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Seven takeaways from Broncos GM John Elway at the NFL Scouting Combine

Posted Feb 26, 2016

Beyond Peyton Manning, there were plenty of other bites to digest as Elway spoke to local and national media Thursday.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Until Peyton Manning comes to a decision about his future, his status will remain a focal point. That's understandable; he is, after all, a certain Hall of Famer and the NFL's all-time passing leader.

But John Elway's task list goes well beyond Manning. Here are seven other things we learned as Elway answered questions from local and national media Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

John Elway

1. Improving the offense starts on the line.

Head Coach Gary Kubiak said it Wednesday, and Elway reiterated it Thursday: The offensive line must improve.

"Obviously that’s an area where we need to get better," Elway said. "That’s going to be a focal point for us this year as we go into free agency as well as the draft."

But those sources will not be the sole remedy for all the issues. A key will be for the young players already on hand to improve as they go into their second season in this scheme. The Broncos will get Ty Sambrailo back from a torn labrum, and Matt Paradis, Michael Schofield and Max Garcia will all factor into the equation.

"That's all part of the equation, for the young guys to continue to improve," Elway said. "I think Michael came in there, and he was put in a tough spot in his second year, and he came in and performed admirably, and continued to get better as the year went on. He was a guy that we think has a bright future.

"Matt Paradis was really solid for us at center, and really did a nice job; he's going to continue to get better. Max [Garcia] will get better. So we've got some young pieces in there that are good. We need to add to that, and we feel like we can get better in that area."

Also in need of improvement is the tight end position, which is "fluid right now," Elway said.

"We've got to get better there," he added. "We've got [Jeff] Heuerman coming back; so we're excited to see what he can do. It hurt losing him in rookie minicamp last year, so we've got high expectations for him.

"But it's still in flux a little bit. Vernon [Davis], he'll probably be on the market, but that's not to say that we don't want him back. O.D. [Owen Daniels], we'll talk about.

"So as we get closer to the league year, things will hone in a little bit."

2. If you need to address the offensive line, this is a good year to do it.

When asked where he saw the depth in this year's draft class, Elway pointed to the offensive line, although he admitted he had yet to dive into the defensive players at this point in his prospect study.

"There's a lot of offensive linemen, and that's where I've spent most of my time up to this point," he said. "That's the biggest part I see right now."

Offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley should go off the board in the first 10 picks, with Tunsil a prime candidate to be the No. 1 overall selection. But there are plenty of prospects who could be on the board when the Broncos select at the 31st pick, including Kansas State's Cody Whitehair, Ohio State's Taylor Decker and Indiana's Jason Spriggs, just to mention a few possibilities.

So that begs the question ... will this be the year that Elway finally opens his draft class by picking an offensive player?

"We'll see," he said smiling. "I've got to keep you guys guessing! We'll see; you never know."

3. So far, so good on the Von Miller negotiations.

Elway knows that keeping the Super Bowl 50 MVP long-term will be pricey. But Miller is a special, once-a-generation talent -- the kind of talent for which you pay a premium price.

"He's a guy that we're going to keep around," Elway said. "So we'll get something figured out."

And while Miller's salary will take up a decent portion of the Broncos' salary-cap room, he's made it abundantly clear he wants to remain a Bronco, and that feeling is reciprocated, which has helped negotiations between the two sides.

"I'm excited about it," Elway said. "We're not too far off, but as soon as I say that, maybe we are. But I'm encouraged with the talks that we've had with all our people so far."

To this point with Miller, "it has been positive," Elway added later.

"So far, it has been good. We're in the ballpark," he said. "I don't know, I probably shouldn't say that until we talk to [agent] Joby [Branion], but I think we're in the ballpark."

A key date for the status of Miller is March 1; that's the deadline for using the franchise tag.

4. If the Broncos don't have to use the franchise tag on Miller, they might use it on Malik Jackson.

Elway would not rule that out, saying, "I think anything's possible" when asked about that idea Thursday.

"We think about those types of things, and we don't want to put the cart before the horse, but that's always a possibility."

The tag is not in play for quarterback Brock Osweiler because of the prohibitive cost of franchising a quarterback relative to the salary cap -- likely around $20 million.

However, it's possible the Broncos strike a deal with Jackson without needing the tag.

"The talks we're having with all the agents are going well," Elway said. "It's so far, so good. There's going to be bumps in the road, but we'll deal with those as we get closer."

5. Elway plans to talk with DeMarcus Ware and Ryan Clady.

The two veterans are frequently mentioned in public speculation about potential contract restructures, with Clady telling the Associated Press he would be open to a restructured deal as he recovers from the torn ACL he suffered last May.

"We're going to find out where they are and where we are," Elway said. "Again, as things take shape, we'll find out where we are cap-wise and all the different things that we need to do.

"From everything that I read, DeMarcus wants to play, and we'd like to have DeMarcus back; he's been a great part of it. So we'll sit down and chat with him.

"Again, this thing is so fluid with the numbers and everything we've got to get done."

With two Pro Bowl selections -- the second one coming despite missing five full games and parts of two others because of a back injury -- Ware has been everything the Broncos hoped he would be when they signed him to a three-year contract in 2014.

"He's been a great addition for us," Elway said. "The career he's had, getting to the Super Bowl and winning one, I'm thrilled for DeMarcus.

"Not only on the field, but on the field and in the locker room, he's been tremendous for us, and that's why it's important for us to try to keep him around."

6. Danny Trevathan will hit the market.

Elway wants to re-sign the team's leading tackler in the 2013 and 2015 seasons, but the reality of trying to squeeze a talented team under the salary cap is that it necessitates tough choices, including letting the four-year veteran go into free agency.

"He's going to have to hit the market," Elway said. "We'll see where everything pans out there. We'd still love to keep him. He's been a great part of our team. But, again, whether we can keep him or not, we'll have to wait and see."

If Trevathan moves on, Todd Davis would be in line to step in alongside Brandon Marshall, who is a restricted free agent.

"Todd's been really good," Elway said. "He's a strong guy; he's been really good on special teams and helped us there. He's been a good guy in the locker room. Again, we talk about trying to keep these guys around and keep them a part of it, because the nucleus of guys we have in that locker room is really good."

7. Elway was able to celebrate the Super Bowl 50 win with Pat Bowlen.

Bowlen could not attend the Broncos' 24-10 win over the Panthers as he continues to battle Alzheimer's disease, but he was able to watch the game. After the Broncos returned to Colorado, Elway brought the franchise's third Vince Lombardi Trophy to Bowlen at his home allowing him to fulfill his postgame proclamation: "This one's for Pat!"

"He had a big smile on his face," Elway said. "So he was in a good spot."