Why Trevor Siemian is the Savior

Vincent T. Conroy-Villarreal @mrconroy2u AAVSPORT

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Photo courtesy of Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports

 

PHOENIX- With the NFL Combine concluding in the upcoming days and free agency set to commence, the Denver Broncos, after being forced to sit from the sidelines in their championship defense, will look to reload this offseason with expectations being mile high.

Against popular conception, general manager John Elway has very few holes to address before training camp. His free agency shopping list should be relatively small, addressing only absolute needs at offensive guard and the defensive tackle positions during the free agency legal tampering period. Ideally, his focus should be concentrated on targeting depth across the entire offensive unit in the upcoming draft. Don’t be fooled, if Elway can reconstruct the offensive line, the Broncos’ Super Bowl window is still theoretically wide open. Even after Manning’s and Kubiak’s retirement along with Wade Phillip’s dismissal, the Broncos remain to be New England’s lone kryptonite in the American Football Conference.

Even with management’s decision to not pick up Russel Okung’s four-year option, the collective talent of the offensive line remains to be skeletal at best with no heir apparent in place at the left tackle position. Elway’s offseason moves will prove to be critical not only for the longevity of the Broncos title window with an elite defense aging, but for his drafting ability as well. Elway has gotten the benefit of the doubt at evaluating talent with his defensive selections, but picks like Monte Ball, Michael Scholfield and Cody Latimer have been lackluster and borderline bust worthy at best. While his 2017 offseason tasks prove to be predictable and sensible for the most part, Elway’s upcoming decision on the quarterback position proves to be just as unpredictable as the Colorado weather.

Even though the prognosis of the Broncos’ inability to make the playoffs lies on the shoulders of inadequate offensive line play and the inability to stop the run on defense, most Bronco faithful feel that an upgrade at the quarterback position is warranted after missing the postseason for the first time since 2011.  Spanning over the last five years, the Broncos have won 67 regular season games, which is tied for second-most in the NFL over that period. However, when anyone outside of Peyton Manning has been the signal caller for the Broncos, no quarterback has won more than nine games in a season over the last ten years. Jay Cutler (2006) and Trevor Siemian (2016) are the only quarterbacks to surpass the.500 mark since 2004, when Jake Plummer lead the Broncos all the way to the AFC Championship game.

According to Mile High Report, Tony Romo is still a top target for the Denver Broncos and speculation remains that Trevor Siemian will be traded to either the Buffalo Bills or the San Francisco 49ers. The 49er trade seems plausible with new head coach Kyle Shanahan implementing an offensive scheme similar too Gary Kubiak’s. Paired with Colin Kapernick opting out of his current contract, the 49ers are in desperate need of a veteran quarterback that has seen a substantial amount of playing time. While even though I agree that Romo is arguably a huge upgrade at the quarterback position in Denver, I strongly feel that Siemian is the best option for the Broncos moving forward.

While Tony Romo is a 37-year-old quarterback that is on the back side of his career, he has been unable to string together a clean bill of health over the last three seasons. While he is 16-5 in all competitions over the last four years, the four-time pro bowler’s best chance to win his first Super Bowl ring as a starting quarterback most likely resides with the Denver Broncos.  If Denver wants to capitalize on Romo’s diminishing abilities and go all in again on a championship run, he is perhaps the most viable upcoming option available on the free agent market.

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Photo courtesy of Pro Football Reference

However, Romo remains to be only a stop gap, short-term solution until the Broncos find a long-term answer to their revolving quarterback carousel. Over the last ten years, only two franchises have won a championship with free agent quarterback acquisitions. Drew Brees and Peyton Manning prove to be the outliers to this assessment. Another concern I have with the Broncos bringing in Romo is his health concerns. While Manning had looming, medical concerns coming into Denver, Romo has outright been unable to prove he can stay consistently healthy throughout his entire career.

Three back surgeries, ankle surgeries and a shattered collarbone has limited his physical abilities and as an elder statesman at the position, I question his durability behind Denver’s current offensive line. Manning will go down as one perhaps one of the best to quarterbacks to play in the NFL. It was a calculated decision as free agents of that capacity are usually never available outside of Reggie White, his acquisition will go down as one the best in NFL history. The same cannot be said for Romo impending free agency tour. These concerns should prompt the Broncos brass to seriously consider all of their options, including the ones they currently have on their roster.

Trevor Siemian, the seventh-round Northwestern product played exceptionally well in his first year of starting in the NFL. While he only finished 27th according to Pro Football Focus, he finished 21st in total QBR with an 84.6 mark, threw for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.  He performed well for a quarterback with low expectations set forth for him from management. When given a clean pocket, he showed the poise necessary to win games in the NFL. While Siemian is limited as a passer, Denver’s offensive unit regressed in Gary Kubiak’s second year at the helm of calling the plays. When CJ Anderson injured his knee against the Texans and was lost for the remainder of the season, the Broncos offense became dependent and predictable on the one-two punch abilities of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. With little to no tight end production since the departure of Juluis Thomas, Denver’s red zone efficiency has dwindled to one of the least productive units in the NFL. Compared to the 2015 and 2016 season, the offense without question took a step back. However, the quarterback play took a quantum leap forward from a statistical standpoint.

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Photo courtesy of Pro Football Reference 

His Pro Bowl alternate invitation and captaincy nod should speak volumes to how the locker room values the third-year player. Prior to his week four non-throwing shoulder injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (which hindered him for the rest of the regular season), Siemian shined in a road victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. Even with a reshuffled offensive line, Siemian made NFL history by winning in his first career road start in dramatic fashion. Completing 25-32 passes for four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a near-perfect 132.1 quarterback rating, Siemian had the Broncos primed for what seemed like another postseason run.

Unfortunately, his grade-three shoulder injury proved to be more severe than what was expected when Siemian opted for surgery on Jan. 5. Whether the Bronco medical staff acknowledged the extent of Siemian’s injury at the time remains to be seen but regardless, Siemian started in 14 games for the Broncos and earned the respect of his teammates while playing injured throughout the entirety of the season. At the end of the season, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, discovered more damage than originally thought while executing the procedure on Jan. 5 in Los Angeles.

The extent of this injury without question will affect Siemian’s offseason. With a new coaching staff in place, his offseason immersion into the offense will more than likely be given to the incumbent backup and 2016 first-round selection, Paxton Lynch. Also, if Denver is likely trying to find a trade suitor for Siemian, his injury proposes an issue, considering he is now “damaged goods” that likely won’t be ready for full contact until the beginning of the season.

Outside of Siemian’s injury, his season from a statistical standpoint, his tangible upside and status in the locker room perhaps has validated his right to be the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. His performance created a dilemma for Elway that he did not foresee. However, the elephant in the room that no one has assessed is the fact that Romo is still under contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Without question, Dallas and Jerry Jones, who has a strong personal connection with Romo, wants to get fair compensation for Romo’s services. Jones affection for his long time signal caller very well could hinder his likelihood of being released. If Jones wants value for the Eastern Illinois product, he likely would want fair trade value for Romo’s services. Dallas has all the leverage in this deal.

Furthermore, with a little over 40 million dollars available to spend towards the cap space, Denver would have to likely force Romo to take a substantial pay cut to accommodate the other needs this team has. Paying for a player of Romo’s qualities does not simply make sense. It is a luxury decision and the Broncos can invest that money in other areas. Right now, Romo is due to make 14 million dollars this year on his current contract with the Cowboys, with that number to increase as high as 20 million next year. Based on numbers provided by Over The Cap, Trevor Siemian makes more sense for the Broncos based on an economic stand point. Not only his he cheap, but his return value is invaluable.

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Photo courtesy of OTC

While Trevor Siemian is not the most glorious or sexiest option for the Broncos, he is the logical choice for the team for the foreseeable future until Paxton Lynch is prepared to take over the reins.  While the Mile-High City has always been recognized by its spectacular defense and electric quarterback play, the likes of Elway and Manning has spoiled. Siemian may not be the quarterback we want, but he is the quarterback Denver deserves. Trevor Siemian is the Savior.

Dallas Buyers Club

Vincent T. Conroy-Villarreal @mrconroy2u– AAVSPORT

He’ll Be Back- But With Who?

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Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

PHOENIX- When the Dallas Cowboys’ season abruptly came to a conclusion after their heartbreaking playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs, perhaps the most gripping and intriguing storyline developed: The Romo Radar.

While there are some in NFL circles that still believe the longtime signal caller could theoretically stick around with the organization- there are plenty of individuals that feel Tony Romo’s time with the club has reached its resolution. With a plethora of development quarterbacks flooding this year’s NFL Draft and with no clear-cut legitimate “face of the franchise” signal caller available for selection, Romo could very well be an intriguing option for numerous teams that are either in the transition of contending for an NFL title or looking for the theoretical last and final piece to the puzzle.

Romo holds a 16-5 record in all contests over the last three years of playing time. The argument can be made that over the last three years, this stretch was the most consistent string of play for the long-time Dallas signal caller. However chronic back, collar bone and rib injuries also saw Romo miss at least one start for the fourth consecutive season from 2012-16. His inability to remain healthy forced longtime owner and general manager Jerry Jones to explore the eventual replacement of Romo- eying Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the 2016 NFL Draft. When Denver snagged Lynch with the 26th pick in the NFL Draft via a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, Jones settled on Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott.

The rest is a well chronicled timeline of Romo’s fall  from grace with the Cowboy organization. NFL quarterback breakups are never quite what it seems. Often, it’s a messy divorce where animosity and bad blood between ownership and the coaching staff develops. Furthermore, it can divide fanbases and create a rift in the ever so necessary “trust” between fans and team alike. Jones’ role with the team’s brass only complicates things even further. Organizational breakups with star quarterbacks like  Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre serve as recent reminders how complicated this process truly is. Usually the veteran quarterback wants to land with a team that can allow him to cement his legacy while the organization, wants some sort of return in their long-term investment.

What the Cowboys want to do with Romo remains highly unclear. By all means, Jerry Jones has never been transparent with his decisions in regards to player personnel. His release of Demarcus Ware was unheralded and unprecedented. Romo has always been Jones’ “guy” considering that he himself found the Eastern Illinois product as undrafted free agent in 2003. Jones even publicly stated in 2006 offseason that Romo’s value to the team was at minimum, a second round draft pick after New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton offered a third-round draft back for Romo’s services. Jerry Jones in my eyes will always be an advocate for his star quarterback.

At the tender age of 36, Romo no longer carries that sort of value anymore. His services by all means will be short-term answer, making him more attractive to teams with closing championship window. Peyton Manning was lured to Denver as a free agent acquisition while Brett Favre, was acquired by the New York Jets via a fourth-round draft pick. By no means is Romo any where near that level of caliber of quarterback play, but there is an established  value for him considering this year’s free agent market is mediocre and the lack of quarterback talent in the upcoming draft is highly concerning. The question becomes, who will join the Dallas Buyers Club this offseason?

THE OBVIOUS ANSWER AND ONLY ANSWER

Denver Broncos

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Photo by Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Tony Romo’s desire to play for the Denver Broncos next season has by far been one of the most well chronicled storylines to take hold of the NFL since the beginning of December. After the defending Super Bowl 50 champions failed to return to the playoffs after a 4-0  start to the season, largely due to a struggling and inept offensive scheme, the Broncos have now undergone a complete institutional makeover after Gary Kubiak’s retirement from coaching. Even if Kubiak remained with the team, adding Romo still made sense for the Broncos.

Vance Joseph was appointed Head Coach of the Denver Broncos on Jan. 11, 2017. Shortly afterwards, Joseph brought in ex-San Diego Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy to coordinate his offense while also bringing in Oakland’s offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to coach the quarterbacks. This move was highly applauded around the league and was seen as a calculated power move by Joseph. By bringing in perhaps two of the most versatile and flexible offensive minds, Joseph can either microwave Paxton Lynch’s development or continue to cater an offensive system around Trevor Siemian’s skill set.

Trevor Siemian currently is the incumbent starter for the Denver Broncos. Without question he is well respected by his teammates, his peers and coaches around the league. In his first full year of starting, the Northwestern alum threw for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 14 starts. Only three of his games were played in complete health as he battled shoulder and ankle injuries throughout the season. After burdening much of the offensive load for most of the season, Siemian earned a Pro Bowl alternate invitation but unfortunately had to decline due to offseason non-throwing shoulder surgery.

Siemian’s situation only complicates matters for the Broncos’ brass. With Kubiak’s retirement along with Rick Dennison’s and Greg Knapp’s dismissal from the team, Siemian’s largest advocates no longer have a role within the organization. By all accounts, John Elway seems ready to push Lynch into the starting lineup and into stardom.

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Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post

However Siemian’s performances indicate that he should still be considered as the starter and rightfully so. If Siemian is named the starter at the beginning of the 2017 season, its points to an absolute failure of Denver’s coaching staff to develop Lynch’s raw and immeasurable talent into sustained consistency. Then again it would also dictate where the Broncos organization is headed and that is by all means-winning championships. With Lynch as the hypothetical starter for Denver, the Broncos are sending a clear and concise message that they are rebuilding and not rebooting.

John Elway’s recent photograph with Romo at House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s victory party, only added more fuel to the fire that Denver is interested in Romo’s services. Was there a conversation? It’s highly doubtful since Romo is still under contract with Dallas, but who knows what happened behind closed doors. WIth players like Emmanuel Sanders and Demarcus Ware making subtle pushes for Romo’s services, it’s clear from an “outside looking in” perspective that there is some sort of locker room divide about who should play under center for the upcoming season.

Romo’s transition would almost be seamless for Denver from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Scott Linehan’s one-back  offensive philosophy is similar to McCoy’s. His offensive scheme is actaully dated back to Jack Elway’s, John Elway’s father’s, offensive principles. The play action pass is a staple in both Linehan’s and McCoy’s system, theoretically meaning the terminology would be the only point of emphasis.

The only concerns Denver would have is the re-negotiation of his contract and of course- his health. Denver just got Manning off the books for 20 million dollars a year after the Sheriff decided to retire at the conclusion of the Broncos Super Bowl run. Is Elway really comfortable giving that sort of money out again to an aging, banged up veteran? Precedent states that he is. Elway has a history of negotiating reduction clauses in player contracts, only to have players earn the money back in the form of incentives. In 2015, Elway and Manning agreed on 4 million dollar reduction to his salary, only to see Manning earn that money back if Denver won the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl.  So theoretically, the same thing can happen with Romo.

Adding Romo sends the message that Broncos are contending for a world championship in 2017. As Ware alluded to earlier this week, the addition of Romo will not only send a message to the team and respective fanbase- but to the entire league. The ripples of Romo’s addition would not be a simple stone thrown in a shallow pond. It would be resounding wave that would crash on the New England shoreline. The Broncos would be a legitimate and for threat again for contending for championships  by adding a veteran quarterback. The harsh reality remains that  Denver still has other holes to address. Reconstructing the team’s offensive line should remain the team’s largest priority. Remember this was a team that only collected 18 rushing yards against the Titans, 33 rushing yards against the Raiders, and allowed 6 sacks against the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

What will Denver do at the quarterback position? It is any one’s best guess at this point. But for now, Denver seems to be genuinely interested about Romo’s services as the right price. It may now have the same result as Manning, but it extends Denver’s Super Bowl aspirations for another four years. Count the Broncos to be a buyer in the Dallas Buyers Club.