INDIANAPOLIS -- Before John Elway became a Hall of Famer player and an elite executive, he served as a Yankees farmhand. As a 22-year-old looking to create leverage and steer his draft location, the 22-year-old Elway played outfield for Oneonta in the New York-Penn League.
Elway batted .318 with a .432 on-base percentage and 12 extra-base hits in 41 games. He went errorless on defense. Owner George Steinbrenner viewed him as a core player to revive the Yankees along with first baseman Don Mattingly. The lure of football -- and a trade by the Baltimore Colts -- drew Elway away. But in his short time with The Boss, Elway seemed to take from his business sense. In pinstripes, anything but a championship is a disappointment.
Welcome to the 2017 Broncos. Elway remains the most competitive person I have ever covered. He wants to win. At everything. Fitness. Ping pong. NFL. The Broncos finished outside the playoffs last season, meaning they will break among the first out of the free agent gates on Tuesday when the legal tampering period begins.
The Broncos are seeking upgrades at guard, tackle, defensive end and tackle, and, with increasing likelihood, quarterback. My quick four thoughts on what will be a fluid market place:
1) On Guard
Price and plenty of options make it anticipated that the Broncos will be aggressive in pursuit of a guard. Cincinnati's Kevin Zeitler (projected five-year, $58 million by Spotrac) is the best. But T.J. Lang (four-year, $33.7 million), Ronald Leary (four years, $36.4 million) and Larry Warford (five-year, $31.1 million) are only viable candidates. It's much easier to get into a bidding war for a guard than a tackle.
2) Tackle and bait
I don't believe the Broncos will take the bait and set the left tackle market. Andrew Whitworth is the best available, and is 35. It explains why Denver has not closed the door on bringing back Russell Okung (who will have suitors like the New York Giants). Other names include Sebastian Vollmer and Kelvin Beachum. If patience becomes the approach, it frees the Broncos to be more prudent with a right tackle signing among a gaggle that boasts Rick Wagner and Riley Reiff.
3) Defense rests
Elway believes in his defense. With an improved run stopper, the group can be elite again. The Broncos must get better upfront to maximize the secondary and pass rush. Opponents avoided going after the No Fly Zone when they realized they could gash the Broncos on the ground. The big splash here would be Calais Campbell, a former Denver prep star. He is viewed as a leader and dominant player. It would be akin to bringing in a younger version of DeMarcus Ware in some ways. If not Campbell, the Broncos will look heavy into defensive tackles, with a reminder the draft is stocked on this side of the ball.
4) Romo built in a day
Rome wasn't built in a day. And the Tony Romo speculation, too, has taken weeks to reach its crescendo. Executives at the combine told me they expect the Broncos and Texans to be major players for Romo. Denver will reach out when Romo becomes a free agent. Will he take a base salary of $10 million and change? That number mirrors Peyton Manning's last salary that inflated with incentives. Any Romo contract would involve incentives. If the Broncos reach out and determine Romo is determined to be in Denver then it's expected Elway will do what it takes to make it happen. The Broncos offer a contender and a quarterback friendly offense. Houston, like the Broncos, can argue they are one piece away, and obviously they are closer to Romo's home in Dallas.