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Broncos' John Elway believes team is close; provides clarity on future of key veterans

Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 20:12:38-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- John Elway does not do patience. He is not planning a youth movement. Wednesday at the NFL combine, the mere mention of an overhaul raised his ire. 

"Life is too short to rebuild in the NFL," the Broncos general manger said. 

Elway arrived here humbled and hungry after last season's 5-11 dumpster fire. The Broncos have not posted back-to-back losing records since 1972. Elway believes the team can execute the U-turn. It starts with finding the right quarterback. Elway will exhaust all options in free agency, and then, if necessary, focus on the draft. 

Elway did not discuss specific free agent candidates, but the Broncos, per sources, will aggressively pursue Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum, and will be prepared to pivot to the next tier including Sam Bradford, A.J. McCarron and Tyrod Taylor.

As an all-time great quarterback is Elway frustrated he has not stabilized the position since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season?

"Believe me, I'm not done swinging and missing. Misses don't bother me," Elway said. "We just have to figure out a way to get it right. ... I still think we’re not too far away. Obviously we have to get better at that (quarterback) position. We did not play well there last year. That doesn’t all go on the players. There were some things that we should have done differently. I feel like we can get right back in the thick of the things rather quickly. I think we still have a good defensive football team. I think on the offense we’re going to get better with Bill Musgrave being the coordinator this year. Guys are coming back to the same offense because they were with Bill (Musgrave) for the last half of last year. I think we will be a step ahead."

While the quarterback question lingers, Elway provided clarity on a number of veterans. He said he plans to bring back receivers Demaryius Thomas (and pick up his $4 million bonus option in two weeks) and Emmanuel Sanders. This was expected as the Broncos chase a veteran quarterback, but Elway painted the picture that they would return regardless. He made it clear the quarterbacks' performances contributed to the pair's regression. But indicated Thomas and Sanders have to play better. 

Elway also said defensive end Derek Wolfe will be back. He had successful back surgery -- he had stenosis -- and "we are moving forward with him," the GM explained. Tackle Menelik Watson will return and compete for a roster spot this spring and summer. He finished the season injured, so cutting him now is problematic. 

Just as telling, Elway would not guarantee the return of cornerback Aqib Talib and running back C.J. Anderson. The Broncos are prepared for Bradley Roby to start at corner. Talib, according to NFL sources, is attracting trade interest. He is due an $11 million salary this season. If the Broncos do release him, he would count $1 million against the cap. Anderson eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time in his career in 2017, serving as a shining light in a dark season. However, the team likes the potential of Devontae Booker, and could draft a potential replacement. 

The Broncos have also expressed interest in acquiring Washington safety Su'a Cravens. As written in this space, Darian Stewart's future is murky. He could face a T.J. Ward situation if he remains with the team, forced to win a job in training camp. Cravens, 22, experienced an eventful season off the field. In September, he declared he was retiring, prompting Washington to place him on the reserve list. His agent said in December that Cravens was cleared to return to football after being treated for "post-concussion syndrome."

Denver is not expected to retain many of its free agents. However, Elway told me he would like to re-sign linebacker Todd Davis. Whether it happens depends on what offers Davis receives on the open market.

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