Denver Broncos: Top 15 acquisitions of the decade

Several members of Predominantly Orange came together and created a list of the top 15 acquisitions by the Denver Broncos during the 2010 decade.

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Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos were up and down as a team throughout the 2010 decade. It started with the drafting of quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the first round of the 2010 draft.

The following year’s first round was was a game changer, as they selected OLB Von Miller with the second overall pick.

A couple of years later, the team made it to their first Super Bowl since the 1990’s, but fell to the Seattle Seahawks in a blowout score of 43-8. It was such a disappointing game because of what the team had done in the regular season, setting a new single-season record for points scored.

The Broncos made it back to the Super Bowl three years later in what would be a tremendous game, as they beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10. Following the victory, the quarterback who had led the team to the Promised Land—Peyton Manning—called it a career

During the 2010’s, the Broncos were able to acquire some phenomenal players through the draft, free agency, trades, undrafted free agency, waivers, practice squad, and even on reserve/futures deals.

Members of the Predominantly Orange staff came together and thought up a top-15 acquisitions list for the decade. Check them out!

Signed RB Phillip Lindsay as an UDFA in 2018

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DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 01: Phillip Lindsay #30 of the Denver Broncos carries the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers in the third quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on December 01, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

By: Shelby Manning

John Elway has found much success with undrafted free agents, including guys like cornerback Chris Harris Jr and running back CJ Anderson. His streak continued into the 2018 season with RB Phillip Lindsay.

A hometown boy, Lindsay played college football at Colorado. However, due to not receiving an invite to the NFL Combine, Lindsay had very little opportunity to showcase his talents outside of Colorado’s Pro Day.

The 2018 NFL Draft came and went, and Lindsay’s name wasn’t called. However, the Denver Broncos would sign him to a free agent contract, and it would turn out to be arguably the best move of the 2018 offseason.

Lindsay quickly burst out of the gate, earning his first 100+ yard rushing game in Week 2 in the thrilling 20-19 win over the Oakland Raiders. Lindsay would become the first undrafted player in NFL history with 100+ scrimmage yards in his first two games.

Lindsay was selected to his first Pro Bowl his rookie season, and became the first undrafted offensive rookie to be selected to one, although he would not be able to play due to a wrist injury sustained in the Christmas Eve loss to the Raiders.

Although Denver’s offense has been stagnant the past two seasons, Phillip Lindsay has found success, capping back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in the  first two years of his career. Lindsay has emerged as a premier back, and Broncos fans should be very excited about his future.

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Drafted Bradley Chubb 5th overall in 2018

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ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Bradley Chubb of NC State poses after being picked #5 overall by the Denver Broncos during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

By: Graham Tiedtke

Bradley Chubb has proven to be the right selection by the Denver Broncos from the 2018 NFL Draft. Many people expected Chubb to be off the board within the first four selections, going to the Cleveland Browns (who had two selections).

The Browns took QB Baker Mayfield first overall and then CB Denzel Ward with the fourth pick. That really worked out for Denver.

Chubb was paired with Von Miller and recorded 12 sacks and 60 tackles as a rookie. Unfortunately, Chubb suffered a torn ACL in 2019, cutting his second season short.

Teams were very aware of his presence when he was healthy. The thought that he and Miller could be on the same defense for a number of years to come is scary and I am extremely excited about it.

The speed of both Chubb and Miller is a deadly thing for opposing offenses. Either one of them can get to the quarterback on any given play. This is a huge reason why I am excited for Chubb’s return from his season-ending injury.

Sure, some will argue that the Broncos should have gone after quarterback Josh Allen or guard Quenton Nelson, but the selection of Chubb was the right choice.

If all goes as planned, Chubb could be quite a bit higher on this list in the next 10 years.

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Signed Emmanuel Sanders in 2014

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DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 25: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos leads a celebration in the end zone after a second quarter Denver Broncos touchdown catch by tight end Matt LaCosse #83 during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on November 25, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

By: Graham Tiedtke

The 2014 Free Agent class was a great one for the Broncos. One of the team’s signings was wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who left the Pittsburgh Steelers following the expiration of his rookie contract.

Sanders played for the Broncos up until the 2019 trade deadline. Sanders recorded 1,000-yard seasons in each of the first three years in Denver. Of course his quarterback was the one and only Peyton Manning.

His stats declined following the retirement of Manning, but Sanders’ impact did not go unnoticed. He consistently made some great catches by diving for overthrown passes.

Sanders tore his Achilles in 2018 but came back strong. He even had surgery on the ankle on his other leg during that offseason.

You can measure a guy’s height and weight, but you can’t measure a guy’s heart. Sanders continues to have extreme passion as his football career continues with the San Francisco 49ers.

Can you imagine what he could have done with Drew Lock throwing him passes? Unfortunately we will not get to see that, as he was traded to the Bay Area in the middle of the 2019 season for third- and fourth-round draft choices.

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Drafted Justin Simmons in 2016

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DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 1: Strong safety Justin Simmons #31 of the Denver Broncos points to the stands as he walks off the field after a 16-10 win over the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 1, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

By: Sayre Bedinger

When the Denver Broncos lost tight end Julius Thomas to the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2014 season to a five-year, $46 million contract, it was hard to see the 'good' of letting him go at the time.

Thomas had been one of the most dynamic receiving tight ends in the NFL over the previous two seasons, catching 24 touchdown passes from Peyton Manning from 2013-14.

One year after Thomas signed in Jacksonville, the Broncos were awarded a third-round compensatory draft selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, the 98th overall pick. That pick was used on Boston College safety Justin Simmons.

Simmons, over his first four years in the NFL, has been not only a tremendous player for the Broncos but one of the top leaders on the team and an example setter off the field in the community.

In 2019, Simmons was a second-team All-Pro and Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist. He will now either be given a massive long-term contract by the Broncos or franchise tagged, and should be a staple of this defense for years to come.

Although certainly it would have been great to see Julius Thomas finish out his career in Denver, you just never know what can happen with the domino effect of things in free agency and the NFL Draft.

Thomas is currently out of the league retired while Simmons is 26 and blossoming into one of the league's bright young stars at his position.

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Signed C.J. Anderson as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2013

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 10: Running back C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos rushes against the New York Jets at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 10, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

By: Baylor Bradac

Running back CJ Anderson was picked up as an undrafted free agent out of California in 2013, which began his five-year tenure as a Denver Bronco. He only played in five games his rookie year, and only handled seven carries, but over the next four seasons, Anderson played 58 games, starting 36 of them. Anderson was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014 with 1,173 yards from scrimmage.

Anderson was a huge part of the Broncos 2015 Super Bowl run. Denver was playing for the number one seed at home against the New England Patriots. Brock Oswieler had gotten the Broncos into overtime on a snowy Sunday Night. Anderson busted off a long run for a walk-off touchdown and allowing the Broncos to control their own seeding.

In 2017 Anderson started all 16 games for Denver, and had his first 1,000 yard season.

It was a solid five years for CJ Anderson in Denver from 2013 through 2017. He had 3,051 rushing yards on 693 attempts, 3910 yards from scrimmage, and 20 touchdowns for the Orange and Blue.

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Drafted Danny Trevathan in 2012

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: Outside linebacker Danny Trevathan #59 of the Denver Broncos walks off the field after their 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

By: Sayre Bedinger

Danny Trevathan was a highly productive college player at Kentucky whose athleticism in tights did not reflect his abilities as a playmaker on defense.

Trevathan wound up being selected by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and it was one of the most fortuitous picks of John Elway's early drafts with the team.

Trevathan was a key special teams player and rotational defender in the 2012 season before becoming a full-time starter on the 2013 defense where he racked up 129 total tackles, three forced fumbles, three interceptions, and a pair of sacks.

He missed most of the 2014 season with injury but wound up coming back in 2015 healthy and better than ever, leading one of the best defenses in Broncos history.

Trevathan's role in the 2015 Denver defense en route to a win in Super Bowl 50 paved the way for his big contract with the Chicago Bears, which is just now expiring in 2020. He has a chance to cash in with a second veteran contract and is one of the most respected defenders in the NFL when healthy today.

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Signed Darian Stewart in 2015

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DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 17: Free safety Darian Stewart #26 of the Denver Broncos runs onto the field during player introductions before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 17, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

By: Andrew Wade 

One of the more unheralded aspects of John Elway’s success in Denver has been his ability to find bargains on the free agency market. One of those bargains was free safety Darian Stewart, who upon signing with the Denver Broncos flourished in what might go down as one of the best secondaries in the history of the NFL, appropriately dubbed the “No Fly Zone”.

Although not the star of Denver’s secondary in 2015 (that honor is shared between Chris Harris Jr and Aqib Talib), Stewart’s contributions helped fuel a secondary that allowed a league-low 3,193 passing yards in 2015. More impressive than that was his individual contributions in Super Bowl 50 where he finished with 5 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble.

Stewart followed up a great 2015 with an even better 2016, which resulted in his first and only Pro Bowl selection. Following the 2016 season, Stewarts play would begin to decline, but for an initial investment of just 2 years and $4.25 million, Elway got a lot of bang for his buck considering the former South Carolina Gamecock player would start 58 games over his four-year Denver career and finish with 463 tackles, 9 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles.

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Drafted Malik Jackson in 2012

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SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers tries to escape a tackle from Malik Jackson #97 of the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Shelby Manning 

Malik Jackson was an integral part of the Broncos’ championship defense and Super Bowl run during the Peyton Manning era.

Taken in the fifth round in the 2012 NFL Draft, Jackson quickly earned the role as a second string defensive end, serving as Derek Wolfe’s backup (also taken that in that draft class).

Jackson would serve as a backup until the end of the 2013 regular season, when he’d get his first start against the Chiefs. Jackson would start throughout the postseason and in Super Bowl 48.

Although the signing of DeMarcus Ware in 2014 would move Jackson back to a backup role, the defense employed by Wade Phillips in 2015 gave Jackson a starting nod. 2015 would prove to be Jackson’s best season as a Bronco, although he had served as a more than capable backup each season.

He would finish with a career-high 45 tackles, five sacks, a safety, and seven pass deflections and would record a fumble recovery in the Super Bowl 50 victory.

However, the post-Super Bowl 50 offseason was harsh, and the beloved Jackson would depart Denver and sign a huge deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Upon his release by the Jaguars in 2019, many hoped for Jackson to return to Denver, but he would eventually sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, and was placed on IR early on into the season with a foot injury.

Jackson is one of the best defensive players ever drafted by John Elway, and his role in a championship level defense makes him one of the best acquisitions of the decade.

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Signed TJ Ward in 2014

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SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after a play in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

By: Baylor Bradac

Safety TJ Ward started his Broncos career in Denver, Colorado in 2014 when he signed a four-year free agent deal. Ward’s dominant, physical play quickly won the approval of the fans and the respect of his teammates. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 2014 after an excellent first season in orange and blue.

In 2015, he went on to be an important part of one of the best defenses Denver has ever seen.

Ward was a member of the famed “No Fly Zone”, the formidable Broncos secondary consisting of defensive backs Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, as well as safety Darian Stewart. This defense carried the Broncos all the way to an AFC Championship, and ultimately gave Peyton Manning his second Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50.

Ward was a house-hold name in Denver for a few years, as was the majority of that Super Bowl team, which is a big reason why he is on this list. You can’t talk about Super Bowl 50 without mentioning his fumble recovery and his interception. He played his best when it mattered most.

In his three seasons with the Broncos from 2014 through 2016, Ward racked up 222 combined tackles, 3 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 5 sacks.

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Signed Aqib Talib in 2014

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SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Aqib Talib #21 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

By: Sayre Bedinger

Following the Broncos' difficult 43-8 loss in Super Bowl 48 to the Seattle Seahawks, John Elway knew that something had to be done about his defense, which was a battered and bruised mess by the time his team got to the big game.

Elway saw the blueprint put forth by the Seahawks in how their roster was built with speed at every level, and that element of speed and toughness was missing from Denver's secondary, which was sort of a hodge-podge by the time they faced off against Seattle.

Most people expected the team to just re-sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had signed a one-year contract with the Broncos in 2013 and vastly out-performed that deal. The Broncos were negotiating with DRC when a deal for Talib became possible, and the Broncos pulled the trigger, letting DRC walk and bringing in the enigmatic, unpredictable Talib.

Talib, whose past and off-field issues had gotten him traded from the Buccaneers to the New England Patriots, was coming off of a tremendous campaign in New England before the Broncos signed him to a five-year, team-friendly deal.

Talib brought an attitude to Denver's secondary, but more than that, he brought insane production as a ballhawk and a physicality that made him one of the premiere shutdown corners in the game from 2014-2017.

In 58 regular season games with the Broncos, Talib picked off 11 passes, taking six back for touchdowns, and also added 183 total tackles. He had six pass breakups in Denver's Super Bowl 50 run in 2015 and was elite in every way you could ask a cornerback to be in his time with the Broncos.

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Signed Chris Harris Jr as UDFA in 2013

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SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Chris Harris Jr. #25 of the Denver Broncos reacts after Denver recovered a fumble by Mike Tolbert #35 of the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

By: Graham Tiedtke

Chris Harris Jr. has been the Denver Broncos top cornerback since arriving to the Mile High City in 2013 as an undrafted free agent.

Harris Jr. has been tasked with covering opponents’ top wideouts for a long time. Doing so has caused quarterbacks to throw away from him. He has snatched 20 interceptions in nine NFL seasons, and has missed just five games—four of those games in 2018.

Harris Jr. has been voted to the Pro Bowl four times, including 2018.

He has averaged 57.5 tackles per season.

The Broncos gave Harris a pay raise during the 2019 season, but unfortunately the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on years added. Therefore, he will test the free agent market in 2020 but has kept the door open for a return to Denver.

Losing Harris Jr. could prove to be really, really bad for the Broncos. They do not have the best depth at the cornerback position right now. We can only cross our fingers that the Broncos are able to re-sign him, or find his replacement in free agency or the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Drafted Demaryius Thomas in 2010

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DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 04: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos makes a reception and it tackled by cornerback Xavier Rhodes #29 of the Minnesota Vikings at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Vikings 23-20. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

By: Andrew Wade

Despite playing in a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech where he only caught 120 balls over three seasons, the Denver Broncos took a chance on the raw, but talented Demaryius Thomas.

A decade later, and I would say that the 22nd overall pick in the 2010 first round panned out quite well (and bonus points for the fact that this was one of the few good moves Josh McDaniels made in his tumultuous tenure with Denver).

Thomas served as a leader in the Denver Broncos locker room and fit perfectly in the Peyton Manning attack where he caught 90+ balls for over 1,300 yards in four straight seasons. Even after the Manning-era ended, Thomas served as a reliable playmaker for a stable of below-average quarterbacks and somehow managed to top 1,000 yards with Trevor Siemian at the helm.

For his Denver Broncos career, Thomas finished with 9,055 receiving yards and 60 touchdowns on 665 receptions, placing him second, second, and third all-time in Denver history.

Despite being unceremoniously traded away at the 2018 deadline, Thomas will go down as one of the best wide receivers in the history of the Denver Broncos, and we could very well see his name go into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame one day.

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Signed DeMarcus Ware in 2014

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DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos reacts after a play in the second half against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

By: Baylor Bradac

DeMarcus Ware was one of the huge signings Elway made to shore up the Denver defense. Ware signed with the Broncos in 2014 after 9 years with the Dallas Cowboys. Ware was one of the premier edge rushers in the game, and played a very important role in the maturation of Von Miller.

Ware made back to back pro bowls in 2014 and 2015 as a 32 and 33 year old after totaling 17.5 sacks in those two seasons. He was known for coming up with that big play when the defense needed it. In 2015, he was a huge leader of that dominant Denver defense. The dual threat of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware was a combo that every team was scared to face.

In Super Bowl 50, Miller stripped Cam Newton and the ball rolled into the end zone. Ware recovered the ball and scored. Denver ultimately won Super Bowl 50, and gave Ware his much deserved ring.

Through his three seasons in Denver, DeMarcus Ware got 21.5 sacks, 81 combined tackles, and 44 quarterback hits. Ware retired after the 2016 season at the age of 34.

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Drafted Von Miller in 2011

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SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 09: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

By: Shelby Manning

This one is an easy choice.

Von Miller is easily the best player drafted by the Denver Broncos in the past decade, and will go down as one of the best Broncos’ draft picks of all time.

With the highest first round draft pick the Broncos had had in 20 years, they selected Miller out of Texas A&M with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Miller made an immediate impact, earning an All-Pro nod as a rookie, and was selected as the 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The fact that Von Miller’s first career play in a regular season game was a forced fumble against the Oakland Raiders is a good summary of what a force Miller was right out of the gate.

In 2012, Miller broke the regular season franchise sack record with 18.5, previously at 17 set by former Bronco Elvis Dumervil and was in the MVP conversation.

Although suspended for cheating a drug test in 2013, the Broncos’ addition of DeMarcus Ware, who Miller was compared to by draft guru Mike Mayock prior to being drafted, gave Miller a mentor, and Ware was huge in Miller’s progression as an NFL player, off and on the field.

2015 was a milestone year for Miller, as he became the third-fastest player to reach 50 career sacks. 2015 would also be the year Miller had a monster postseason, especially in the AFC Championship, where he recorded 2.5 sacks and an interception against Tom Brady. Miller would then dominate Super Bowl 50, finishing the day with two forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks and a Super Bowl MVP accolade.

Most recently, Miller reached his 100th sack in the 2019 season.

It would take hours to write down and record Von Miller’s many accomplishments. He is a perennial elite player, and finding another like him is extremely rare. Miller earns a top spot on this list, and will go down as one of the best players in franchise history, and Broncos Country is hopeful that he will spend his entire career as a Denver Bronco.

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Signed Peyton Manning in 2012

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SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

By: Andrew Wade 

Although Peyton Manning was a shell of himself when the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50, he is arguably the main catalyst for the Broncos reaching the Super Bowl that year.

John Elway’s signing of Peyton Manning put the Denver Broncos back on the map as true contenders and gave him the ability to rid the Broncos of Tim Tebow without significant backlash. His presence allowed numerous offensive players to flourish and provided stability at a position that Denver has not often had since John Elway was taking snaps in the late 90s.

In his four seasons with Denver, Manning put up gaudy statistics (17,112 passing yards, 140 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 101.7), and staked claim to numerous awards including NFL MVP (2013), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2013), First-team All-Pro (2012, 2013), and three-time Pro Bowl selection (2012, 2013, and 2014).

After leading Denver to two Super Bowls and a combined 45-12 record in four seasons, Manning retired, but he hasn’t stayed in the shadows as he continues to show up in Dove Valley from time to time to pass along guidance and wisdom to the new generation of Broncos.

Next: Broncos, Prince Amukamara are a match made in heaven

It’s not often you can sign a sure-fire Hall of Famer in free agency, and it’s even more rare for it work as splendidly as it did in this instance, but Elway hit the jackpot with this signing.