It's no secret that Peyton Manning's better days are far behind him. That is something that the Denver Broncos surely were aware of when the team signed the star quarterback to a five-year, $96 million contract.
That is a hefty price to pay for a player that probably isn't going to give the team five years of play worth nearly $20 million a season, but that is a risk John Elway and company had to take for the team to take the next step.
Despite the massive payday Manning received, he is never going to return to his Indianapolis Colts form. Broncos fans need to realize that going into the season, for if they don't, there is massive disappointment in the fanbase's future.
Back in 2004, when Manning was at the pinnacle of his career, he had offensive weapons far superior to the ones he will have at his disposal with the Broncos.
Manning had Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Brandon Stokley, Dallas Clark and Edgerrin James to look to every single Sunday.
Wayne finished the season with 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns. Harrison totaled 1,113 yards and 15 scores. Stokley found the end zone 10 times and hauled in just under 1,100 yards. Clark was far less a factor than he became in the following years, but provided a solid check down option for Manning.
James may have been the key factor for Manning that season.
Manning had all the passing skills in the world. He could read a defense better than anyone on the planet (and probably still can), knew exactly when and where to throw the ball and knew for sure that he could make that throw.
James opened up a whole new dynamic for the Colts offense. He had the best season of his career in 2004, rushing 334 times for 1,548 yards. His presence prevented opposing defenses from focusing specifically on the Colts' air attack, and forced them to spread the attention around.
The Broncos have a solid crop of players that surround Manning, but the talent discrepancy is far too great for Manning to come anywhere near matching the best output of his career.
Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Joel Dreessen and an eight-year older version of Stokley are not going to allow Manning to have a ridiculous statistical season.
The running game is solid, and Willis McGahee and Lance Ball are talented running backs, but they are a far cry from the 11th-leading rusher in NFL history.
Manning still has the psychological advantage over his opponents thanks to his ability to meticulously pick apart defenses in the film room and on the field, but the pieces around him are nowhere near what he needs to match some of his better statistical seasons.
He is going to be one of the better quarterbacks this season, but Broncos fans shouldn't expect him to blow the doors off of Sports Authority Field at Mile High in 2012-2013.
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