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Mason's Mailbag: Time traveling in the DeLorean, and why a QB competition is not "divisive"

Posted Jul 10, 2017

Also on this week's docket: Chris Harris Jr.'s Ring of Fame trajectory, and who you'd want for your five-a-side soccer team if you were choosing from the Broncos roster.

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

You always hear competition is a good thing. However, this quarterback competition between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch seems to be divisive, between teammates, the city, the media, and the quarterbacks themselves. Your thoughts?

-- Joyce Campbell

There's no evidence that it's dividing teammates and the quarterbacks. Everyone in that locker room understands that competition for jobs is a constant part of life as an NFL player, dictated by the simple arithmetic of the sport: There are 90 players on the roster now, but only 53 can be on the primary roster in Week 1, and just 22 of them will be starters on offense or defense. You accept competition from the moment you pursue an on-field career in the NFL.

And as for dividing the city and the media ... if a team is properly constructed with good leadership and the ability to focus and cut out extraneous noise from outside, the chatter from beyond the walls of team headquarters will not matter. Fan discussion of the quarterback position has been part and parcel of the pro-football experience since time immemorial.

Such speculation and debate is part of what makes the fan experience fun. But there is no reason why it should have any effect on the team itself.

Furthermore, if a quarterback can't handle the pressure of competition, how will he handle the pressure of regular-season play? The positives far outweigh the negatives, in my estimation.

With Matt Paradis coming off double hip surgery, and Connor McGovern completely untested as a backup center, wouldn't it be prudent to sign Nick Mangold as insurance? I'm pretty sure he could slide over to the guard position if need be.

-- Rich Ames

First of all, Paradis is on schedule in his recovery. He is expected back for training camp, and there is no indication that he will not be at full speed for the regular season.

As for Mangold, the reality of the market is that he holds all the cards. Given the lack of experience among interior offensive linemen still on the market, the wisest course of action for him or any player with a similar level of experience and accomplishment is to wait until training camp until an injury strikes somewhere around the league -- which is inevitable -- and then settle into a near-certain starting role.

Is it fair to start talking about Chris Harris Jr. as a potential member of not only the ring of fame but also the Hall of Fame, if he keeps on his current trajectory?

-- Ryan Patrick

With one first-team All-Pro nod, three Pro Bowl selections and a key role on the best defense in Broncos history, Harris already has a collection of accomplishments that puts him into the Ring of Fame conversation. Another Pro Bowl selection could make him a lock.

As for the Hall of Fame, he's got plenty of work left before that's a realistic possibility. If this defense can power the Broncos to another Super Bowl win (or at least an appearance) in the next two to three seasons, and Harris can continue collecting Pro Bowl and All-Pro plaudits, he will have a case. Another Super Bowl trip powered by the "No-Fly Zone" would eventually force the Hall of Fame Selection Committee to give sufficient recognition to what would be one of the dominant units in NFL history.

But that discussion is a long way off. Let's just keep the focus on the here and now.

Do you see the Broncos having interest in either player available in upcoming NFL supplemental draft, Georgia Military College DE Tavares Bingham and Western New Mexico RB Marques Rodgers?

-- Rick Sallee

I'm sure the Broncos will do their due diligence on both prospects, but neither seems to have done enough to warrant surrendering a draft pick next year to select either of them.

Who would get in your five-a-side soccer team from the Broncos roster?

I'd go for DT in goal, good with his hands, Aqib Talib and Von Miller in defense for their physicality and awarenesses, Brandon Marshall in midfield for his energy and Emmanuel Sanders upfront for his quick feet and speed.

-- Joshua Nadarajan

(Flips through the calendar, remembers it's early July, then smiles and begins thinking earnestly about the question.)

I can't quibble with any of those choices. However, I'd give a long look at Garett Bolles on defense. Remember, he played lacrosse in high school, and he still has the ability to cover a lot of ground in a hurry. At his size, he could be an intimidating presence at the back.

A native Coloradoan who will back in the state in the month of September. Is there any way a fan since 1969 can view a Bronco practice during this time?

-- Thomas N. Gormally

Unfortunately, no, sorry. Practices after the second week of the preseason are closed to the public.

My wife (Rebecca) and I celebrate 25 years of wonderful marriage on Tuesday (11th July). I was a Broncos fan before I met Rebecca and she has come to understand my passion for the team during this time. There have been so many changes to football over the last quarter century. When Rebecca and I celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary in 2042, what might we see in the NFL?

-- Martyn Richmond

First of all, happy anniversary!

To look ahead at where the NFL could be in 25 years, I find myself looking back. Where was it in 1992? And where was it 25 years before that, in 1967?

Let's start with the number of teams, and where they play. In 1967, the AFL and NFL were still three years from their formal merger, but were operating together for purposes of the draft, preseason games and the Super Bowl (then operating with the unwieldy official moniker of "AFL-NFL World Championship Game"). The leagues had 25 teams. A quarter-century later, they had 28. Three of the 25 (the Cardinals, Colts and Raiders) had moved.

Another quarter-century later, the NFL has expanded from 28 teams to 32. The Oilers, Chargers and Raiders have moved once, with the Raiders set to move again. The Rams have moved twice. The Browns moved and were replaced. So at those general rates, you can expect three to five teams to move in the next 25 years and four expansion teams to join the fold, bringing the league to 36 clubs. I'm not even going to venture a guess as to which teams end up moving; in 1992, who could have foreseen the Browns ever leaving Cleveland as they did in 1995? The unthinkable often becomes reality. I expect at least two expansion teams to be outside of North America, and I would be stunned if there is not a team playing full-time in London by 2030.

On the field, I expect the game will become more athletic. The emphasis on lowering the impact and frequency of collisions and injuries will continue, resulting in a game that is more finesse-oriented. I could see offensive linemen getting lighter; if sub-300-pound tackles like Garett Bolles succeed against the agile, quick edge rushers they will face, we could see a new breed of athletic tackles who weigh 280-295 pounds, and we could see a gradual change in body type along the offensive and defensive lines. I could see 300-pound players becoming a novelty, rather than the commonplace sight they are today.

I have occasionally discussed the notion of a seven-on-seven developmental league in this space and on social media, a point to which I returned on Saturday night:

While I don't think NFL or college football will morph into two-hand touch or flag football in the next 25 years, I do think that a style that is more open and flowing could become the next step in football's evolution -- something that incorporates concepts from rugby league or rugby sevens. A lower-contact, more athletic game would also translate better to youth football, which is seeing less contact than ever before, with an increasing amount of organizations and parents forbidding tackling before the teenage years.

How we consume the game will change. Nascent virtual-reality technologies have the potential to alter the viewing experience. The at-home experience will continue to improve, and teams will have to continue to push the envelope to draw fans out of their homes (or wherever we watch the game in the coming decades, whether it's in the easy chair or sitting by a mountain stream with the game beamed into one eye and the other eye enjoying the view).

The Jaguars have the Red Zone Channel running constantly on two screens in the stadium bowl; expect to see more of this around the league.

Another possibility, if stadium wireless bandwidth continues to improve, is something like you see on Southwest Airlines, where you use your device to log in to the stadium's network and have access to multiple channels, including Red Zone, specific camera angles from around the stadium, etc. (If you take a Southwest flight on an NFL Sunday, you can use the airplane's wifi to log into the Red Zone Channel for a nominal fee.)

I also think the key juncture for the business of the sport will be the early part of the next decade. The current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season. The CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN contracts expire after the 2021 campaign. DirecTV's contract for NFL Sunday Ticket expires after the 2022 season. How will changing consumer habits affect distribution? What will the NFLPA want out of the next deal? What takes place in 2021 and 2022 will have a seismic impact on the economic foundation of the sport for years -- and perhaps decades -- to follow.

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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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