The Evening After Day 1, 2017 League Year: Be Like Little Fonzies

There was little news regarding the Broncos during the legal tampering period of the last two days.  This led Linsday Jones to send out this lighthearted tweet in the morning to poke fun at the nerves of some Broncos fans.  Nerves from the lack of action were answered by the signing of Ronald Leary, but new nerves popped up on three fronts:

  1. The last second failed effort to convince Calais Campbell to come to Denver instead of Jacksonville.
  2. The quick poaching of multiple left tackles by teams other than the Broncos (punctuated by the rival Chargers swiping Russell Okung away from Denver for a mind-boggling $13 million APY).
  3. The ongoing Tony Romo saga.

However, for all Broncos fans out there that still have nerves rattled from this, I’ll advise you to do what my response was to the Broncos fans that Jones responded to: be like little Fonzies.

The Broncos achieved one of their goals today on sterling grounds.

I expressed skepticism a few days ago on the Broncos’ need for a guard. But John Elway is running the team, not me, so I’ll accept his belief in this regard.  With this goal established, the Broncos executed its achievement in concise mastery.  I cannot foresee whether Ronald Leary will turn out more like Louis Vasquez or more like Donald Stephenson.  But what I can tell is that the Broncos properly judged the free agent market at guard, and got themselves a reasonable deal compared to that market.  Constrast Leary’s $8.75 million APY to that of two guard deals the Browns signed today: Kevin Zeitler getting $12 million APY, and Joel Bitonio securing $10.1 million APY.  Regular underachiever Luke Joeckel even got $8 million APY from Seattle.  Elway targeted Leary at a price that could quickly be seen as a relative discount at a position that took a considerable hike today.

Matching Jacksonville’s $15 million APY offer to Calais Campbell would have been disastrous.

Last year, the Broncos allowed Malik Jackson to walk to Jacksonville for $14.25 million APY.  While I still contend this was the right decision to make, a defensible argument could be made that letting a high level player in his mid-20s go was not worth the money saved against the degradation the defensive end position suffered in 2016.

But addressing that degradation by paying even more money to a very good, but not once-in-a-generation player on the older side of 30 would have been an act of cowardice and desperation.  It’s uncertain exactly what the Broncos offered Campbell and in what structure, and like with Brock Osweiler will likely never be known for certain.  But while the Broncos were correct in at least investigating the situation and posing a question for Campbell to ponder, they were also correct in holding to their line in the sand, a practice that they’ve consistently adhered to.

That practice bring this to the next point…

The Broncos are also not going to overpay for imperfect talent at left tackle.

Props to Okung for being able to secure a deal that’s greater than what the Broncos’ 4 year option would have been.  Furthermore, the debate over his decision to go agentless should effectively be over.  However, the Broncos declined Okung’s option for a reason: they deemed that he would be overpaid at around $12 million APY.  The Chargers offering $13.25 million APY wasn’t going to change that decision.  Only time will tell whether the Broncos are right or wrong, but if they are wrong, it’s better to be wrong without locking up many millions of cap dollars into future dead money.

This calculus doesn’t end with Okung.  35-year old Andrew Whitworth got $12 million APY on a 3 year deal from the Rams. Matt Kalil got $11.1 million APY despite multiple injuries and questions about his effectiveness even when healthy.  A strange game was being played on the left tackle market today, and as Elway has alluded to before, the only winning move was not to play.

The left tackle market is not bereft of talent yet.  Kelvin Beachum is still out there.  Menelik Watson could be a candidate for transition to the left side.  After signing Okung, the Chargers could cut King Dunlap, someone Mike McCoy is familiar with.  My own “old friend” sentimental bias would like to see Ryan Clady back here.  There’s a chance that Okung may be better than all of those options, but there’s an equally good chance that the cost-benefit ratio may favor someone still on the market.

I also hasten to add that Okung’s megadeal could put the Broncos on path to secure a 3rd round compensatory pick in 2018 if they can play their cards correctly.  Broncos fans were salty over Okung losing them an additional 3rd round comp pick in 2017, now there’s a real chance for turnabout in that department.

The nose tackle market is looking gravy for the Broncos right now.

Another quick note that should be made is that while teams raced for imperfect left tackles, the nose tackle position on defense was dead quiet.  Big names like Dontari Poe and Johnathan Hankins failed to secure a big deal today.  The longer they are on the market, the less likely it is they will break the bank. Even if they do get their deals, a familiar name in Sylvester Williams is still out there too.  The Broncos can more than afford to exercise patience at this position.

The Broncos aren’t going to let noise dictate their stance on Tony Romo.

Suffice to say, on the surface things got noisy here.  First Chris Mortensen reports that the Cowboys are still holding on to Romo to try to drive up a trade market, presumably to try to set up a bidding war between Denver and Houston.  Then the Texans pull off a desperate move to shed themselves of Brock Osweiler’s contract by exiling him and a second round pick to Cleveland.  All of the sudden, the Texans have more cash and cap to fit Romo in without paying eight figures on two quarterbacks.

None of this noise should have shook the Broncos, and by all indications it has not.  Take a look at the remaining quarterbacks on both rosters.  Denver has Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.  Houston has Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  Even if you want to argue that the talent levels between these pairs aren’t that far apart, consider this counterargument: both Savage and Weeden have only one year left on their contracts.  Siemian has two and Lynch has four.

By any reasonable measure, Houston is far more desperate for a quarterback than Denver is.  The Broncos have signaled that they’re more than content to roll with who they have if Romo, or anyone else, does not fit their valuation.  The Texans have a track record of the opposite, as their handling of Osweiler on back to back first days of the league year demonstrates.


Being like a little Fonzie can be difficult and unsatisfying at times.  But does Elway know what Fonzie’s like?

Correctamundo.  He’s gonna be cool.  Or chill, as it may be.