At the NFL combine last month, I asked John Elway if the Denver Broncos’ limited Super Bowl window with star quarterback Peyton Manning turning 37 this month would it cause him to try to make a big splash.
Elway, who won his two Super Bowls as the Broncos’ quarterback at the ages of 37 and 38, didn’t brush off the notion. He said it was a possibility and the team had to see how free agency played out.
Well, in the second day of NFL free agency, Elway showed the NFL, once again, he is as powerful in the front office and he was on the field.
In one of the biggest shockers of the NFL offseason, and a move that could shift the power of the AFC, Elway gave Manning a one-year anniversary present in the form of sure thing receiver Wes Welker, formerly of the New England Patriots.
Welker has led the NFL in receiving over the course of the past six seasons. Slot receivers are magnets for Manning. The idea Welker and Manning on the same field is mind boggling.
“This is a great signing for Denver,” ESPN analyst Eric Mangini said on the air shortly after the news broke. “This is a perfect fit.”
Much credit goes to Elway for striking it big once again. Last March, Elway, who inherited a mess of a franchise when he took over the Broncos early in 2011, pulled in Manning last season to make the biggest splash of the NFL offseason.
The follow-up signing of Welker shows the urgency in Denver. The Broncos went 13-3 last season and ended the regular season with an 11-game winning streak. The Broncos, the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore in double overtime in their first playoff game.
This is a move the Broncos think can help push them over the edge and into the Super Bowl. This was a go-for-it-move. Elway knows what it takes to wins Super Bowls and he knows his chance is now.
The fact that the move both strengthens Denver and weakens major conference rival New England is a brilliant stroke. With Baltimore losing key players at startling pace and Tom Brady losing his security blanket, this move puts Denver in a great place.
Financially, Denver seems to have gotten a bargain. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported Welker will sign a two-year, $12 million deal. Denver’s salary cap is in good shape and this move doesn’t mortgage the future. It is a good value and it shouldn’t hurt the Broncos to keep their young players down the road.
Two of those young players are receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Add Welker to this mix, and this is arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL. All three of these players will help each other out.
Thomas and Decker will play on the outside with Welker in the slot. Denver also uses tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen often. Last year, Brandon Stokley -- a slot favorite of Manning early in his career with the Colts -- had 45 catches at the age of 36.
“This will give Welker a new lease on life,” ESPN analyst Bill Polian said on the air Wednesday. “Decker and Thomas will stretch the field. Welker hasn’t had that in a while. He had to work in congested areas … Welker will not be surrounded by linebackers anymore.”
This ESPN Stats & Information blog shows the affect Welker has on an offense and KC Joyner thinks the Broncos’ passing game will be unstoppable. In the end, it gives Manning another option.
Elway clearly thinks those options will increase Denver’s chances of winning the Super Bowl. This move was designed for nothing less.