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NFL AM: Could Johnny Manziel Be Denver’s Next Man Up?

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The Denver Broncos are officially desperate for any help they can get at the quarterback position.

The most telling indicator of that came this week when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has been in touch with former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel about joining Denver down the road. The two men share a common connection: both were quarterbacks for the Texas A&M Aggies, and one of them even grew up after that.

The caveat here, according to Schefter, is that the Broncos are waiting to see how the latest Johnny Drama plays out before they have any serious discussions about bringing the 23-year-old quarterback into the fold. Manziel is currently awaiting a grand jury decision in Dallas in reference to a domestic incident where he allegedly attacked his ex-girlfriend. The Dallas police department referred the case to the grand jury in February and it’s up to the grand jury to decide whether Manziel will face a misdemeanor assault charge that can carry a sentence of up to a year in jail.

Until then, there will be no movement on the Manziel front, and after news leaked of the connection between the two sides on Thursday, Broncos sources were quick to dismiss the idea of Manziel joining the defending Super Bowl Champions, shooting down Schefter’s report according to Mike Klis of Denver’s 9NEWS.

But where there is smoke there is fire and there is plenty of smoke in Denver right now. With each passing day, the Broncos are seemingly becoming more and more frantic in their search for a quarterback, as it’s become clear that VP John Elway played his cards completely wrong in the Brock Osweiler negotiation and had no backup plan when Osweiler left the Broncos hanging to sign with the Houston Texans.

Elway first moved on to discuss a potential trade with the San Francisco for Colin Kaepernick and that still seems to be the most likely resolution to this saga. But the 49ers have the Broncos over a barrel in negotiations and they know it. Kaepernick is far and away the best bet to give Denver starting caliber production at the quarterback position in 2016. San Francisco has also pulled back a bit on the idea of trading Kaepernick, citing new head coach Chip Kelly’s desire to work with the 28-year-old quarterback. That could be just a smokescreen, but it makes sense given the offense Kelly runs. The whole situations bears monitoring as the league carves a path toward the draft.

LIGHTINING ROD?

In lieu of Kaepernick, the Broncos have reached out to several teams to gauge the availability of their quarterbacks. Among those teams was the Buffalo Bills, inquiring about the availability of quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Those discussions reportedly didn’t get far, but it’s another situation that bears watching. Taylor and his agent are trying to negotiate for an extension as Taylor gets ready to enter the final year of his contract, and it’s possible that if they don’t see that extension coming from the Bills, they try to make something happen to get the 26-year-old quarterback out of Buffalo.

Taylor’s agent Adisa Bakari continued to angle for his client in the media on Thursday, appearing on Sirius XM and blasting the Bills for failing last season “because of discipline and defense” firmly placing the blame on head coach Rex Ryan. That’s not something that’s going to be taken lightly around Buffalo’s facility. Bakari also noted that the Bills “weren’t the only team that noticed” Taylor’s rise in 2015.

Buffalo would have to be a little crazy to trade Taylor after finally settling in with a quarterback, following seemingly two decades of disarray at the position. But never bet against Rex Ryan in a shouting match. If Rex feels personally attacked by Bakari’s statements, his ego could get in the way of his brain. Bills GM Doug Whaley also doesn’t seem all that sold on Taylor as the team’s long-term solution at quarterback just yet.

“We want him to be, he wants to be, and time will tell. But we’re excited about what he did last year — he went 8-6 as a starter,” Whaley said in an appearance on NFL Network. “I’ll tell you this: I know he’s a big competitor and he’s going to want to raise his level of his game next year and take the next step and we are excited and we’re going to try to give him as much ammunition around him for him to succeed.”

Right now, they’re just giving him ammunition to seek a trade, and that’s something the Broncos may be banking on. If Taylor becomes available, he suddenly shoots to the top of the list to fill the shoes left by Osweiler and Peyton Manning in Denver, but we’re still a long way from that playing out.

OTHER OPTIONS ARE MEDIOCRE

Beyond Taylor and Kaepernick, the Broncos’ best option at quarterback is probably already on their roster in Mark Sanchez. But with Sanchez and Trevor Siemian as the only quarterbacks on the roster at the moment, they certainly can’t be done adding to the depth chart at the position.

They reportedly reached out to Cleveland to discuss Josh McCown, who finds himself without a role after the team signed Robert Griffin III late last month. They probably aren’t serious about trading for the 36-year-old journeyman, preferring to wait until the Browns eventually release him in a cost cutting move. McCown spoke to Cleveland.com recently and said he hopes a resolution to the situation comes soon, but in the meantime, he’ll continue to work.

“This is what we sign up for. The club has your rights, and every club can treat you different. You don’t know what they come to that decision. Sometimes the timetable doesn’t marry up with what you would like, but ultimately, the club has your rights,” he said. “I’m on this team, and I’m going to work as hard as I can for this team today. Then, if it changes, it changes.”

McCown would be a viable backup option, but isn’t that what Sanchez is at this point, a backup option. If the Broncos were to go into the season with a quarterback depth chart of Sanchez, McCown and Siemian or a rookie, it would be an unmitigated disaster. Probably not as big a disaster as what might happen if Manziel’s charges get dismissed and the connection between the former Texas A&M quarterbacks goes from smoke to a full blown blaze. But either scenario is pretty bad for the Broncos, a team getting ready to defend a championship.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys