Broncos head coach John Fox talked about how eager he was to see a healthier Peyton Manning next season, but keeping his quarterback that way might be more difficult given the current state of his offensive line.
Four of the five projected starters on the Broncos line will spend the offseason rehabbing: Pending unrestricted free agent and possible franchise tag recipient left tackle Ryan Clady’s coming off shoulder surgery, joining center J.D. Walton (ankle), right guard Chris Kuper (ankle) and right tackle Orlando Franklin (toe). Of the starters, only left guard Zane Beadles emerged from 2012 unscathed.
It’s not that the Broncos don’t have time, but it will be harder for Manning to build continuity without those guys around through the preseason work.
Of course, the financial decision with Clady will be trickier, but Fox seemed confident his contract status wasn’t a problem.
“There are two parts of the NFL: there’s business and there’s football,” Fox said. “That’s the business side; I don’t really get too much involved with that. I know we want Ryan, and that Ryan wants to be a Denver Bronco. The business part will work itself out one way or another, and we’ll see where that goes moving forward.”
Fox said he was encouraged by Manning’s progress, and thinks his quarterback will be stronger this year, after spending so much time rehabbing after neck surgery.
“Even as far back as almost this time a year ago, his type of injury—a lot was made of the neck and the surgeries and all those things,” Fox said of Manning. “The reality is that it is kind of a nerve situation and it takes a while for nerves to grow. He’s getting better every day. I think he’ll be health-wise, even better this year.”
How long he can stay that way remains to be seen.