The Broncos’ Peyton Problem


Yesterday was bittersweet. I hate, hate hate seeing Brandon Carr go (best of luck, Brandon!) but picking up Peyton Hillis is nice! Today though, I wanted to share some thoughts about that other Peyton, as in Manning. The only thing equal to the handwringing about Manning going to the Denver Donkeys is the wishful thinking about him wearing the red and gold. Here’s one more take on the entire situation.

I think a good place to start is to see what the Donkeys will have to give up to get Manning. No deal is without a downside, and we’ve got a raft of them here. First, cap space. The Donkeys were second in the league in cap space remaining, with almost $45 million, as of yesterday. By way of comparison, the Chiefs were fifth best, with $32 million, although that has now been reduced to $22 million because of Bowe, Amon Gordon, Jevon Belcher and other recent activity.

Many are saying that if Manning signs with any team, it’ll be in the vicinity of 4-5 years for $80-$100 million. The Donkeys could structure the contract in multiple ways, but Peyton will assuredly demand a big chunk up front. Any way you cut it, the Donkeys aren’t going to have too much left under the cap for 2012. That means they will have much less room to maneuver in signing current players who are free agents and bringing in high quality new free agents. It also means they have many more limitations in signing their top draft picks. Bottom line: to bring in the personnel they need to work with Manning and sign their draft picks, we can expect the Donkeys to follow in the Raiders’ footsteps and start releasing some current talent and bringing on newer (and potentially lesser) talent. We’ve already seen them release Eddie Royal. Who’s next in line to be a former Donkey?

Here’s another way to look at it: imagine the Donkeys if they would have gotten Vincent Jackson, Mike Tolbert, Brandon Carr and Mario Williams. That is not a team I’d want to play twice a year. Instead, we may have the same old Donkeys, minus two or three of their decent players, but now with Manning. Is Peyton’s team an upgrade versus what they could have had? Tough call.

But it gets worse for the Donkeys. In addition to the financial compromises created by the Manning maneuver – which will last for years, not months – let’s talk for a minute about the personnel and psychological costs. First, Tebow and the hundreds of thousands of Tebowans must be P-I-S-S-E-D right now. And not just any brand of pissed. I mean bring-on-the-Rapture-style pissed. With Peyton, the Donkeys either have to demote Tebow or trade him. Either way, you’ve got a holy host of angry fans, and probably a few grumblings in the locker room as well. If the Donkeys also have to release one or two more popular players to create cap space, then we have an even greater chance for dissension in the ranks, both among fans and players. That would be a dream come true. With the Raiders starting at ground zero this year with Carson Palmer (that’s still so funny to me); the Chargers in disarray with a coach on the ropes and without Vincent Jackson; and now the Donkeys’ situation making last year look like a walk in the park, our Chiefs may have the most internal stability in the division, which is a great place from which to start.

With Manning, the Donkeys will also have now changed their entire offensive philosophy three times in one calendar year. With Orton, they had a traditional pro offense. Then they switched to the bastardized Tebow wishbone. Now they’ll be switching to a third offense, one that can only be called “Peyton’s offense.” Peyton will bring in his own terminology, offensive sets, offensive role players and overall game planning theory, which will impact the defense and special teams as well. For the nucleus of Donkey players who have had the great misfortune of living through all this chaos, I imagine it must be frustrating to have such discontinuity, which often leads to mistakes and finger pointing. Additionally, the Donkeys front office will have now made three types of personnel decisions through two years of the draft, free agency and trades, resulting in a mishmash of players fitting three different systems, with many players being forced to play a role different from that which they were hired to do.

Also, if Elway and company thought they were getting rid of their QB problem by getting Manning, they better think again. Manning may last three games or three years. During that time, without a lot of money to spend, who are the Donkeys going to acquire and groom to be their quarterback of the future? And more urgently for them, who is going to be their backup quarterback this fall? With their remaining cap space, they might be looking at a Tyler Thigpen-type for backup right now (he’s available, too!), and risk a mid-to-late round draft pick to be their longtime quarterback. Neither are good prospects. Of course, they could certainly keep the untested Brady Quinn as a backup, but I don’t believe anyone within the Donkey organization believes Quinn is their QB of the future. Finally, the funny thing is, if Peyton decides to go to another team, the Donkeys are still stuck with Tebow and they’ve missed most of the free agency opportunities!

For the Chiefs then, the path is clear. Job number one is to keep Peyton off the field, which means finding the best right tackle who can protect Cassel and open up some holes on the right side for Jamaal. Second, it means drafting or finding a punishing nose tackle to round out the defense. And third, thank you Peyton Hillis, for providing us a bone crushing second running back, to compliment Charles and eat up some clock. I think with these three pieces of the puzzle in place, and the calm, measured path and locker room that we are developing, we will win the AFC West and end up better in the long run than any other team in our division.

If the roles had been reversed and the Chiefs were about to land Peyton, I still think I’d oppose the situation. The cost is too high, given the astronomical risk involved, both to Peyton’s health but also to the Chiefs. We have laid down our cornerstones – Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe. Now we need to fill in the house, and I think this offseason will complete the picture for us. What do you think, Addicts? Am I way off on the Donkey’s Peyton Problem?