Broncos send message that Tebow is in team's plans

In the end, the Denver Broncos' new team of decision-makers gave into the notion that Tebow-mania is still a pretty strong force.

This isn't to suggest that is the only reason the Broncos didn't select a quarterback during the 2011 NFL Draft.

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But it certainly was on the short list.

Broncos fans want Tim Tebow to be the team's starting quarterback. They embrace him with every bit as much exuberance as they did a year ago, when the team surprisingly made him a first-round draft pick. His iconic status has only grown since, and those fans wanted the people who are now running the team to share their enthusiasm. They made it clear that the buy-in by John Elway and the rest of the Broncos' brass would mean more buy-ing by the fan base.

And when Elway told reporters that the Broncos "are going with Tim," it became clear that the message was received. He didn't promise that Tebow would be the starter. Kyle Orton is still on the roster and it's entirely possible the Broncos will try to sign a quarterback in free agency or trade for one.

But the fact is they didn't cast doubts over Tebow's future in Denver by drafting a quarterback. They didn't do to him what the Carolina Panthers did to Jimmy Clausen, a 2010 second-rounder who saw his future with the team all but vanish the moment NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Cam Newton was the top overall pick of the draft.

Elway and the rest of Denver's brain trust talked the quarterback talk extensively in the months leading up to the draft. But most skeptics believed it was merely done to generate potential trade interest in their pick, which was second overall. Elway and general manager Brian Xanders also said it made sense to become as familiar as possible with all the premiere members of the draft class, so that the information could be used when/if those players ever became available in free agency or through a trade.

All along, though, there was the sense that Tebow still figured prominently in the Broncos' plans, even if he was the pick of the previous administration. Now, there can be little, if any, doubt.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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