There are plans. There are meetings. There are names on boards, outlines and blueprints.
It took hours upon hours, weeks upon months for the Broncos to put their 2014 offseason strategy together.
Focused preparation, though, should not be confused with inflexibility.
“We did a pivot in about 15 minutes,” said John Elway, the Broncos' general manager.
Strong safety T.J. Ward was secured through old-fashioned recruitment. But the acquisitions of cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end DeMarcus Ware came after the Broncos' initial pursuits hit negotiating snags.
The big-picture plan for the Broncos' braintrust was simple: Improve the defense that ranked 22nd last season with 24.9 points per game allowed.
“Injuries played a big role with our defense last year,” Elway said. “Guys stepped up and did a good job but we had a chance to get better and we really liked these players and they wanted to come to Denver. We added a physical presence.”
At cornerback, the Broncos first tried to re-sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was their best cover corner last season. Their offer was well north of $7 million a year. But two other cornerbacks, Green Bay's Sam Shields and Indianapolis' Vontae Davis, each re-signed with their teams for $39 million over four years — an average of $9.75 million.
For that money, the Broncos figured they could aim higher. In Talib, the Broncos have a corner who can not only cover, but play with a much greater physical style that Denver now prefers in its cornerbacks.
Those two end-arounds Seattle's Percy Harvin ran for big gains in the Super Bowl? It was no coincidence they were run towards Rodgers-Cromartie's side.
With a $57 million contract over six years, the Broncos got Talib for $9.5 million a year — less than the average deals for Shields or Davis.
“We needed a corner to replace DRC,” Elway said. “We were looking at a safety and a pass rusher and we got both those.”
The pass rusher came after another adjustment. The Broncos were in on Jared Allen, the former Minnesota Viking. But Allen was seeking a deal that was too rich for the Broncos. As Allen and his agent Ken Harris deliberated, the Dallas Cowboys released defensive end DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday to avoid paying him $16 million this year.
Ware's production fell off to 6 sacks last season, but he was playing through a nerve-damaged elbow that was corrected through surgery last month. The elbow is why the Broncos are careful to note the physical exam before the deal becomes official.
But the Broncos and Ware believe all is well because of the surgery. The Broncos took note of how Ware had not never missed a game through the first 8 ½ seasons (130 consecutive games) with the Cowboys.
The Broncos have reached agreement with Ware on a three-year, $30 million contract that guarantees $20 million through the first two years, providing he passes his physical today.
“We're excited because we've got three real good football players,” Elway said.
The Broncos aren't done. They were negotiating with middle linebacker Jon Beason but he re-signed Wednesday with the New York Giants.
It also appears the Broncos will have to replace receiver Eric Decker, who is visiting the New York Jets on Wednesday and has drawn interest from three other teams. The Broncos would likely sign a veteran receiver to replace him. One possibility may be Brandon LaFell, who is visiting New England on Wednesday.
The team is not expected to sign a running back, at least not for a while. The thinking is Montee Ball, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman need to get every offseason rep possible before a veteran is added.
For now, the Broncos' plan on replacing left guard Zane Beadles — who signed a five-year, $30 million deal with Jacksonville on Tuesday — is to either shift right tackle Orlando Franklin to left guard and move Chris Clark to right tackle, or sign a free-agent center and move Manny Ramirez to his customary guard position.
Free-agent centers available include Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith, San Diego's Rich Ornberger and New Orleans' Brian De la Puente.
Ware, who will turn 32 on July 31, had 118 career sacks in nine previous seasons with the Cowboys. Ware prefers to line up at right defensive end, which makes him a fit with Broncos' pass-rushing linebacker Von Miller, who prefers the left side.
Counting Ware, the Broncos have committed $110 million to the three defensive players, with $60 million guaranteed.