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Mason's Mailbag: Who could be next for the Ring of Fame?

As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase, use the submission form or scroll to the bottom of this page.*

This mailbag was brought to you with the assistance of my background music, B.B. King's *Live in Japan double album ...* **

Who do you think will be the next inductee into the Ring of Fame?
-- Jack Harrison

Jason Elam is the most recent franchise legend to approach eligibility, and has an impressive case as the Broncos' all-time leading scorer, three-time All-Pro and, for 15 years, co-holder of the NFL record for longest field goal (until Matt Prater broke the record in 2013).

With special-teams standouts like Rick Upchurch, Gene Mingo and Jim Turner already enshrined, Elam's inclusion appears to be a matter of when, not if. And, of course, Champ Bailey is a slam dunk when he becomes eligible.

I'd love to see Al Wilson get some traction someday; he made five Pro Bowls in eight seasons, earned first- and second-team All-Pro honors, and was the heart and soul of the defense in the early-to-mid 2000s before a neck injury cut short his career. I think Wilson is caught being in the era between Elway and Manning -- and never playing with either. Those years are overlooked, and it's a shame, because there were some good teams in those years; from 2000-06, the Broncos went to the playoffs four times, had six winning seasons and never finished below .500. 

Wilson is the only eligible Bronco with at least five Pro Bowl appearances to not be in the Ring of Fame. And I will admit, I respect him from my years covering him. Although this isn't a Ring of Fame consideration, whether it was a good day or a lousy one, he was always honest in answering questions. His answer wasn't always what you wanted to hear, but there was no pretense; no false platitudes. And no one gave better pre-game motivational speeches to teammates, even though you couldn't use many of them in video productions because too many words had to be bleeped out.

I also feel Joe Collier should be considered, since he is one of the most innovative defensive coordinators in NFL history. (Of course, Collier is on the Ring of Fame Selection Committee, so he would have to recuse himself from any discussion.)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame should also ponder Collier, a former Bills head coach, along with other coaches like Don Coryell whose win-loss/trophy resume doesn't bellow "Hall-worthy," but whose tactical innovations and philosophies helped shape the continued evolution of the sport. Candidates like these could be considered "contributors" at some point, although the list of worthy front-office contributors not in the Hall is long, with Pat Bowlen atop it.

At some point, Mike Shanahan will certainly be discussed. The committee will want to wait until the door is closed on a potential return to the sideline, but once he's eligible, the winningest coach in team history -- with a pair of world championships -- should someday see his name on the 500-level facade.

Do you think Brock Osweiler will have more of a Bubby Brister-type role this season with Gary Kubiak as his head coach and the need to have Peyton Manning as fresh as possible come possible January games? Had hoped he would have had more snaps in real games this far into his career.
-- Byron Kerr

If you're referring to the role Brister had in 1998, when he started four games, he simply came in when Elway was injured or otherwise unavailable, or for mop-up work.

In 1998, Brister entered the Week 2 game when John Elway strained his right hamstring. A week later, he took over when Elway hurt his back, and started the next two games. Brister started two more games after Elway strained rib muscles during warmups before the Week 10 win over San Diego; Elway returned on the second possession of that game, but was in too much discomfort to continue. Brister played the rest of that game and the following week's Monday Night Football romp over Kansas City.

So the only way Osweiler has a role like Brister did in 1998 is if Manning does not stay upright. Brister's only work in relief of a healthy Elway was in mop-up work of the 1997 regular-season finale (Brister entered when the Broncos led, 31-3) and in the loss at Miami in Week 16 of 1998 (Brister came in with the Broncos down 31-21 with 1:10 remaining).

What will be interesting to see is if Osweiler does get a series or two every now and then in the general flow of the game, if Manning remains healthy That would be highly atypical for the backup/starter dynamic. It could help Osweiler and help the organization make a better evaluation, but it would certainly break the mold of how these situations are handled.

First, contrary to cliche', there IS a such thing as bad publicity. Look no further than the off-field issues regarding players and personal conduct that teams such as the Panthers, Vikings and Ravens had last year.

As for your theory, it's an interesting notion ... but, no, not for a second do I think it was perpetuated with international media in mind. The NFL does court and encourage coverage from media outlets outside of the United States during big events -- draft, International Series, Super Bowl, etc. -- but in this case, I doubt that topic crossed anyone's mind.

Salient point, but it's all about the quarterback, as recent NFL history has proven, and you have to go back a dozen years to find a Super Bowl winner without an elite QB.

Further, it's all about the quarterback in terms of building a budget relative to the salary cap. If you have a quarterback making elite money -- $15 million or more per season -- it's difficult to justify that sort of expenditure for a wide receiver, especially if you believe the elite QB makes the productive pass-catcher possible.

But if you have a younger quarterback on a more cap-friendly contract, that frees up the room for the top-drawer receiver -- and also provides that developing quarterback a reliable target whose success is not entirely tied to having an All-Pro-caliber passer. (Remember, Demaryius Thomas had his breakout sequence of games with a career 47.9-percent passer firing in his direction.) Then when the young quarterback signs a big-money deal in a few years' time, you revisit the outlay at wide receiver.

If a young quarterback succeeds Manning, he's going to need all the help he can get in the short term. But that being said, you've also got Emmanuel Sanders' three-year contract expiring after the 2016 season, so his performance and continued potential into his eighth, ninth and 10th seasons must be weighed. So must other expiring contracts in the next few years, including those of Von Miller and other players who develop.

This is a good conundrum to have, but it could create some difficult questions to answer in the future.

@MaseDenver; who do you think will likely be the starter at free safety? #askmase — Dirty Mike (@MikeyJayy11) May 14, 2015

Darian Stewart remains the favorite, given the Broncos' decision to prioritize their pursuit of him in free agency.

Cornerback Bradley Roby has been mentioned as a possibility to work in some situations, perhaps in the base package, but at the recent voluntary veteran camp, he didn't see any action at safety.

"We're looking at our safeties as safeties right now," Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips said April 29. "Roby is playing pretty good at cornerback right now. All that will come later, I think."

Stewart's primary competition is likely to come from veteran David Bruton. But Gary Kubiak, Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani saw a lot of Stewart in practice in Baltimore last year -- and that certainly contributed to the Broncos' decision to target him.

@MaseDenver; @Broncos; how many QB's will make the active roster? #askmase — Sean English (@_SwaggyS) May 14, 2015

I'm going to guess that three will -- but only on the 53-man roster. On the game-day active roster of 46 players, I'd expect two quarterbacks, as is typical.

Kubiak kept three quarterbacks on the season-opening roster for each of his final five seasons as Houston Texans head coach. With two viable developmental candidates (Zac Dysert and Trevor Siemian) behind Manning and Osweiler, the Broncos might not want to risk exposing the better of the two to the waiver wire.

Does La'el Collins fit the Broncos zone-blocking scheme? If so, I cannot figure out why they would not risk a seventh-round compensatory pick on a first round-talent, especially considering our line needs.
-- Daniel Gwynne

Yes, Collins could have fit the zone-blocking scheme if he improved his footwork.

As for the rest of your question, hindsight is 20/20, but there were two factors in play during the draft:

1) The pending murder investigation in which Baton Rouge (La.) police wanted to interview him. If there was even a slim chance he could be charged, no team wanted to run the risk of having its name plastered on headlines that would surely have read, "(Team name) draft pick charged with murder." Given the river of negative headlines and bad publicity to flow around the NFL the past year, that was a risk all teams were unwilling to take at that moment.

2) Through his agent, Collins had said he would not play for a team that picked him on the draft's third day. Had he been selected then, he could have refused to sign his contract, which would have placed him back into the pool for next year's draft, betting that he would be a higher pick then and receive the commensurate contract. (If he went undrafted, he could not go into the 2016 draft.) So you run the high risk of wasting a pick. You don't go into the seventh round expecting to draft a Pro Bowler, but at least you add a player who competes and has a shot. If an agent has said the player won't show up, why select him? You might as well forfeit the pick.

"Meh" is the apt word, given the role The Simpsons played in pushing that efficient expression of dismissive indifference into the mainstream.

Perhaps the show's producers can cull together a collection of voices to replicate Shearer's work with Mr. Burns, Smithers, Kent Brockman, Principal Skinner, Rev. Lovejoy, Otto, Jasper, Lenny ("not Lenny!"), Rainier Wolfcastle and others ... but people will notice the difference. Shoot, Kermit the Frog hasn't sounded the same to me since Jim Henson died in 1990.

And although the show has been hit-and-miss for 15 years now, we've already had a worthy series finale -- "Holidays of Future Passed," written in case no resolution could be reached with the voice actors in 2011. I'd be content to let that episode stand as the finale. I've got more than enough re-runs to keep me content.

Favorite director? Alfred Hitchcock. Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window are a top three I would put up against any auteur. Of contemporry directors, I'm partial to Joel Coen (although now Ethan receives co-director credit, of course) and I'm on the "love him" side of the love-or-hate Wes Anderson debate.

As for my favorite movie -- not necessarily the greatest movies I've seen, just the ones I can watch over and over -- I can't choose one, so I'll give you five, in chronological order: Slap Shot (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Blade Runner (1982, any version without the voiceover narration), The Big Lebowski (1998) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). A note on my last choice: although the follow-ups in the "Blood and Ice Cream" series are better-constructed films in regards to plot and character development, Shaun stands out because I recognize Shaun's indecisive, aimless 20-something stasis in my existence at the time -- at least, away from the office.

And remember, "There is no 'i' in 'team,' but there is an 'i' in 'pie.' There's an 'i' in 'meat pie;' the anagram of 'meat' is 'team' ..."

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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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