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Broncos believe patience can be rewarded in free agency

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – There are times when John Elway makes what could be described as his free agency face.

The sideways grimace, comes with a “harrumph,’’ when folks ask him about being “all in’’ on the current season -- he contends owner Pat Bowlen wants him to be all in on every season -- and when he’s asked why the Denver Broncos didn’t make more moves in those first hours of free agency.

On the Broncos’ side of the ledger are five consecutive division titles, two Super Bowl trips and a Super Bowl 50 win over the last five seasons. So, here they are, beginning the second week of free agency taking some public heat about not doing more and Elway hoping to make a couple things happen after the opening frenzy.

“Again, it remains to be fluid. We’re continuing to study everybody out there,’’ Elway said this week in the wake of the Broncos’ having matched running back C.J. Anderson’s offer sheet from the Miami Dolphins. “As opportunities for different players that we believe that can help us come about, then we’ll go that direction.”

And he later added: “Things are starting to calm down a little bit with where we are in free agency. Obviously we’re always concerned with where we are as far as the numbers.’’

Elway has said throughout his tenure as the Broncos’ chief football decision-maker he believes free agency is more than the "first three days,'' where the biggest deals with the biggest names get signed. That free agency is the time between the first day of the league year when the bidding formally opens right up to training camp.

It comes to light this year because in the public domain the Super Bowl winner has seen several players take the money and sign elsewhere -- Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Brock Osweiler, David Bruton Jr., Ryan Harris and Evan Mathis. Of that group the Broncos tried the hardest to sign Osweiler but tapped out when the Houston Texans went to $18 million a year. The prevailing wisdom inside the Broncos’ complex now is even if offers were closer Osweiler still wanted to play for another team.

In Elway’s tenure the Broncos have powered into the opening hours of free agency with gusto only once -- 2014. That’s when they aggressively signed DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib to go with Emmanuel Sanders on offense to replace the departed Eric Decker.

The pursuit of Peyton Manning in 2012 was a historical anomaly with a Hall of Fame quarterback on the open market. Otherwise free agency has been more about taking a pass on the mega-deals, even for many of their own free agents, and waiting for players who fit with salary cap numbers that fit, too.

“You come to this and when you have success, it’s always going to be tougher because there are a lot of people that want your people because of the success that we’ve had,’’ Elway said. “We’ve dealt with that year in and year out, and we’ll continue to deal with it. As I’ve always said, we’d love to have everybody back. You’d love to be able to keep everybody that you can, but obviously with the way everything is set up, the supply and the demand out there and the teams that will pay what they’ll pay for certain players and what they’ll pay for our players, we try to do the best we can to keep the right people together.’’

Even as tackle Russell Okung was slated to visit, the Broncos were again looking to make an impact signing later in the process. And they will continue to look at the available offensive linemen, another veteran quarterback to go with the trade they made for Mark Sanchez, and perhaps a running back.

Last season they signed three players who started the Super Bowl -- safety Darian Stewart, Harris and Mathis -- on March 18, May 29 and Aug. 26 respectively. That’s to go with a key rotation player on defense in Antonio Smith on April 6.

“It doesn’t matter which 53 guys we’ve got in this locker room going into September,’’ Anderson said. “We’re going to play football. We trust -- as a team and as an organization -- we trust Elway. We’re going to put the best team together. We trust our coaches that they’re going to bring the best talent in to compete. We’re going to pick the best players. We’re going to go out there, play football and compete for another championship.’’