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Blanket Coverage: Elway’s hubris may doom Broncos’ QB search

What’s with John Elway’s dismissive treatment of his quarterbacks in recent years? The Broncos could lose out on Colin Kaepernick as a result.

Don’t do it, Colin. Don’t even think about it.

It’s ridiculous for people to suggest that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick should take less money in order to play for the “cap-poor” Broncos this season.

Could it be good for Kaepernick’s long-term career interests to find a way to get to Denver and be resuscitated by John Elway and Gary Kubiak? Maybe, considering the Broncos have a well-rounded team and Kaepernick won’t have to do much heavy lifting in an offense that suits his skills. But there’s no guarantee that will happen. What is guaranteed is that Kaepernick will make $14.3 million in 2016 if he’s on an active roster for all 16 games. And he has earned that, just like every other NFL player on his first big-money contract.

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​Kaepernick helped the 49ers to a Super Bowl after the 2012 season and the NFC Championship Game the following year. In 2014 he signed a six-year contract extension that was incredibly team-friendly, considering it had very little guaranteed money and was essentially a year-to-year contract.

Kaepernick was not without his issues as the 49ers slipped to 8–8 and 5–11 finishes in the past two seasons. But he was thrown into a toxic situation, partly created by owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke, that had coach Jim Harbaugh looking for an exit and Jim Tomsula being hired as a forgettable one-year replacement. That wasn’t Kaepernick’s doing, and it contributed to him and the team underachieving.

Why should Kaepernick have to give money back to anyone? Right now he’s the 13th highest-paid quarterback in annual average, behind the likes of Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill. Kaepernick is 33rd in average guaranteed money, right behind Mark Sanchez, Brian Hoyer, Chad Henne, Drew Stanton and EJ Manuel—and they’re all backups!

But here comes Elway, like he’s valuating a trade-in at one of his car dealerships, thinking that he can pick from the remains of the relationship between Kaepernick and the 49ers. Elway, according to Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, wants to pay Kaepernick no more than $7 million each of the next two seasons. Kaepernick is set to make $33.2 million under his current contract. The quarterback, understandably, has balked at this.

What’s the deal with the way Elway has treated the players at his former position? He made Peyton Manning take a pay cut last season, then basically acted like a jilted lover when Brock Osweiler took a better offer (one that is tied for 15th in average money at the position) from the Texans. “We’ve stayed true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here,” Elway said in a statement. Me-ow.

Elway offered Osweiler $16 million per season, after the illustrious Sam Bradford received $17.5 million per year from the Eagles. Elway was O.K. going that high for a quarterback that has started seven games (with a 5–2 record) and was benched for a declining Manning, but Elway draws a $7 million line in the sand for a player that has a 27–20 record in 47 career starts and went to two conference title games, winning one. Does that even make sense?

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The chorus from Broncos apologists is that Denver just doesn’t have the cap space to go any higher (current cap room: $1.620 million). Please. First of all, they would have done it had Osweiler taken a pay cut. (How many of those did Elway, who threatened to play baseball instead of playing for the Colts after they drafted him, take in his career? Bonus fun fact: Did you know that even if you throw out his rookie season, Elway’s touchdown to interception ratio was 151 to 143 from 1984 to ’92. Kaepernick: 56 to 26.)

Secondly, Ryan Clady already should have been released to save $8.9 million against the cap. With Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett viable options, Elway could have made the tough decision to release outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (who will be 34 this season), which would havesaved $10 million, instead of restructuring his contract. The Broncos could restructure Demaryius Thomas’s contract and save another $9 million. Not to mention the fact that Elway made a $3.45 million mistake by originally assigning the low tender, not a more prohibitive second-round tender, to running back C.J. Anderson, which gave the Dolphins a opening to sign him to a front-loaded offer sheet, and then deciding to make Anderson, who has never rushed for 1,000 yards, the fourth-highest paid running back in football at $6 million for ’16—just $1 million less than he wants to pay Kaepernick.

Those moves could have freed up $31.35 million in cap space before even getting to Von Miller’s contract extension.

To be fair, these are the types of decisions and demands you can make with a brand new Super Bowl ring on your finger. I doubt that Osweiler would be in Houston right now if Denver lost the Super Bowl.

In the end, maybe Elway gets exactly what he wants and looks even more brilliant than he did this past season. (Personally, I’d save the cash, make a deal with the Buccaneers for Mike Glennon and draft a quarterback.)

For the 49ers to back down and pay part of Kaepernick’s contract so that he plays elsewhere, York and Baalke would have to have soured so much on Kaepernick that they see Harbaugh’s face every time they look at him. If that doesn’t happen, Kaepernick should ignore the 49ers’ brass, concentrate on forging a new relationship with Chip Kelly, learn a new QB-friendly offense and see what happens while collecting the $14.3 million that he earned.

To all other options: Just say no, Colin.

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Settle down

Boy, the Dolphins sure do talk a lot: Last season and early in the off-season, there was a lot of chatter about how quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s growth was stunted because he didn’t have the freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage. Now safety Michael Thomas told 120 Sports this week that the defense was similarly handcuffed by the defensive coaching staff (the coordinator for the last 12 games, Lou Anarumo, is now Thomas’ secondary coach—awkward). For a bunch of players who haven’t done anything, the Dolphins sure can yap about how great they’d be if it wasn’t for those pesky coaches. I’m confused, were they getting good coaching when they started 8–6 in ’13 and 7–5 in ’14 and then bad coaching when they choked away playoff berths, or was it the other way around? Maybe they should try winning some games and then talk. Or better yet, don’t say anything.

More Chip complaining: We get it, Eagles, you didn’t like Chip Kelly. The latest installment of Chip Is The Devil came from, where a former member of the front office ripped Kelly and his coaches for resetting the draft boards after the front office had set it. Uh, this happens with every team where the coach has a lot of personnel clout, especially one that has required traits at each position. Bill Belichick does it all the time. Again, Kelly just didn’t win enough to shut people up.

Go nuts

Surgeries aren’t sure things: It was fairly shocking to see the Browns waive Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (O.K., maybe not that shocking since it was the “everyone must go!” Browns). He went from one of the top cornerbacks in the 2015 draft to a seventh-round pick after suffering a serious knee injury in practice leading up to the Rose Bowl, and he was released less than a year into his career. We’re so used to ACL surgeries being almost like an oil change for some players, but this was a reminder that careers are anything but guaranteed. The Dolphins claimed Ekpre-Olomu off waivers—here’s hoping he gets healthy enough for a chance to prove himself again.

Speaking of the Browns…: Former linebacker Karlos Dansby was absolutely correct when he told SiriusXM NFL Radio (via that “it just wasn’t cool” that Cleveland released veteran safety Donte Whitner on Saturday, a month after free agency began. It’s poor form for a team to release a veteran after most of the free-agent money has dried up, especially considering no major event like the draft has happened that would have made them suddenly realize Whitner was expendable.