Peyton Manning has reportedly agreed to take a $4 million pay cut to play for the Broncos this season.
The ostensible reason is to free up more cash to pay free agents.
But there's no denying that Manning's performance was significantly worse this past season as compared to the one before, particularly during the final handful of games and the playoffs. Whether the main reason was injury or age, we don't know yet — and won't until we see how he looks the next time he's on the field in a game that counts.
Not that Peyton was the only Bronco whose play was subpar during the most recent campaign. At least eight of his teammates either slipped back in 2014-2015 or failed to live up to their potential for one reason or another — and frankly, quite a few others could be included on this list, too.
Here are our top picks. Count them down here.
Number 8: Louis Vasquez, offensive lineman
During the Broncos' Super Bowl year, Vasquez was an all-pro, and deservedly so. Not so last season. He, too, struggled with injuries throughout the year, so we hope he returns to form in 2015-2016. But his most recent body of work didn't give either the Broncos or their fans full value.
Number 7: Wes Welker, receiver
Welker became the concussion poster child after multiple head-injury incidents, and after his return, his production was way, way down — maybe because Manning was as freaked out by the sight of him going over the middle wearing his giant helmet as the rest of us were. Of course, he's not likely to be on the roster with the Broncos for much longer anyhow, thanks to a salary he can no longer justify.
Number 6: Ronnie Hillman, running back
Granted, Hillman hasn't fumbled the ball every time he carried it of late — which is why he'd wound up in former coach John Fox's doghouse in the first place. But neither did he show that he could be either a running-game stalwart or the change-of-pace back the Broncos have needed since his arrival on the scene.
Number 5: Montee Ball, running back
Even more so than Hillman, Ball was supposed to be the running back of the future for the Broncos. Instead, after a series of injuries, he was supplanted by C.J. Anderson and currently looks as if he'll be spending more time on the bench than between the hashmarks.
Number 4: Brock Osweiler, quarterback
Thanks to Peyton, Osweiler has rarely been under center during a meaningful game at a meaningful time, much to his chagrin. But he's shown so little during practices, scrimmages and the preseason that no one seems to think of him as Manning's successor anymore — if they ever did.
Number 3: Sylvester Williams, defensive lineman
Williams represents one of the Broncos' latest efforts to grow a good pass rush, as opposed to buying one on the open market (which they tried to do by obtaining the services of DeMarcus Ware). And while Sly hasn't been a complete bust, his work in orange thus far has been underwhelming.
Number 2: Brandon McManus, kicker
McManus's lousy field-goal kicking got him sacked in the middle of the season in favor of the much-more accurate Connor Barth — but then he was brought back to the team because his kickoffs are longer than any Barth can manage. By our math, that means he should take about an 80 percent pay cut.
Number 1: Ryan Clady, offensive lineman
For years, Clady was in the discussion about the finest left tackles in football. Last year, however, he was flat-out mediocre, failing to protect Manning more times than we can count. Given his huge salary (he signed a five-year deal in 2013 for $52.5 million), we should expect more. And we do.
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