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Elway seems to have picked right coach and QB, but more work needed in his 10th season as GM

Justin Simmons, Phillip Lindsay in line for raises while several key veterans will be free agents.
Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway watches prior to an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Denver.

DENVER — All seems to be going John Elway’s way again.

It appears he picked a good head coach in Vic Fangio, who despite an 0-4 start was able to get his Broncos playing hard and competitively through the final snap in his first season.

Elway also seems to have found his franchise quarterback in Drew Lock, who inherited a 3-8 Broncos team and guided it to a 4-1 mark in the final five weeks.

“Overall, the last 5 games, I thought my audition went really well,’’ Lock said Sunday after the Broncos' 16-15 heartstopping win against the Raiders in the season finale. “In my mind, it was enough for me to establish being the guy going into next season with my teammates and hopefully the front office as well.’’

There will be no arguments from the front office. When you hire the right head coach and draft the correct young quarterback, your job as general manager is a job well-done.

Not there was any doubt after Lock’s late-season emergence but Elway will return for his 10th season as Broncos’ GM in 2020, sources tell 9News. Elway and Fangio will hold a joint news conference late Monday morning.

Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ chief executive officer and president, will also meet with the media Monday. Ellis is retaining Elway and Fangio to lead the Broncos’ football operations department. It might not have looked good halfway through this season, but for the first time since their Super Bowl 50 parade nearly four years ago, the Broncos head into an offseason trending up.

“It’s a totally different feeling from a year ago,’’ said running back Phillip Lindsay. “… We had the hardest schedule in the NFL so it shows we can play with the best. Next year, they will feel us.”

Now comes the tough part for Elway: Paying some of his top-performing players. If the Broncos can’t work out a long-term contract extension with Justin Simmons by March 10, the team is expected to hold off the safety’s impending free agency with the franchise tag.

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Over the Cap currently projects the one-year franchise tag for safeties at $12.735 million.

Then there’s Lindsay. Undrafted out of Colorado last year, the running back has started his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Not including tack-on performance bonuses based on playing time, Lindsay made the rookie minimum $480,000 last year and $570,000 this year. He is scheduled to make the third-year minimum in $660,000 in 2020 before becoming a restricted free agent in 2021.

One advantage to being an undrafted player is their contracts can be renegotiated after their second season. Drafted players must wait until after their third year.

Lindsay has clearly outplayed his contract and it would be surprising if he doesn’t receive an adjustment.

Elway and the Broncos also have to make difficult financial decisions on several impending free agents, the most notable of which are cornerback Chris Harris Jr., defensive end Derek Wolfe,  defensive tackle Shelby Harris, center Connor McGovern and safety Will Parks.

For all the feel-good vibe the Broncos are bringing into the offseason after finishing 7-5 following an 0-4 start, the trick is to build a team that finishes 7-5 after starting 4-0.

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