Monday, June 9, 2014
It's early, way early, but mark this down ...
By Jeff Legwold
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Rank the roster, rank the offseason moves, check the strength of schedule. Do whatever you think needs doing, but along the way, in all of predictions of what’s to come, just mark this down:
At least one of the Denver Broncos free-agent signings will be named to the Pro Bowl in the upcoming season.
Yes, it's way early, but June is usually a swirl of optimism league-wide and DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward or Aqib Talib will be named to the Pro Bowl as the 2014 regular season draws to a close. At least that’s the path that has been carved out over the last three seasons by at least one of the unrestricted free agents the Broncos have signed.
Running back Willis McGahee, signed to bolster the backfield in the first year of the John Elway/John Fox regime, finished with 1,199 yards rushing in the Year of Tim Tebow when the Broncos led the league in rushing with 2,632 yards and dropped the read-option into the NFL’s lap.
McGahee went to the 2012 Pro Bowl that January as an injury replacement on the AFC team.
In the 2012 season, just when folks wondered if there could be any more hysteria along the Front Range after the 8-8 season with Tebow that included an overtime playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Broncos jumped into free agency with both feet and a big check. They signed quarterback Peyton Manning.
And Manning was named to the 2013 Pro Bowl after the Broncos finished 13-3 on the way to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Manning threw for 4,659 yards that year with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The 37 touchdowns stood as the franchise record for all of 11 months or so, or right up until the time Manning threw his 38th touchdown pass of the 2013 season Dec. 1 against Kansas City.
Then in 2013, the Broncos signed guard Louis Vasquez in free agency, giving Vasquez the longest deal (four years) and the most money on paper ($23.5 million) of any unrestricted free agent they signed that March. Blocking in the highest-scoring offense in league history, Vasquez was dominant last season, was penalized just three times -- none after Week 7 -- and went on to be named to the Pro Bowl as well as the far more difficult first-team All Pro.
Ware has been named to seven Pro Bowls in his 117-sack career. Talib and Ware have each been named to one Pro Bowl while Sanders has not been named to a Pro Bowl.
And while none of the Broncos would actually want to play in the Pro Bowl, preferring to get the Super Bowl waiver because the team is in the title game, the recent odds say at least one of the newest arrivals will get to add the selection to his résumé.