The Denver Broncos will move their football operations to Indianapolis this week for the league’s scouting combine.
Though the combine is a draft-centric affair, it will be the first major public appearance in front of the football world's inquiring minds for executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway and coach Gary Kubiak since the team’s Super Bowl parade.
With that will come at least some discussion about the team’s biggest non-draft concerns. Frankly, though the Broncos' success in every draft will determine if they remain competitive over the long haul, the team's non-draft questions are the big-ticket items of this offseason.
So when Elway and Kubiak speak Thursday and Wednesday, respectively, it will offer at least a public glimpse of where things stand.
But the Big Three are:
Peyton Manning: Elway has consistently said Manning could, and should, "take some time" to make a decision about retirement, that there is no timeline. But make no mistake, the clock is ticking. The new league year officially opens at 2 p.m. (Mountain time) on March 9, and at that point Manning’s $19 million base salary becomes guaranteed. The Broncos have also operated under the premise in recent weeks that they have a chance to get a deal done with Brock Osweiler, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year, and to do that it would help them greatly to know Manning's decision. Many with the team have said in recent days they believe those in Manning’s inner circle would like the future Hall of Famer to enjoy the rarity of a Super Bowl win in a player's last game and retire.
Von Miller: March 1 is the last day a team can designate a franchise player and the Broncos are expected to do that for Miller before the deadline in an effort to sign Miller to a long-term deal. The franchise player salary for a linebacker is expected to be about $14 million, but could go up slightly when the final numbers on the salary cap for 2016 are released. Miller has said and publicly done all of the right things in his journey back from the 2013 season, which featured his six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and a torn ACL, but an investment of a contract that will likely be north of $100 million means the Broncos will have to have a comfort level of Miller’s ability to maintain the focus and on-field impact he showed down the stretch and into the postseason. And Miller and his representatives will have to have the comfort level in the guaranteed money on the table. Though the Broncos might want something on the order of Justin Houston's $52.5 million guaranteed in that six-year, $101 million deal, Miller and his representatives will likely want to start at the $60 million guaranteed in Marcel Dareus' six-year, $96.57 million deal.
The free agent class: In addition to Miller and Osweiler, there are several players who helped comprise the selflessness and toughness the Broncos showed this past season who are poised for free agency. That group is led by defensive end Malik Jackson, linebacker Danny Trevathan, safety David Bruton Jr. -- a team captain. Linebacker Brandon Marshall and running back C.J. Anderson are restricted free agents. The first rule of free agency for any team that wants to stay out of cap trouble is it simply can’t keep everybody. And the Broncos won’t keep everybody in that high-profile group, though they will try to do the best they can. Part of the issue, at least in the pre-bidding time, is that John Fox and Jack Del Rio are both head coaches with teams looking to upgrade on defense. Both know exactly what those Broncos players would bring to the table. That always put the price tags potentially in a place where the Broncos can’t, or won’t go.