ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It’s never dull – or predictable -- when John Elway is in charge.
There is but one, three-day mandatory minicamp session left in the Broncos’ 2019 offseason. What an offseason it has been.
There has been dramatic turnover at the head coach and quarterback positions – only the two most important roles in football.
There was an unofficial holdout of a star player. There were the unofficial terminations of so many other former stars.
And Trader John was never more active whether with his quarterbacks or up and down the draft board.
Here are the 9 biggest stories of the Broncos’ offseason since the start of the league year on March 13 – meaning the hiring of Vic Fangio and his coaching staff, shocking departure of Gary Kubiak and Hall of Fame elections of Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey do not qualify:
1. Joe Flacco
Trading for a quarterback who has been a 10-year-plus starter and a Super Bowl MVP had happened only one other time – when the Chiefs acquired Joe Montana prior to the 1993 season.
Montana led the Chiefs to the AFC championship game his first year and playoffs the second. The Broncos will take that from Flacco right now.
Flacco was a big story for two other reasons this offseason. One, he has played well, drawing praise from teammates on both sides of the ball. Two, he let it be known he was not here to mentor second-round rookie Drew Lock.
2. Chris Harris unofficial holdout/new deal
The Broncos’ star cornerback didn’t show up for the first day of team conditioning on April 2 as a way to send a message he was unhappy with the $8.9 million he had coming in this, the final year of his contract.
He reached agreement exactly eight weeks later with a pay raise to $12.05 million -- $50,000 more than what the Broncos gave free agent cornerback/safety Kareem Jackson in 2019 salary and signing bonus.
3. Greek presents Mr. B
It was mildly surprising Steve “Greek” Antonopulos, a Broncos’ trainer since 1976, was chosen by the Bowlen family to serve as presenter for team owner Pat Bowlen’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and not Elway.
But while Elway was Bowlen’s favorite player, Antonopulos may well have been his favorite guy. Antonopulos will tape a 3- to 5-minute speech that will be played leading into Bowlen’s induction on August 3 in Canton, Ohio.
4. Draft trade nets Fant/Lock
Elway and his top assistant Matt Russell maneuvered smartly in the first two rounds of the draft. They picked up trade capital by trading back from their No. 10 overall selection to No. 20, where they took Iowa tight end Noah Fant.
Then in the second round, Elway and Russell spent some of their newfound capital by moving up in the second round to take quarterback Drew Lock.
Essentially, the Broncos parlayed their No. 10 pick into Fant and Lock, a swap that mostly drew plaudits from draft analysts.
5. Free-agents Jackson, James, Callahan, Heuerman sign
On the first day of free agency, the Broncos signed the former Texan Jackson to a three-year, $33 million contract and made former Dolphin Ja’Wuan James the league’s highest-paid right tackle with a four-year deal at a $12.75 million annual average.
Two days later, the Broncos reached agreement on a two-year, $8 million contract to bring back tight end Jeff Heuerman and a three-year, $21 million deal with former Bears’ slot corner Bryce Callahan.
That was a cool, $113 million, four-player spending spree.
6. Paradis, Stewart, Keenum, Roby, Ray, Turner, Barrett depart
In today’s transient NFL, you win some, you lose more in exchange for younger replacements. The Broncos allowed four-year starting center Matt Paradis, former first-round draft picks Bradley Roby and Shane Ray, starting offensive lineman Billy Turner and part-time edge rusher Shaq Barrett to leave for free agency.
The Broncos also made room for Flacco by trading last year’s starting quarterback, Case Keenum, to Washington.
Paradis was essentially replaced by rookie Dalton Risner, whose move from right tackle to guard allowed Connor McGovern to concentrate on the center position.
Roby was replaced by Callahan and it appears Jackson will fill in for Darian Stewart, a starting safety on the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 team who was released prior to free agency.
To replace Ray and Barrett as backup edge rushers, the Broncos will count on Jeff Holland, an undrafted rookie last year, Malik Reed, an undrafted rookie this year, veteran Dekoda Watson and fifth-round rookie Justin Hollins.
The Broncos tried hardest to bring back Turner, a right tackle/guard. But when he signed with Green Bay, Denver went big by signing James.
7. Fangio Fever
A football coaching lifer, Vic Fangio finally got his first chance at a head job at the age of 60. He has a no nonsense approach and seemingly a belief that a regular array of compliments is a hindrance to getting the best out of his players.
In turn, Fangio has mostly drawn strong praise from his players and the local community of high school coaches. Whether in his usual daily garb of gray sweat suit, or thrown-together business-casual attire, Fangio has frequently attended charity functions, clinics, Nuggets’ games and, of course, local Italian restaurants.
His honeymoon period has carried through the length of the offseason.
8. Brittany’s announced return
At the NFL’s owners meetings in Phoenix, Broncos’ chief executive officer Joe Ellis said Brittany Bowlen would be returning to the team’s executive offices by year’s end. Brittany Bowlen is presently the assumed heir to her father’s position as the Broncos’ controlling owner.
After earning her MBA from Duke University, Brittany Bowlen, 29, landed with McKenzie & Company, a worldwide management consulting firm.
9. Peyton’s visit
Peyton Manning reminded Broncos Country how great it used to be around here when the former quarterback great attended the team’s OTA (organized team activity) practice Thursday.
After practice, Manning, who retired from the NFL if not from his busy schedule, met with local reporters for a 17-minute interview. The NFL’s only five-time MVP was relaxed, happy, and showed his trademark self-deprecating humor.
It appears it’s only a matter of time that Manning, who expressed his desire to stay connected with the NFL, will lead a team’s front office.