ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The first step is signed, sealed and on the job for the Denver Broncos.
When the Broncos shipped a conditional seventh-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles late last week to acquire Mark Sanchez, Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway called it the “first step" to squaring away the quarterback depth chart. After Brock Osweiler chose to sign with the Houston Texans for $7 million more guaranteed than the Broncos had offered, Elway said the Broncos wanted to stay “true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos."
After Sanchez was introduced Monday, it was crystal clear he liked the idea of being the first step and really, really wants to play for the Broncos.
“I had no idea, I had no idea," Sanchez said of a potential trade by the Eagles. “And when I got the news, I was obviously taken aback ... they told me I was coming to Denver. First thing I thought of, what an opportunity, what a tradition they’ve built, the winning culture ... is just something I’m eager to be a part of."
Sanchez was asked later if his confidence had been shaken over the past three seasons. He went from being the playoff starter for the New York Jets, to the guy forced to live with the Thanksgiving Day butt fumble in 2012 -- a YouTube clip that has trailed him since -- to the Eagles backup quarterback to what looked like a move to No. 3 this year.
“I don’t know about that, you just get tested. You wait for your next opportunity and you’re hungry," he said. "I’ve just been hungry these last couple years to get that established starting role ... and now in a lot of ways I’m in control of my own destiny here, to have that in my power for the first time in a few years, that’s pretty special."
Sanchez got what he wants -- a chance to have an honest shot to be the starter on a team with plenty of pop on its roster after a Super Bowl win.
Is it guaranteed to end up that way for him? No. But the Broncos are the team that once traded Tim Tebow and negotiated a pay cut with Peyton Manning following a 39-touchdown season, and that means they are open to any and all ideas at quarterback, without much regard to how many raised eyebrows their decisions cause.
They’ll look for themselves and see what they’ve got in Sanchez. They’re going to add another quarterback or two, so it will be a semi-stunner if they don’t use a premium draft pick on one in April. They have been in negotiations/discussions about signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as a free agent or acquiring Colin Kaepernick in a trade.
But Sanchez’s arrival does a couple of things. First, and make no mistake here, the Broncos have a quarterback who has started 81 career games (regular season and playoffs combined) and they believe he could start for them, as well.
They’ll give Sanchez an opportunity to show what he can do, and he fits the profile Elway likes as a veteran player coming from someplace else -- a player who wants a better opportunity than he has had previously.
“This doesn’t just happen and it just seems to have [happened] this past week," Sanchez said. “This isn’t an opportunity I’m going to squander."
And second, it serves as a sign the Broncos are going to stay in their lane when it comes to what kind of contract Fitzpatrick wants in free agency, as well as what the 49ers may want in return for Kaepernick. The desperation card isn’t in the deck.
It’s possible the Broncos add another veteran who is not named Fitzpatrick or Kaepernick, use a first- or second-day draft pick on the position and go play with that depth chart at quarterback.
However it goes, it was clear as Sanchez exited the Broncos' facility early Monday afternoon -- wearing a smile as big as both the opportunity and the expectations that come with the job -- with the belief he’s in the mix.
And more importantly for him, he thinks the Broncos believe that, too.
“This is one of the best organizations in sports, not just football," Sanchez said. “ ... An absolute dream come true."