ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It may seem odd to the outside world that a team with a Hall of Fame quarterback, John Elway, as its chief football decision-maker and a former quarterback, Gary Kubiak, as its coach would see its entire offensive backfield depart after a Super Bowl-winning season.
Two days into free agency and the Denver Broncos just might be that team.
Quarterback Peyton Manning has retired, quarterback Brock Osweiler has departed for the greener financial pastures of the Houston Texans, running back C.J. Anderson has signed an offer sheet with the Miami Dolphins, and the Broncos have essentially told running back Ronnie Hillman to check the free market and get back to them.
As of early afternoon Thursday, the Broncos' lone signing had been tackle/guard Donald Stephenson, an anticipated move, but those backfield skill positions were still in flux. The Broncos had tried to draw up plans for some of this, but life has come at them pretty fast in the past week and it has put them in a position of trying to crank up the offense with the prospect of several new faces.
Manning told Elway and Kubiak on Saturday he was retiring. Osweiler’s representatives informed the Broncos on Wednesday he was moving on and while the general lack of contact between the Broncos and Osweiler as well as his representatives should have been a sign, that left only Trevor Siemian at quarterback.
And to the team’s website Elway framed Osweiler’s exit with: "We’ve stayed true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here. That’s been a successful approach for us. While we did offer a very competitive and fair long-term contract to Brock, we ultimately had to remain disciplined while continuing to assemble a roster that can compete for championships."
Anderson was in Miami on Thursday, where former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase happens to coach. The Dolphins are one of a handful of teams with interest in Anderson. Anderson is a restricted free agent, but the Broncos put the lowest tender on him -- a one-year, $1.671 million deal with right of first refusal.
What that means is, yes, the Broncos do have the right to match any offer Anderson gets, but they do not get any compensation in return if they choose not to match the offer and Anderson moves on. That makes Anderson a popular target among the league’s restricted free agents.
And Hillman led the Broncos both in rushing (863 yards) and rushing touchdowns (seven) this past season. But the Broncos haven’t been inclined to reach out to him in free agency.
Hillman is a player the Broncos would look at eventually, but only after things have died down in free agency.
Elway said in recent weeks that he knew "there’s going to be some changes coming that’s the league. We have some tough choices, but you want tough choices, because if you’re not looking at tough choice after tough choice then you’re not as good as you need to be to compete."