.
Denver also did some really good stuff in free agency as it relates to the defensive side of the ball. They upgraded at corner with the addition of cornerbacks Drayton Florence from the Buffalo Bills and Tracy Porter from the New Orleans Saints as well as safety Mike Adams from the Cleveland Browns. Considering that pass defense was somewhat of a weakness in Denver last season, those are three really good signings.
The Broncos first selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Derek Wolfe in the second round, surprised me a great deal. He wasn’t on my radar at that point and seemed to be somewhat of a reach. That being said, Denver did fill a position of utmost need along the interior of their defensive line with that selection.
After that, Denver aced it. Brock Osweiler is probably a few seasons away from being able to make an impact, but he has a ton of skills at the quarterback position. The Arizona State product possesses a strong-arm and is extremely athletic avoiding pressure in the pocket. He will also be helped a great deal by the mere presence of Manning.
Ronnie Hillman is going to provide a great change of pass to Willis McGahee in the running game. The former San Diego State star possesses a tremendous combination of raw talent and speed to be an every-down ‘back in the league. He will make an immediate impact and was a steal in third round.
Overall, the Broncos did a great job between the draft and free agency. It all started when they won the battle for Manning, and continued with some nice under-the-radar free agent signings.
While the Broncos cannot be considered favorites to grab the AFC Championship, they’re right up there in the top-five of the conference. Manning pretty much guaranteed that.
Free Agent Signings
S- Mike Adams, Cleveland Browns
DT- Justin Bannan, St. Louis Rams
WR- Andre Caldwell, Cincinnati Bengals
TE- Joel Dreessen, Houston Texans
CB- Drayton Florence, Buffalo Bills
QB- Caleb Hanie, Chicago Bears
QB- Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
CB- Tracy Porter, New Orleans Saints
WR- Brandon Stokley, New York Giants
TE- Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis Colts
2012 NFL Draft Picks
2. DT- Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati
2. QB- Brock Osweiler, Arizona State
3. RB- Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State
4. CB- Omar Bolden, Arizona State
4. C- Philip Blake, Baylor
5. DE- Malik Jackson, Tennessee
6. LB- Danny Trevathan, Kentucky