ORLANDO, Fla. — Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis was waiting for an elevator when he was asked about his enemy.

What did he think of how the Broncos fared in free agency?

“Too well,” Davis said, smiling. “Too well. It looks like the Broncos and New England are going at it. We used to be in that position, where you add a couple players to a strong foundation. We're working to get there again. We'll get there.”

See, even rival team owners think the Broncos and Patriots are in an arms race. The elevator arrived mid-answer. Davis leveraged the door open to finish his response, then as others filled his car, up he went.

“No, it's not an arms race,” said Broncos general manager John Elway. “We're trying to get better as a football team. But you look at the history where New England has been, and the last 10-plus years they've been a team right in the hunt every year. But then, Baltimore is going to be a heck of a team. Pittsburgh, I'm sure, will be back.


“There were what, five new playoff teams this year? That tells you how competitive everyone is in this league.”

The lobby buzz at the NFL meetings inside The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes resort has been about how the Broncos are chasing New England or trying to keep the Patriots from catching up, depending on one's view.

“We're chasing Lombardi,” Elway said of the Super Bowl title trophy.

There has been talk, based on the type of defensive players they signed in free agency, the Broncos are chasing the Seattle Seahawks.

You know, because of Super Bowl XLVIII.

Led by quarterback Peyton Manning, the Broncos set several NFL scoring and passing records last season and streamrolled to the AFC title. But they were bullied by the Seahawks 43-8 in the Super Bowl. It appeared Elway's reaction was to emulate Seattle's toughness — especially on defense, where he added cornerback Aqib Talib, pass rusher DeMarcus Ware and strong safety T.J. Ward.

“Mentality-wise on defense, we got better,” Elway said. “And I think where we need that mentality, too, is we have to step up there on offense.”

They could see a big upgrade at running back if Elway's right about his running backs, too.

It was presented to Elway that he is taking a leap of faith in going forward with his young tailback trio of Montee Ball, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Elway shook his head no at the suggestion.

“I think we have good running backs,” he said. “And I think it's time to take the training wheels off.”

So confident is Elway in Ball, the Broncos are unlikely to re-sign last season's starter, Knowshon Moreno, even at a reduced rate. Moreno has generated little interest as a free agent despite generating more than 1,000 yards rushing and more than 500 yards receiving, and scoring 13 touchdowns last season. He visited with the Miami Dolphins last week but remains unsigned.

Even if the Broncos bring back Moreno, it would be as a backup to Ball.

“I've talked to Eric (Studesville, the Denver running backs coach) about it,” Elway said. “It would be in a different role.”