2013 is done, history, all but forgotten.
2014 is the here and now for John Elway, John Fox and the rest of the Denver Broncos as we will come to know them.
To get a clue about what is going to happen next season, we have to look farther down the road – to 2015.
Because 2015 may be the beginning of a new Bronco era.
All good Bronco fans know 16 players on the current roster are officially free agents early next month, among them stars like wide receiver Eric Decker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, linebacker Shaun Phillips and running back Knowshon Moreno.
Tough decisions will have to be made on whether or not to bring any or all of the 16 back.
This coming year, however, pales in comparison with what is going to happen in 2015.
In 2015, 28 current Broncos will be free agents, 18 of them unrestricted.
Wes Welker, Orlando Franklin and Julius Thomas all started in the Super Bowl on the offensive unit and will be free to ply their wares elsewhere after next season barring a change in their contract status between now and then.
Ditto for Champ Bailey, Terrance Knighton and Nate Irving, who all started on the defensive side in the Super Bowl.
More than one-fourth of the Bronco Super Bowl starters will be unrestricted free agents in 2015.
Oh yes, there are a few names I forgot to mention …
Other free agents-to-be in 2015: superstar linebacker Von Miller (injured), starting safety Rahim Moore (injured), starting defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson (injured), onetime starting safety Quentin Carter (injured), and the rest of the tight end corps, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen and Virgil Green.
Add to the list record-setting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who will restricted, meaning he is a free agent, but Denver has the right to match offers from other teams.
That’s a bundle of talent, a bundle that can go looking for greener pastures, or in some cases simply another line of work.
One more thing that could prove to be fairly significant in 2015 has to do with a certain quarterback who was brought in to change team fortunes a couple of years back.
Yes, Peyton Manning.
We’re going to assume Manning is going to pass his team physical and give the go-ahead to play another season in 2014.
He will be 38 years old this coming season and still should be effective. After all, he did break record after record last season and will not – Super Bowl performance aside – suddenly forget all about the art and science of playing quarterback in the National Football League.
Come the 2015 season, however, the Bronco brain trust is going to have to make a serious decision.
In 2015, Manning will eat up more than $21 million in salary cap space for the Broncos, be another year older and, as you can see from the above, may be playing with a virtually entirely new roster.
A 39-year-old quarterback making $21 million leading what might amount to a roster overhaul? It does not compute.
Oh yes, did I neglect to mention one thing?
Yes I did.
Manning’s contract for 2015 is not guaranteed – if he is not on the team’s active roster at the end of 2014.
Those 2015 possibilities are reasons 2014 becomes so important for the Broncos; next season should be – and likely will be – constructed with 2015 in mind, one last hurrah for Mr. Manning and his crew.
Bring me your draftees, your free agents, any and all who may help the 2014 edition of the Denver Broncos.
Because in 2015, we will likely be on with the Brock Osweiler Era, or the Zac Dysert Era, or ….