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Elway won't mortgage future for win-now approach

The SportsXchange

There's no doubt the Broncos are in win-now mode. Peyton Manning turned 37 in March. Defensive linchpin Champ Bailey turns 35 in May. Wes Welker, who turns 32 in May, was their signature catch of free agency, signing a two-year deal.

The window for a title with this generation of Broncos appears finite: two years. No team appears better positioned to make an all-in, mortgage-the-future move up the draft for a final piece of the puzzle than this one, especially with a pass-rushing hole created by the fax faux pas with Elvis Dumervil.

Such a move would mimic the one the Falcons made in 2011 in sacrificing five draft picks -- including two first-rounders -- to move up for wide receiver Julio Jones. But it would also jeopardize John Elway's long-term building plan.

For all the talk the past 13 months about winning now and having no "Plan B" behind Manning, Elway has maintained remarkable fidelity to his stated plan of laying a long-term foundation through the draft. Instead of staying put or moving up in last year's draft, he traded down for extra picks, and used his second choice in the second round on Brock Osweiler, a quarterback of the future who they hope sits on the bench for three seasons.

"Well, I think we're building for the short term and the long term. You saw that last year when we took Brock Osweiler in the second round," Elway said.

Elway has only made one straight-up trade of a draft pick for a veteran player: a 2011 swap of a 2012 sixth-round pick to the Eagles for defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. Every other deal he's made has been draft pick for draft pick -- or using a player as part of a deal to increase the Broncos' stock of selections.

Furthermore, Elway doesn't believe he can find players who are the complete package right away -- certainly not at the range at which the Broncos pick, with their first selection not coming until No. 28.

"We don't draft All-Pros. We've got to make All-Pros," Elway said. "Now, we hopefully pick those guys that have the ability to get there -- not only physically, but also the mindset of wanting to be that good. Then we've got to coach them there."

Replacing one former All-Pro -- Dumervil, a first-team selection in 2009 -- appears to be the top priority of the draft. With a deep defensive end class, the Broncos could be in position to draft a potential replacement like Florida State's Bjoern Werner or Tank Carradine, UCLA's Datone Jones, SMU's Margus Hunt or Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, all of whom could be sitting at the 28th slot.

What all but Moore have in common is a size advantage on Dumervil, who played at around 250 pounds most of his career and was often a liability against the run. Werner weighs 266 pounds and Jones, Hunt and Carradine are in the 275-280-pound range. Moore, a college teammate of Von Miller's -- and his direct successor in Texas A&M's lineup -- has seen his draft stock slide because of concerns over his workout numbers and off-the-field issues; had these not arisen, it's unlikely he would have been available anywhere near the end of the first round.

Running back is another early-round possibility as the Broncos look for a long-term, every-down option, with Knowshon Moreno's contract expiring after 2013, Willis McGahee turning 32 this year and 2012 draft pick Ronnie Hillman having shown he is unlikely to have the power-running skill set to be an every-down option. The Broncos are reported to have visited with Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, and Texas A&M's Christine Michael tweeted earlier this month that he would be visiting the Broncos.

"What we do in free agency the rest of the way and what we possibly do in the draft, we're looking to get better as a football team. That includes running back," Broncos coach John Fox said.

But reading too much into the Broncos' reported visits -- which also include Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor and Colorado State-Pueblo offensive tackle Ryan Jensen -- is a mistake, as the Broncos are known to send hazy signals. Last year, they drafted Osweiler following a full day of workouts and meetings with the quarterback at Arizona State. But they also selected defensive lineman Derek Wolfe with their first second-round pick, and Wolfe said he had little to no contact with the Broncos in the months preceding the draft.

The Broncos don't mind being wily and vague in their interests -- something Elway probably learned from his late father, Jack, who spent six years in the 1990s working in the Broncos' scouting department.

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