ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --For the first time since John Fox and John Elway arrived, the Broncos left the Scouting Combine without quarterback looming as a pressing need -- which is helpful considering that this year's passer class is considered among the weakest in recent memory.
"Look at this year compared to last year," Elway said at the Combine. "There's two or three guys in the draft last year that came in and made a huge impact, and now you look at it, and there's not one guy that's jumping out at everybody at that position."
The lack of a need stems from the decisions to sign Peyton Manning after the Colts cut him last March and to pick Brock Osweiler in the second round last year.
Manning's signing was, in retrospect, inarguable, even though concerns lingered over his neck and nerve problems the previous year. He adjusted to his new receivers and his post-surgical arm strength and logged the second-best statistical season of his career -- and finest for any Broncos quarterback, shattering multiple team single-season records.
But Osweiler's pick still engenders public debate, even though signing a 36-year-old quarterback meant it was only prudent to begin cultivating a future option. Given that the Broncos are unlikely to have a high draft pick as long as Manning stays healthy and at the controls, the Broncos' best play was to find potential first-round value in the second round.
That led them to Osweiler, who might have been a top-10 pick had he entered the draft a year later. But in a deeper 2012 class, he shuffled down the draft because he had just one season of starting experience at Arizona State and a throwing motion that needed tweaking to raise his elbow level, allowing him to better capitalize on his 6-foot-7 frame. These weren't fatal flaws, but were correctable with time and coaching.
Time is what Peyton Manning's success and health allowed. Coaching is what he received from then-offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Adam Gase, last year's quarterbacks coach and now the offensive coordinator. By the end of the season, Osweiler's delivery appeared tighter and his elbow higher.
Most importantly for the long-term construction of the position group, Osweiler was clearly the No. 2 quarterback. Caleb Hanie, signed as a veteran insurance policy, ended up as the third-teamer. His value to the team would have only been evident had Manning suffered a multiple-game injury and Osweiler not been deemed ready for a starting gig.
But after a year in the system, that concern has faded. If something happens to Manning, Osweiler is the primary option. He will have had a full season of development and has been in the offense as long as Hanie. There appears to be little reason not to tap Osweiler if Manning is lost for multiple games.
So if Hanie doesn't have value as a fill-in for a month or more, does he offer value? And might the Broncos decide that Osweiler's knowledge of the system is good enough for him to serve as the veteran understudy, meaning that a late-round or undrafted rookie could fill out the quarterback complement?
FINAL ANALYSIS: The Broncos had four quarterbacks in camp last year, so don't be surprised if they add a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent to compete with Hanie for the last quarterback slot on the roster. That quarterback could be groomed as Osweiler's eventual backup if he fares well this summer.