Over the next five weeks, FishDuck.com Feature Writer Caleb Couturie will be analyzing the 25 teams in the NFL Draft that may look to select Marcus Mariota.
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No. 24: The Denver Broncos
DEN’s Draft Pick: Twenty Eighth
DEN’s 2015 Cap Space: $32,230,879
DEN’s Top Needs: LB, DE, QB/WR/TE
After the news leaked that Peyton Manning had been playing with a torn quad for the last month of his season, what reporters had danced around for a while came to the forefront of the media’s attention: Was this it? In a frantic attempt to give Manning one last hoorah, Denver revamped its defense with the additions of DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib. Needless to say, it failed. Now the team grows one year older, Manning included, with stars Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas heading in to contract years. In short, Denver is getting worse, not better. Although I’m certain Manning feels he has a few more years in him, if Denver could somehow get their hands on a QB of Mariota’s caliber to replace him when the time is right I’m sure the folks out there wouldn’t mind it.
HOW IT CAN HAPPEN:
This is definitely a tough one. Denver is so far down in the draft, and most likely will be for the next few years, that Tampa Bay would have to be offered a lot to trade all the way down this year. The solution? A sign and trade. Denver doesn’t have the cap space to keep both Thomas’s, so the chances of them retaining both players is almost none. Although the sign and trade is more popular in the NBA, it’s doable in the NFL. Higher signing bonuses make it less likely, however if Denver signed Julius Thomas to a deal and then traded him to TB for the No. 1 pick, both teams prosper. Denver gets a sure shot at drafting a franchise QB to replace Manning, and aside from taking a salary cap hit from having to sign Julius and trading him, they’d still have plenty of room to make a deal for Demaryius. For Tampa Bay, this only helps to build an offense that’s already coming along at a productive pace. Getting a proven weapon like Thomas would only help to open up opportunities for Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, and since TB is rumored to not be in love with either of the top two QBs, it’s likely the Buc’s could take a shot with Brett Hundley or Bryce Petty later in the draft. This is however prevalent on whether or not the Denver front office believes current backup Brock Osweiler is their future franchise quarterback.
HOW MARIOTA WOULD DO IN DENVER:
See Manning, Peyton. Who better to learn the Pro Game from than perhaps the greatest pro of all time? Manning bleeds excellence, and like Mariota shares an ability to lead with actions and not words. More impressively, Manning worked with physical tools much lesser than those of Mariota. If the Hawaiian could develop his decision making and accuracy with one of the best of all time, the sky’s the limit for Mariota’s future. Also, Mariota would be joining one of the most prolific offenses in the entire NFL, with a bounty of weapons at his disposal. Subsequently, with the return of Demaryius Thomas looming, Mariota would have a chance to work with one of the league’s best wide outs. To top it off, the fan base is excellent and Mariota would also be able to work one-on-one with John Elway, another legend. In short, there’s no better place to develop his skills than Denver right now.
WOULD HE START?:
Barring another injury to Manning, no. And even if Manning is hurt to the point of being unable to play, they still may start Osweiler to protect their future franchise guy in Mariota while he develops. Peyton should still have another year or two left in him, and it’s no secret he wants one more ring before he hangs up his cleats. No sweat off Mariota’s back though, as he could grow under perhaps the greatest mentor of all time. When the time was right, Mariota would take the reigns, more prepared than ever.
DEN’s Projected Record with Mariota: 11-5
DEN’s Projected Record W/O Mariota: 11-5
Mariota’s first year stats: 142 yards/1 pass TD/1 INT/1 Rushing TD
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