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Broncos should be rebuilding in tough AFC West

It’s not in John Elway’s nature to punt on a season. That trait is also serving the Denver Broncos wrong.

Elway has doubled down on the notion that Denver can somehow contend for something meaningful in 2019. He’s traded for quarterback Joe Flacco, replacing Case Keenum. While Flacco does represent a slight upgrade at the game’s most important position, he doesn’t change Denver’s reality.

The Broncos are going to be fighting for third place in the AFC West provided Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes remain upright.

Denver brought in Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens for a fourth-round pick — a deal that became official on Wednesday when the league began its new league year — and jettisoned Keenum to the Washington Redskins. The idea is that with second-year talents in running back Phillip Lindsay and wide receiver Courtland Sutton, the Broncos are going to have an improved attack.

There are ample holes in that theory, though.

Denver doesn’t have much in the way of an offensive line, especially after watching center Matt Paradis leave in free agency for a three-year, $27 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. Paradis was one of Elway’s best draft picks throughout his checkered tenure, and the Broncos fails to sign him to a second contract. Worse yet, the plan going into the draft seems to be playing with either significant question marks or flat-out middling players across the line save for Ja’Wuan James, who Elway signed for four years this week. Beyond him, Flacco better learn how to run.

All told, the Broncos aren’t going to have the first-overall pick in 2020, or even be in contention for it. They are also not going to hang with the big boys in the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. That’s the crux of the issue.

Kansas City has a terrific young team with stars such as Mahomes, Chris Jones, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Tyrann Mathieu, Travis Kelce, Kendall Fuller, Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz and others under the age of 30. The Chargers can boast a similarly impressive list with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Desmond King, Casey Hayward and Derwin James.

Denver has Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Lindsay and at least a budding star in Sutton. There’s nobody else of note, and both Miller and Harris, the two best players on that short list, are turning 30 before minicamp ends.

Elway thinks he’s competing for a title by recycling a bad roster. He’s really wasting time, watching another season slip by.

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