For Broncos' pending FAs, good things come only for those who wait

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have had two players -- safety T.J. Ward and kicker Brandon McManus -- say publicly this week that they’d like a long-term contract extension from the team.

Both could make a rather nice list of reasons they should get that kind of deal placed in front of them to sign. But the reality is, unless their representatives can change the way the Broncos have handled this sort of thing during John Elway's tenure as the chief football decision-maker, they should probably check back around Thanksgiving at the earliest.

Because while Elway has certainly been willing to open the team’s checkbook -- linebacker Von Miller's $114.5 million deal last summer was the biggest ever for a defensive player -- he doesn’t usually open it unless a deadline demands it or the final season of the previous deal is just about done.

The last three prominent starters to sign contract extensions for the Broncos were cornerback Chris Harris Jr., defensive end Derek Wolfe and safety Darian Stewart. And those deals got done, in order, on: Dec. 12, 2014, Jan. 15, 2016, and Nov. 26, 2016.

You don’t see the words "June" or "July" or even "October" anywhere on that list. And all three of those players had been clearly identified by Elway as ones he wanted to retain and all three were about to close out the final year of their contracts.

And in all three cases, especially for Harris -- a three-time Pro Bowl selection at a high-demand position -- the players chose to stay where they felt the best about the situation rather than leaving for the most money. The players who have not taken that path -- such as defensive end Malik Jackson, tight end Julius Thomas and Eric Decker -- have gone into the open market and moved on.

At the time he signed his deal, Harris Jr. said: “Oh I definitely could have gotten more in the open market, I know that. ... It’s about being happy and I’m satisfied and I’m happy here."

And Wolfe said last week, “I didn’t think I’d be the kind of guy that when it comes to free agency, say, 'I’m taking all the money.' But, that’s not me. I had to think about who am I? That’s what I’ve learned, how to be myself."

Ward and McManus may want, or even deserve, long-term deals in a short-term timetable, but they’ll have to buck plenty of history to make that happen. McManus has gone as far as to not sign his one-year tender ($2.7 million) as a restricted free agent.

McManus has still participated in the team’s OTAs this week, but can not participate in training camp unless he signs the one-year tender.

“There is really no rush for me to sign the tender because it could go through June 15," McManus said earlier this week. “I would love to be here as long as I can and be on a long-term deal here that gives me some security. I love Denver and I love the fan base here. I would love to be here for four years, so why not see what I can do?”

The Broncos have previously closed the deal on some of the team’s biggest contracts in July, including Miller, but those deals went to players who had already been formally designated franchise players and who had already played out the final year of their deals.

That list has included, in recent years, Miller, Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Clady and kicker Matt Prater.

Immediately following the NFL draft, Elway was asked about McManus' status and when the kicker might sign his tender offer. Elway abruptly said: “That's all right. It's up there. So, when he wants to come sign it, he can come sign it."

McManus added this week: “The contract isn’t about me. I just would love to be here a lot longer. I’ve been here every day throughout the whole offseason program. That’s not part of me to hold out in that aspect and not show up. I want the guys to see me. I’m looking forward to hopefully being maybe a captain for special teams this year."

But as Elway has often said, “it’s always about the dollars and what makes sense," and unless there is a significant change from how the Broncos have done things over the last seven years, those dollars will not be available until the Christmas tree goes up the lobby of the team's suburban complex.