The Broncos’ all-world linebacker posted on Instagram Sunday “breaking” news that he had been traded (sentenced?) to Cleveland and stated: “It’s been real Denver! The ‘Mile High City’ and the @broncos will always have my heart! SB50 Champs! They can never take that away from us! @clevelandbrowns & @juice_landry what’s good!!!"
There’s that Fake News the president of the United States and the president of the Broncos’ football operations refer to. And too many exclamation marks!
It was April 1, and, despite the warning of The Who in “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the immediate belief among bamboozled Broncos’ backers was that Miller Time is over.
But what made the pronouncement seem genuine were recent misguided missives from radio talk show hosts and clown-car listeners that Miller should be dealt.
Perhaps people should be reminded – again – that the only Pro Bowl player drafted by the Broncos during the John Elway Reign and still on the roster is Von Miller. (The other was tight end Julius Thomas, who, coincidentally, is available on the free-agent market.)
Von Miller was the Most Valuable Player in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 game. Von Miller is the Franchise’s Face. Von Miller someday will have a sculpture in Canton, Ohio. Von Miller is an annual contender for NFL’s defensive player of the year. Von Miller has 83½ sacks and has been in on 402 regular-season tackles in his seven seasons. Since Von Miller had marijuana issues as a young player, he has become an impeccable citizen and philanthropist in Colorado. And Von Miller would rank in the top five all-time Broncos’ players.
So, trade him? Sure. And Elway can go off and play on the PGA Seniors Tour, retire on the beach and hide.
Oddly enough, though, coach Dan Reeves once tried to trade Elway His Own Self.
It was after the last time the Broncos finished 5-11.
Thankfully, owner Pat Bowlen stepped in and stopped the ridiculous swap (that included Washington quarterback Mark Rypien), and the Broncos would go on to win two Super Bowls. Without Elway, they might still be searching for their first championship. Peyton Manning wouldn’t have come here without Elway’s presence, and Elway wouldn’t have returned as an executive if he had been sent away.
The Broncos once did make a monumental trade with Cleveland involving an AFC defensive player of the year. After eight sensational seasons with the Broncos – and being an All Pro at end and tackle, and the team’s leading tackler and sacker (even though that statistic category wasn’t kept officially by the NFL) – Lyle Alzado demanded a new contract in 1979 and walked out of training camp. The Broncos never had renegotiated a contract, and refused to for Alzado. Even though he had produced one four-year span with (an unofficial) 38½ sacks, the Broncos shipped the wild-and-crazy, and intimidating and great, Alzado to the Browns for three draft picks – a second and a fifth in 1980, and a third in 1981.
They used the first two selections for defensive linemen Rulon Jones and Laval Short, and traded the other the next year to the Chiefs. Jones and Short became starters, and Rulon was special throughout his career, but it was not a good deal. Alzado ended up with a 15-year career and as a starter with the Raiders. But the admitted steroid abuser died prematurely because of a brain tumor.
The Broncos were on the positive side of one of the best deals in football history when they acquired Elway in 1983 from the Colts for Chris Hinton, Mark Herrmann and a 1984 first-round draft pick.
A decade later the Broncos got left tackle Gary Zimmerman from the Vikings for a first, a second and a sixth. Zimmerman was a Pro Bowler and eventual Hall of Famer. Champ Bailey and a second-round pick (who would be running back Tatum Bell) were secured by the Broncos from Washington in 2002 for running back Clinton Portis.
It might surprise everyone, but the Broncos have made more than 300 trades in the franchise’s history.
In retrospect, trading quarterback Steve Ramsey to the Giants for quarterback Craig Morton was one of the smartest the Broncos ever pulled off. One other quarterback exchange didn’t work so well for either team. The Broncos sent Jay Cutler to the Bears in 2009 for Kyle Orton (and draft picks on both sides were involved). During his career (which may or may not be over), Cutler went to the playoffs once (and won one game), and Orton never started a playoff game with his five teams, including the Broncos.