There's a logical argument for the Denver Broncos to call the Jacksonville Jaguars and inquire about disgruntled RB Maurice Jones-Drew -- and it begins with Peyton Manning.
The moment the Broncos signed Manning, they went all-in on the short term. Manning signed a five-year contract, but the Broncos drafted Brock Osweiler to be waiting in the wings for when Manning retires, and the rookie from Arizona State only has a four-year deal -- so realistically, the Broncos are hoping for three years from the four-time MVP.
Denver drafted RB Ronnie Hillman to spell 10-year veteran Willis McGahee, but Hillman has yet to get untracked in training camp because of a lingering hamstring injury. Hillman returned to practice this week and has worked one-on-one with Manning at practice, but the fact that he's already aggravated the initial hamstring injury once raises questions about the third-round pick's durability. McGahee's relatively advanced age for a running back (30) exacerbates the Broncos' fragility at the position.
But the Broncos still have a former first-round pick in reserve -- RB Knowshon Moreno, who is coming off a torn ACL suffered last November. Moreno hasn't lived up to his draft status, but he had a burst of glory -- albeit a brief one -- before tearing his ACL, averaging 13.0 yards per carry in relief of McGahee.
Further, under the John Elway/John Fox administration, the Broncos have placed a higher premium on draft picks and have never traded a future draft pick in exchange for a player.
That's a significant contrast to Josh McDaniels' tumultuous 23-month reign, when the Broncos made four trades that sent draft picks away for players. The most infamous was the swap of a fourth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for Laurence Maroney and a sixth-rounder on Sept. 15, 2010. Maroney gained just 74 yards on 36 carries the rest of the season and hasn't played since.
Elway has repeatedly stated a desire to build through the draft, and the Broncos' depth chart bears that out. All but one of his draft choices have played on the first or second team recently, and the one exception, rookie DE/DT Malik Jackson, is a virtual lock to make the roster because of his versatility. If the Broncos step into the bidding for Jones-Drew, expect them to be stingy about surrendering draft picks.
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