- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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But it does bring to light the quandary the Broncos still have. For one, Manning is not a long-term solution at the position in a league that demands its teams have long-term solutions at the position to compete for something other than annual frustration over the long term.
And with Brock Osweiler, the Broncos’ No. 2 quarterback for Manning’s tenure with in Denver thus far, set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2015 season, the Broncos have to keep some draft slots open for quarterbacks this year and beyond. In short, a team that many aren't talking about when it comes to quarterbacks in this year's draft will have to talk about quarterbacks in this draft.
Essentially keep to the Ron Wolf model. With Brett Favre at a quarterback, Wolf drafted eight quarterbacks in the 1990s. The Broncos have selected two quarterbacks – Osweiler and Zac Dysert – in John Elway’s four previous drafts as the team’s top football decision-maker.
“We will always look hard at quarterbacks -- always,’’ Elway has said.
And, as teams all around jockey for the so-called “bridge’’ quarterback, a guy to get them some wins until they can find The Guy, it is increasingly obvious the long-term solution at the position is one that comes from a draft.
Manning, signed in 2012 as the most decorated player to ever hit free agency, and Drew Brees, signed by the New Orleans Saints in 2006 with an uncertain future in tow because of shoulder surgery, are the outliers, not the goal.
Of the top 12 quarterbacks in passing yardage last season, 10 were drafted, by the team they played for in 2014, and 14 of the top 16 quarterbacks in touchdown passes, including Tony Romo, whom the Dallas Cowboys originally signed as an undrafted rookie.
In short, if you don’t pick the guy and have the patience and wherewithal from the top spot in the executive offices to the guy in the quarterback coach’s office to develop him, get him through the rough spots, you’ll likely never have The Guy. You'll just keep signing guys hoping to find $1 million in the couch cushions.
“If you’re hunting that guy in free agency, you’re going to cry real tears because I think you can find a stop-gap quarterback in free agency, but that’s it,’’ said former Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers general manager Floyd Reese. “Even there, Peyton is not the long-term answer. He’s everything they hoped and wanted him to be, but even with all that, he’s not the long-term answer.’’
With 2016 being the last year of Manning’s contract and ’15 being the last year of Osweiler’s, the Broncos sit in a position where taking a long look at the quarterback board in this year’s draft and the ones to come are still a priority.
The draft-for-need-first crowd always wants teams to address the immediate needs, or at least the needs that it believes are oh-so evident. They will recite the names of players selected after the quarterbacks who were selected and did not play immediately and file it under told-you-so.
But in the end, quarterbacks, the real, play for an organization a long time quarterbacks, come in the draft, often early, but in the draft nonetheless.
And while what the Broncos did this past week with Manning’s deal takes care of this season, the ones to come still have to be part of the draft plan now more than ever.
“The bottom line is the guy you sign in free agency may help you for a year or two, but it’s never going to be answer, or it’s rarely going to be the answer,’’ Reese said. “You’re just not going to get that 10-, 15-year guy and be the true face of the franchise. He’s got to be one of yours and you have to raise him.’’