Broncos Mailbag: Why did Denver sign Taylor Russolino instead of a more veteran kicker as insurance for Brandon McManus?

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season. Submit questions to Ryan here.

Clearly the Bills’ game got out of hand in the third quarter, but I’m still a little curious about why we didn’t sign an actual NFL veteran kicker rather than a 31-year old “rookie.” (Taylor Russolino). Having a 21-17 deficit would have been a better halftime score than 21-13 and maybe a more experienced kicker doesn’t shank the second-half kickoff to give Buffalo the ball on our side of the 50. Anyway, my point is if the team is looking for another 31-year-old who hasn’t taken a snap in the NFL maybe you can forward my email address to Vic Fangio. I’m free on Sundays.

— Steve, Forks, Wash.

Well, I know everybody was wondering how old Steve was and now we know. I had this conversation with a colleague before the Bills game. Was Russolino, he of no NFL experience, really the best option in case Brandon McManus wasn’t available?

My defense for the Broncos: We’re in a COVID-19 world and they had to convince a kicker to travel to Denver, go through the testing protocols, sign to the practice squad and isolate himself at a local hotel … with no guarantee of playing. A player like Russolino may have been the best of the options.

Russolino missed a field goal and extra point in the first half, which meant the Broncos trailed by eight instead of four. It probably would have delayed the inevitable Buffalo win, but the third quarter may have been more interesting.

I know Mark Kiszla talked about mortgaging the future and going after Trevor Lawrence, but do the Broncos even have enough to entertain a trade for him? At a minimum, I can’t imagine we’d be able to get him without several first-round picks and a number of our young offensive weapons. There’s not going to be much left aside from Garett Bolles. What do you think?

— Karl, Houston

The Jets won their way out of the No. 1 spot on Sunday with a stunning win over the Los Angeles Rams. That puts Jacksonville in the driver’s seat — lose to Chicago and Indianapolis and going 1-15 will have the benefit of drafting Lawrence.

If the Broncos want to draft a quarterback, they should call the Jets to ask a) is Sam Darnold on the block? or b) if they’re committed to Darnold, are they interested in moving down?

As for the cost of trading up to Nos. 1-2 … it’s a lot, period.

In 2016, the Rams moved from No. 15 to No. 1 (Jared Goff) and the Eagles moved from No. 8 to No. 2 (Carson Wentz).

The Rams gave up Nos. 15, 43 and 45 in ’16 and first- and third-round picks in ’17 to move up for Goff (they also received fourth- and sixth-round picks from Tennessee).

The Eagles gave up Nos. 8, 77 and 100 in ’16, a first-round pick in ’17 and a second-round pick in ’18 to move up for Wentz (they received a ’17 fourth-rounder).

A wild card for any team wanting to move up: Would they be willing to include established veteran players to sweeten the deal? The Broncos should if they are serious.

Hey Ryan: Not loving the thought of Philip Lindsay leaving the Broncos, but it’s been tough sledding lately. Was wondering if you might be seeing what I think I’m seeing. When he has good games, he is often patient waiting for the hole to open. It seems in his last several games, he heads into the line often with no place to go. If true, I was thinking that being banged up has limited his explosiveness. Maybe when he’s healthy, he gets that back? Hard to say, I know. Thanks.

— Jim, Denver

Lindsay’s per-carry averages — 5.4 yards in 2018, 4.5 yards last year and 4.3 yards this year. Toe, head and knee injuries have derailed his season and he has only 118 carries and seven catches entering the final two games.

Only Lindsay knows how much his health has impacted his production this year but it is accurate that he could never get out of the blocks.

The Broncos essentially chose Melvin Gordon (via two-year contract) in March over Lindsay (eligible for a contract extension). The messy part about signing a hometown player, who then has early success, is potentially moving on from him. But business decisions are made and not tendering Lindsay would be one of those calls.

I think the Broncos should draft Trey Lance, the quarterback from North Dakota State. He may be the next Patrick Mahomes! Also, they have too many receivers to keep them all happy and should trade one of them. Your thoughts?

— Andy, Bismarck, N.D.

Good to hear from my home state and I’ve been keeping tabs on Lance since he emerged last year in leading the Bison to an FCS national title.

Lance is young (won’t turn 21 until May 9) and inexperienced (17 career starts), but he has the kind of build (6-foot-4/226 pounds) that is almost required to be an NFL quarterback.

How teams view Lance will be one of the fascinating draft sub-plots. Draft him and sit him? Draft him and develop an offense around his skill-set even though it will require out-of-the-box thinking? Select him over BYU’s Zach Wilson, Alabama’s Mac Jones or Florida’s Kyle Trask?

What stood out about Lance last year, besides going 16-0, is throwing 28 touchdowns and no interceptions and also rushing for 1,100 yards.

About your second question, the Broncos aren’t going to trade Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy or KJ Hamler. Tim Patrick is a restricted free agent but is likely in their plans. That leaves DaeSean Hamilton and Diontae Spencer. Don’t see how they have much trade value.

Two questions: 1. Do you think the impact of offensive line coach Mike Munchak is starting to pay off? Prior to the Bills game, the line only gave up four sacks in the previous five games and the offense was averaging 126 yards rushing per game. 2. Given the Broncos have the most difficult schedule in the league, a ton of youth and injuries, shouldn’t Broncos Country stay patient and let this team grow with the current coaching staff? Thanks.

— Brandon Brown, Rogers, Minn.

Munchak’s impact can be illustrated by left tackle Garett Bolles going from not having his fifth-year option picked up in May to signing a long-term extension in November. And yes, the Broncos’ line has performed well in the last two months. Even with the Bills’ three sacks on Saturday, Lock has been sacked only 15 times in his 10 games since returning from a shoulder injury.

The Broncos have played a tough schedule. They have played a combined five games against the top four teams in the AFC (0-4 record) and have faced the second and sixth seeds in the NFC (New Orleans/Tampa Bay — 0-2). Being patient would be a departure for this organization, but what should be concerning to upper management is getting blown out four times this year by at least 25 points.

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season. Submit questions to Ryan here.


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