INDIANAPOLIS (The Sports Xchange) – Rumors always swirl at the NFL Combine — but perhaps the hottest ones revolved around the Denver Broncos and the potential of landing Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
Given that the Broncos are in win-now mode, received scattershot play from their two young quarterbacks in their 9-7 season last year, and had massive success with Peyton Manning after signing him while he was recovering from multiple neck surgeries, the connection seems obvious.
And when Broncos general manager John Elway bumped into Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett just steps away from the podium at which Elway had his Combine press conference Wednesday, reporters, cameras and smartphones swarmed at the sight.
Neither Elway nor coach Vance Joseph did anything to squelch speculation. Although they did not mention Romo specifically, both did not shoot down the notion of adding a veteran quarterback to join Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, who as of now are set for an open competition this summer.
“We’re going to look at all the options,” Elway said. “Once they become available, we’re going to look at all the options if it’s best for the Denver Broncos and it’s best for this team, because it’s not only about winning next year, it’s also what it does in the future, too. All of those things come into discussion.
“Once we get to that point where we know where we are, we’ll kick the tires on everything and do our homework on everything and then make the best decision for what’s right for the Broncos.”
If they have to go into the season with only Lynch and Siemian, both Elway and comfortable seem comfortable. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy currently plans to install an offense that is adaptable to the divergent skill sets of Lynch and Siemian.
“Well, we’re set at the moment, obviously. With free agency starting next week, any player that can help us moving forward and can help our team get better, we’re going to obviously research and look into. But right now, we’ve got two young guys that we believe in,” Joseph said.
“Right now we’ve got two guys, and no one’s available that we can even talk about.”
Siemian is expected to be ready for OTAs after he played through a left shoulder injury that Joseph called “horrific” when he spoke with media Wednesday. Neither Elway nor Joseph was worried about Siemian’s long-term prospects in the wake of the injury.
The Broncos know Siemian can start if needed. They don’t yet know that with Lynch — and Elway made it clear that he does not want Lynch to start before the time is right.
“If Paxton’s not ready to go, then I don’t want him to go. The key thing is, we drafted Paxton to come in and compete for a job.
“Trevor did a good job last year, but we’re looking for a guy that we can hang our hat on for a long, long time. The last thing we want to do — whether it be Paxton or anyone else — is put them in before they’re ready.”
Rumors and questions. For the Broncos and their quarterback situation, none of them are going away soon.
— The first task for new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was simple: diagnose the problems and offer solutions for an offensive line that struggled in all areas last year.
Left tackle Russell Okung does not appear to be part of the solution — which will see the Broncos move away from the zone-intensive concepts they used the last two seasons. Denver declined to pick up the option on Okung’s contract, and he will test the market, although Joseph and Elway did not dismiss the possibility of Okung returning on a new deal.
Right tackle Donald Stephenson could return, but Joseph said he and Elway would meet March 7 to discuss his contract and whether the Broncos would bring him back. Denver can gain $3 million of cap space if it releases Stephenson, who struggled throughout the 2016 season and was at one point benched.
The Broncos’ choices up front will also be determined by their budget; they have approximately $43 million of cap space, but have other needs — defensive line, another receiving target and perhaps a veteran quarterback.
Those are components to determining the Broncos’ plan on the offensive line.
“I think it comes down to money, too. It’s not a bottomless pit. So there’s only so many things that we can do,” Elway said. “Even though we didn’t exercise the option on Russell, that’s not saying he’s going to be back.
“Now he may find another opportunity, and it is what it is, but Russell is somebody that we’d like to continue to talk to, and then we’ll look at the other guys that are going to be on the market. The bottom line is we’re going to have to see where everything comes in and where it fits in the puzzle.”
If the Broncos look to free agency, possibilities include Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth, Green Bay’s T.J. Lang and Baltimore’s Ricky Wagner.
— Joseph said the team will meet with Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey at the Scouting Combine on Thursday night.
The Broncos’ interest in McCaffrey comes as no surprise. McCaffrey’s father, Ed, was a standout wide receiver for the team from 1995-2003 and is currently their radio color analyst. The younger McCaffrey was a star at Valor Christian High in Highlands Ranch, Colo. before attending Stanford.
Neither Joseph nor general manager John Elway believes that the additional pressure of being the son of a Broncos star and the local hero would affect Christian McCaffrey if the Broncos took him with the No. 20 pick.
“Knowing what I know of Christian — and knowing how competitive he is — I think that he’s got a great deal of respect for his dad, but I think he also looks at himself, that he’s going to blaze his own trail,” Elway said. “The expectations that he has of himself are awful high.”
— The door is not closed on the possibility of Pro Bowl edge rusher DeMarcus Ware returning for a fourth Broncos season.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph said that he has spoken with Ware “four or five” times in recent weeks.
Although the Broncos have Von Miller and Shane Ray as the starters, they could represent the perfect situation for Ware as he enters his 13th season. Miller, Ray and backup Shaquil Barrett give the Broncos depth that could allow Ware to play situationally, allowing Denver to use him as Arizona and Atlanta have utilized Dwight Freeney in recent years.
But the scarcity of elite pass rushers — even ones who can only play perhaps 20 snaps a game — could give Ware options on the market.
“Pass rushers are awfully hard to find because it’s a combination of obviously having great ability but also great feel as a pass rusher,” Joseph said. “Every great defense, it starts with having rushers and defensive backs and corners. If you can rush the passer and cover, you can play great defense. But they are hard to find and hard to acquire if you don’t have them.”