The gap in the Denver Broncos roster attributable to the poor 2009 and 2010 drafts got a little bigger in recent weeks and continues to impact how the team is constructed.
It's tough to "stack the drafts" -- John Elway's description of what the foundation of the Broncos' roster must look like – when a couple of the bricks are missing. And a couple of the bricks are still decidedly missing on this Broncos' roster. By the virtue of cuts even before the Elway/John Fox regime came on the job in 2011 and the decisions made since, just two players remain from those drafts of the combined 19 players selected.
The rest? They either didn't make it out of their first camp -- Blake Schlueter -- even before the Broncos were again a playoff team, didn't become starters (players like Richard Quinn, Seth Olsen, Eric Olsen and Jammie Kirlew) or are players the Broncos elected not to pursue when they hit free agency like this year's group of Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno and Zane Beadles.
Even this past season Thomas, Decker and Beadles were the only players among the 19 selected in those two drafts who were also starters from start to finish.
Players from the 2009 draft would have just completed their fifth season and would be entering their sixth year. Players from 2010 would be headed for their fifth season. These players should be the homegrown foundation of the current Broncos roster and should have been for the last two seasons.
Granted, there is always plenty of turnover after a regime change. One set of players may no longer fit what's needed on one side, or both sides of the ball. But the group of 19 was sorely lacking in star power even before 2011 when Elway and Fox were hired.
Time will tell if the Broncos have stacked the drafts any better over the last three years. But their aggressive dive into free agency in recent weeks that included a cornerback, a defensive end, a wide receiver and a safety, can be traced in part to the state of the cupboard after the 2009 and 2010 drafts played out.
That is especially true in the secondary where the Broncos took three cornerbacks and two safeties in those two drafts combined. Only Bruton remains from that total and not one of the five players was a full-time starter with the Broncos.
Sure, it gets tougher for draft picks to make a roster if the team is annually in the playoffs. But in order to survive in the salary cap era without having to crater the roster to re-calibrate things, the draft has to be the hub of the wheel. And if a roster is essentially missing two years' worth picks over a five-year span, then well, they have to spend money, a lot of money, to try and fix those mistakes.
Just ask Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.