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Five takeaways from John Elway and Vance Joseph as the Broncos continue through free agency

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --As the first wave of free agency concluded, Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway and Head Coach Vance Joseph answered questions about where the Broncos stand after the additions of offensive linemen Ron Leary and Menelik Watson and defensive linemen Domata Peko and Zach Kerr.


"Getting more physical on both sides of the ball -- we feel like we've done that," Elway said. "It's been a good start."

The arrivals of the four linemen alter the personality up front a bit, Elway added, bringing a bit more nastiness to the units than was present last year when the Broncos struggled to run the ball and defend the run up front. They finished in the league's bottom six in total rushing yardage gained and allowed.

"[There is] the size, and obviously, we liked the ability," Elway said. "With Ron, we like the way he [plays] the game. He's a physical guy and plays with an attitude, so there's no question he was our target, and then Menelik has the same ability at tackle.

"The good thing, they have personalities -- they are real positive guys that like playing the game. Not only are they good football players, but I think they're going to add a real positive feel in the locker room with the type of people they are and the personalities -- I think we get a little bit of the personality back, and they're going to help very much there."

Peko and Kerr both bring size, of course, but they have additional attributes. Peko is a longtime team leader, while Kerr has "a lot of upside" that Elway and Joseph love.

"We really believe he's got a high ceiling," Elway said. "We feel like he's a very talented guy, a very young guy. We actually liked him a lot coming out of the [2014] draft and really tried to get him as a CFA [college free agent] coming out; we couldn't get it done, but we've liked him since the draft three years ago ... so we've liked him for a long time, but we feel like he really has a chance to fit what we do well."


Although rampant speculation swirls outside of the UCHealth Training Center regarding the Broncos and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, his status remains "a non-issue" inside the team offices.

"Tony's still under contract," Elway said.

What's more, the team remains "comfortable with our two young guys -- and we really are," Joseph emphasized.

"Until something happens there with Tony, it's a non-issue with us. And it really is, guys," Joseph told a handful of reporters after the press conference to introduce Peko and Kerr concluded. "We haven't met one time about that, because we can't. It's a non-issue. He's under contract. We've got two good young quarterbacks that we're happy about, and we're going to put our focus there."

Added Elway: "Nothing's changed since the Combine."

Joseph did say that the team would eventually add a third quarterback at some point -- "because you need a third just for arm talent in camp and for injuries and those things," he said -- but that the plan remains to have an open competition between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.



And that's not just the case for the immediate future, but the long term, Joseph noted.

"We're excited about our quarterback future. We've got two young guys -- one's a first-round pick and one's played an awful lot," he said. "Going forward, we're in great shape -- not just for next year. Moving forward the next four or five years, we're in great shape at quarterback. Everyone can't say that. We can."

Joseph believes that Siemian has yet to receive the proper credit due to him for his performance in his first season as a starter -- and with what the coach last month called a "horrific" left shoulder injury.

"I think in some spaces, he has, but overall, I think he has not. When you win nine games in the NFL, that's tough to do with two [first-year starting] quarterbacks," Joseph said. "Two of the games could have been either way, so they could have won 11.

"I am very comfortable with Trevor. He's a smart guy. He's a great leader. His teammates love him and they love playing for him. So if he's the guy again, all good. If Paxton comes back and he plays better and he's the guy, all good."


A photographic look at DE Zach Kerr and NT Domata Peko's first day at UCHealth Training Center. (photos by Ben Swanson)


Although Joseph and the other coaches cannot talk about football matters with Lynch, he did say that he has had some "really good" conversations with the second-year quarterback, who is working out in Florida in advance of the beginning of team-organized offseason work next month.

One point that Joseph wanted to make regarding Lynch was about the nature of being an NFL quarterback -- and how it is more than just flinging the football.

"Paxton's a young guy with great talent, but playing quarterback in the NFL is a lot more than talent," Joseph said. "It's leadership -- whether you like it or not, it comes with leadership obligations. It comes with studying and understanding the systems.

"He's ready for it. He wants the challenge. He's looking forward to getting back in and going to work. It's going to be a fair, open competition, and whoever plays better is going to be the guy."



"It's still open, and we're not done," Elway said when asked about who would line up at left tackle.

"Last time I heard, we don't go to camp until July, so we don't have to have that fixed just yet," Elway added later. "We'll figure out how to get that done."

But the Broncos do have options there, Elway and Joseph noted. Both cited the past experience of Watson and Donald Stephenson at left tackle, but said that free agency could bring some options.

"Even in free agency, there's going to be guys released from their football teams from now up until the summer. So it's a work in progress," Joseph said. "There's still time between free agency and the draft."

The decision to bring back Stephenson offers the Broncos another option, and Joseph feels that the six-year veteran could benefit from the scheme and coaching changes.

"He's an athletic guy that's played some left tackle in the past. Maybe [with] a new system, maybe [with] a new coach, he can go out left and play for us. No one knows yet," Joseph said. "But he's a guy that when you watch his tape, he does flash great ability -- and that's left tackle. That's the basketball footwork guy. He's got those skills to play left tackle."

The draft is among those options, even though it lacks the depth of quality left tackle prospects of previous years, Joseph added.

"[There are] definitely three guys that are sure-fire first-round picks," he said. Utah's Garett Bolles, Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk and Alabama's Cam Robinson are widely considered to be first-round caliber tackles.

"That is going to be your flavor. So we've got to be careful."

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