The 2017 offseason has seen the hierarchy of the AFC West, one often paced by the Broncos, take new shape. The Oakland Raiders brought in Marshawn Lynch, improving upon a running game and an offense that already tore through the league in 2016. The Chargers booked it up to Los Angeles with a new coach and one of the most underrated rosters in the league. The division champion Kansas City Chiefs bring back essentially the same team that earned them a bye week in ’16.
Where does that leave the Broncos, less than 16 months removed from their Super Bowl title, but without a known franchise quarterback or consistent offensive line play? Could Denver, by virtue of elimination, be locked into fourth place in the AFC West?
Davis spent last season with the Browns, who released the fifth-year passer in August. An undrafted and unremarkable arm talent out of Southern Miss, Davis has made just 10 NFL starts with 13 touchdowns and 12 picks for the Rams and Cleveland since 2012.
Nothing more than a depth addition for the Broncos, Davis will grasp a clipboard behind starter Trevor Siemian. With first-round rookie Paxton Lynch also on the roster, Broncos general manager John Elway confirmed that Davis is simply “coming in to learn the offense,” per NFL Network’s James Palmer.
To put it bluntly, the overhaul backfired in Elway’s face. Stephenson and backup Ty Sambrailo have teamed to make Broncos right tackle the offensive-line equivalent of Cleveland Browns quarterback this season. Okung and the guard tandem of Michael Schofield and Max Garcia have been liabilities at times in their own right, leaving first-year starting signal-caller Trevor Siemian to swallow the poisonous concoction of shoddy pass protection and a derelict ground “attack.”
Okung’s four-year, $48 million contract is essentially a one-year commitment with an escape hatch if Elway balks at picking up the option for an additional four years. The Broncos can also choose to release Stephenson before his $4 million salary becomes guaranteed in mid-March. Cutting ties is the easy part. Finding capable replacements — especially at left tackle — is the challenge. The best course of action might be to renegotiate Okung’s deal and lure a free-agent right tackle such as Detroit’s Riley Reiff or Baltimore’s Ricky Wagner.
That mental toughness was on display once again when the Broncos faced the Buccaneers in Tampa on Sunday afternoon. This didn’t seem like much of a game until Denver lost starting quarterback Trevor Siemian to a shoulder injury on his left (non-throwing) shoulder late in the second quarter. Suddenly the Broncos, leading 14-7 at the time of the injury, were forced to rely on untested rookie Paxton Lynch for the entire second half. All that dilemma did was give their defense more motivation to take over and the remainder of the Broncos ample reason to elevate their own performances.
The final score — 27-7 in favor of Denver — won’t tell the full story of what happened inside Raymond James Stadium that day. This was one more substantial piece of evidence that the Broncos, now 4-0, should be considered early front-runners to hoist another Lombardi Trophy.
Their bid for another epic victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and possibly their chance to defend a Super Bowl championship, ended with a whimper Sunday afternoon in front of 76,893 chilled and dejected fans at Sports Authority Field. Then, immediately following a 16-3 defeat to their formidable AFC rivals, the Broncos’ frustrations boiled over, as a seemingly ho-hum attempt at postgame unity began and ended with a bang.
When the beaten Broncos spilled into the locker room, before the door was opened to reporters and other outsiders, coach Gary Kubiak gathered his players and asked if anyone wanted to address the team. Veteran left tackle Russell Okung, who signed with the Broncos last March, stepped forward to speak, and cornerback Aqib Talib strongly objected. According to several witnesses, that set off a spirited shouting match between the team’s defensive backs and offensive linemen — one which Kubiak had to diffuse before it turned ugly.
The 49ers add Bibbs to a backfield headlined by Carlos Hyde and newly signed veteran backup Tim Hightower. The team also traded up in the fourth round to draft Utah runner Joe Williams. Bibbs was expendable for John Elway who has C.J. Anderson and cheap jerseys and Devontae Booker as his top tailbacks.
The Denver Broncos traded Kapri Bibbs and a fifth-round pick to the Niners for a 2018 fourth-round selection.