NFL Offseason Moves That Will Tell You If the Broncos Believe in Tim Tebow
John Elway's declaration that Tim Tebow will enter training camp next season as the team's starter isn't so much a declaration as a cop-out. Tebow hasn't so much been handed the keys to the car as much as been given the first chance to try and turn on the ignition.
Whether Elway is fully buying into Tebow's tenure at the top in Denver or not will become apparent pretty quickly as the Broncos move into their offseason plans.
Here are five names to watch out for that will indicate whether the Broncos fully believe that Tim Tebow is the future or not in Denver.
Sign Dennis Dixon
First thing is first, the Broncos need to prove that they are buying fully into the offensive system that gets the best out of Tebow. Brady Quinn, as the team's backup, will not work, as the offense would have to drastically change if he had to enter the game to accommodate his skill-set.
Dennis Dixon would allow the Broncos to have a backup to Tebow who could mirror his style of play.
Dixon has spent his career as a backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers after an impressive college career at Oregon. He was expected to be a high draft pick before a knee injury sidelined him in his senior season.
Since then, Dixon has featured in only four games, starting three. However, he has impressed in preseason performances, as well as in situational football in a huge game against the Ravens in Baltimore during his second season.
Much like Tebow, Dixon prefers to run the football. His athleticism is overwhelming, as he can effortlessly outrun defenders even at this level. If the Broncos are to continue to run the option or consistently run out of the shotgun formation, Dixon is a perfect fit in Denver.
Just because he is the perfect running threat, that does not mean that he cannot throw the ball.
The Pittsburgh Steelers looked to keep Dixon in the pocket when he got on the field, reducing his ability to run the ball or extend plays. He displayed an inability to read coverage or throw the football accurately on a consistent basis.
Dixon has the talent and arm strength to find receivers deep down the field. His awareness may be lacking, but so is Tebow's. Playing with guys like Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas outside, Dixon won't need to read coverages or diagnose defenses as much. He could excel off of play-action and the deep ball, just like Tebow.
Dixon would actually be capable of competing with Tebow and taking his job if the Broncos afford him that opportunity. If not, he would still be the perfect backup in that offense.
The polar opposite to Brady Quinn.
Sign Peyton Hillis/LeRon McClain
Ironically, Peyton Hillis would be a perfect fit in the Denver Broncos offense right now. That highlights the drastic change in the team's identity since he was traded two years ago for not fitting in Josh McDaniels' Kyle Orton-led offense.
Hillis predictably struggled this season with injuries after donning the Madden cover last year. His stock on the free-agency market took a major hit after a good season the year before. The only issue with Hillis is his ball security.
Playing the fullback role or the Willis McGahee role, in the Broncos offense would allow Hillis to plow into defenders with his aggressive style of running. Hillis' ball security issues seemingly worsen when he plays in space or tries to get more out of plays.
In the McGahee role, he wouldn't have that option and could just focus on running hard through the middle. Hillis has the ability to breakaway from defenders, much like McGahee, without being at the tail end of his career.
Just like Hillis, LeRon McClain is a perfect fit in the Broncos offense under Mike McCoy, provided he stays or at least the system does.
McClain is a dynamic fullback with the ability to run, block or receive out of the backfield. His bulk as a ball carrier allows him to repeatedly hit the line of scrimmage and break down defenses. You may not be making use of all of McClain's skills, but playing in the McGahee role for the Broncos, he would be a great teammate for Tim Tebow.
Sign Steve Slaton
With Knowshon Moreno's injury-riddled career continuing, the Broncos will need a stable of running backs to back up both he and McGahee should he continue in Denver. Steve Slaton is a former starter in Houston with the Texans before moving to Miami as a backup.
Lance Ball should return, as he is an exclusive-rights free agent, but Slaton has more game-breaking ability than him. The only reason he hasn't featured much in the past two years is a combination of ball security issues and quality in front of him.
Slaton is essentially a third-down back entering free agency. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and beat defenders in space allowed him to excel as a rookie with 1,000 yards rushing and 50 receptions.
With Eddie Royal likely to leave, Slaton could take over, and even expand, his role in the option offense.
Sign Braylon Edwards
While Vincent Jackson, Stevie Johnson, DeSean Jackson and Dwayne Bowe are all free agents this year, and all the types of receivers that fit the Broncos' system, the Broncos do not need starting-caliber players at the position.
Instead of bringing in a star, the Broncos need to bring in backups to Eric Decker, who finished the season injured, and Demaryius Thomas, whose career has already had two major injuries, that can replicate what they do on the field.
Unlike Eddie Royal or Brandon Lloyd, the Broncos need big-bodied receivers that excel at getting deep. As such, Braylon Edwards would be a great fit for the team.
Despite not ever getting going in San Francisco, Edwards played well as a Jet in New York. He is not the most consistent receiver, but he does bring big play ability and a veteran presence that the younger Broncos receivers could benefit from.
Edwards will likely not get offered major money in free agency or get an opportunity to start anywhere. In Denver, with Thomas' injury history in particular, he at least has a chance to get significant time on the field and show off his potential to beat defensive backs.
The Broncos don't necessarily need a tight end, as Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario carried out roles for the team this past season, but bringing in Martellus Bennett would be a major benefit for Tim Tebow.
Tebow is still a young quarterback, and despite his accuracy issues, a strong tight end is always a good thing for a young quarterback to rely on.
Despite living in the shadow of Jason Witten in Dallas, Bennett proved himself as a good tight end in both facets of the game last year. His blocking is better than excellent, while he is a capable receiver. At 24 years of age, Bennett has a lot of experience already in the NFL without entering his prime just yet.
Becoming the primary tight end, outside of Dallas, could see Bennett breakout into a stud for the Broncos offense.
Vitally, Bennett is not just an oversized wide receiver labelled as a tight end. Tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates and Jermichael Finley wouldn't fit in the Broncos offense. In a sense, the Broncos are very lucky in that there are a lot of players hitting free agency that are perfect for their offensive system.
Another thing working in the Broncos' favor is that Bennett will not be seen as one of the most sought-after targets. With John Carlson, Jermichael Finley, Fred Davis and Tony Gonzalez all on the market, Bennett represents a low-risk, high-reward option.