The Denver Broncos have been one of the more active teams this offseason, at least in terms of the calibre of players that they have acquired. John Elway is proving himself to be as aggressive a General Manager as he was a quarterback. Realising that his biggest weapon is Peyton Manning is not a surprise, but the moves he has made in Free Agency have been focussed entirely on the fact that Peyton has limited time left to try and pick up that elusive second Super Bowl ring.
Manning and the Broncos’ offense were simply sensational in 2013, racking up record after record and showing they had the beating of almost all-comers. This was despite the fact that the defense was ranked 22nd in allowing 24.9 points per game and 19th in yards allowed (356 per game). Even during the postseason Peyton was able to manoeuvre his troops to ensure that the offense was able to put up enough points to win and keep progressing towards what he must have felt was his date with destiny.
But the old adage is that defense wins Championships and this was proven to a huge extent in the Super Bowl itself as Seattle’s number one ranked defensive unit was more than a match for the Broncos’ potent offense. The stage was set from the safety on the very first play, but the dominance that the Seahawks exerted both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball was both impressive and worrying.
The offensive performance in the big game can be put down to a blip, albeit a worrying one. But the defensive performance was symptomatic of Denver’s season and, for Peyton to have a chance of returning to the Super Bowl again (and have a realistic chance of winning), Elway realised that a vast improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
This realisation in turn served to shape the Broncos’ approach to Free Agency during this offseason. Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno became offensive salary cap casualties whilst the reshaping of the defense has ensured whole sale changes. Starting cornerbacks Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris remain unsigned despite unsigned despite solid seasons, Shaun Phillips has moved to the Titans and Jeremy Mincey has decamped to Dallas.
In their place, Elway has moved to secure three play makers on high paying contracts to make a difference while Manning is still under center. T.J. Ward has arrived from Cleveland to try and make an impact in the secondary after an impressive 2013. Aqib Talib has arrived from big rivals New England to bring his expertise and augment the skills of Ward in defending the pass. Demarcus Ware is the final of the three big name signings. Despite injury and reduced performance with Dallas, Ware remains one of the most effective pass rushers in the league when performing to the peak of his performance and could make an instant impact in Denver.
Elway has laid his cards firmly on the table. With these moves the Broncos are in it to win it this year and anything less will be seen to be a failure. The defense will be a very different proposition in 2014, but whether or not the reshaped Broncos will be able to make the final step next season is another question entirely. We will only know that come the postseason next time around. What is certain is that they won’t fail for lack of trying...