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Woody Paige: Prepare for an exodus of Broncos after the season ends

Woody Paige: Prepare for an exodus of Broncos after the season ends
Posted at 2:56 PM, Nov 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-28 16:56:04-05

Say goodbye to about two dozen Broncos in just over a month.

Say hello to about $55 million in salary cap space.

So much for the Broncos’ “retooling,” as Vance Joseph called the team’s situation when he took the job as head coach.

John Elway must go into that dreaded unmentionable category – “rebuild” mode.

In the very best-case consequence, the Broncos will win three-to-four games in the final games. In the worst-case scenario, they lose three-to-four games.

In either case, the Broncos will finish with their worst season since the end of Elway Era or the McDaniels Error.

In 1999, after Elway retired as quarterback, the Broncos were 6-10.

In 2010, in the second year of Josh McDaniels’ reign of terrible, the Broncos were 4-12.

In 2017, the Broncos likely will end up with 10-12 defeats. They might be able to beat the Dolphins, the Jets, the Colts and the sinking Chiefs, but don’t plan on it. They’re definitely not going to Washington and coming back with a win. Surely they’ll win at home against the Jets, but, surely, they were supposed to win at home against the other team from New York – and didn’t.

In reality, the only people pulling for the Broncos to do well in their remaining five games are misguided never-say-die Broncos’ loyalists, Trevor Siemian and the coaches.

Honestly, Denver will be better off as a Tank Town hoping to get one of the top six picks in the next draft.

In the franchise’s draft history since the merger the Broncos have had a pick six, or higher, only five times.  They chose Floyd Little sixth overall in 1967, Riley Odoms No. 5 in 1972, Christ Hinton fourth in 1983, Mike Croel fourth in 1991 and Von Miller No. 2 in 2011.  Little was the only selection to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Odoms was the Broncos’ second best tight end ever (behind Shannon Sharpe). Hinton, a left tackle, was the key Broncos’ player involved in the trade with the Colts for Elway, and had a Pro Bowl-type career. Croel, a linebacker out of Oklahoma, was a solid, but not supreme player.

And Von Miller turned out to be a world-class linebacker in the NFL.

It’s highly probably that the Broncos will be able to secure an immediate starter and future star if they draft in the first six in 2018. In the teens they have drafted Randy Gradishar, Louis Wright and Ryan Clady, but they had several misses.

You decide what side for Jay Cutler (11th overall).

No matter what happens about the draft choice and the final five games, a lot of former draft picks and free agents will be gone after New Year’s Eve.

Only one player, Demaryius Thomas, is left from the 2010 draft – before Elway assumed command. He has Miller and Virgil Green on the roster from 2011, Derek Wolfe and Brock Osweiler from 2012 and nobody from 2013. From the 2014 draft there are four players still here, and four more are around from 2015. All eight picks in 2016 and all eight picks in 2017 are with the Broncos, but only three will start Sunday’s game in south Florida. A third, Paxton Lynch, did start in Oakland, but is hurt again. Justin Simmons and Garett Bolles have been starters all season, and Brendan Langley will start Sunday because of Aqib Talib’s suspension; Adam Gotsis is a rotational defensive lineman, and Riley Dixon is the punter. Six of this year’s picks are on injured reserved or generally on the game-day inactive list.

Here are the major players I don’t think will return in 2018: Talib and his $12 million salary, Brandon Marshall (due $7 mil), Menelik Waston ($7.4 mil), C.J. Anderson ($4.5 mil) and Virgil Green ($3.3). That’s more than $34 million in savings for the Broncos.

Unrestricted free agents who likely won’t be back include Green, Allen Barbre, Jamaal Charles, Cody Latimer, Jared Crick (injured), Bill Turner (injured) and Billy Winn (injured).

Linebackers and former draft picks Todd Davis and Corey Nelson are unrestricted free agents and are expected to get offers elsewhere. Offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandijio (a late pickup) is unrestricted.

The Cody Latimer Experiment will probably be concluded with his free agency, and tight end Jeff Heuerman certainly won’t be back. Bennie Fowler III is a restricted free agent, but will be let go.

Others who will go include Donald Stephenson, Andy Janovich, Zach Kerr, Kyle Peko, Joseph Jones and Deiontrez Mount.

And Brock Osweiler is an unrestricted free agent.

That’s 24 players and more than $55 million in salaries.

Good luck and good-bye.