Whenever a team changes their coaching staff, it precipitates a change in the composition of the roster, as well as the players and free agent targets. With Gary Kubiak in Denver, the situation will be no different, as the new coaching staff will seek players that fit in their coaching system.
On the offensive side of the ball, that means the team will move back to a zone blocking scheme and will rely more on the run game than in years past, with or without Peyton Manning on the roster. Luckily for Kubiak, there are some familiar faces that fit the mold who are available to sign with the team.
TE Owen Daniels
Daniels was drafted by and has played under Kubiak for the entirety of his career, even following Kubiak to Baltimore this past season on a one-year deal. This is one of the most obvious fits in free agency, as Daniels is a textbook fit for the tight end position in Kubiak's offense and will likely come at an affordable rate. With Julius Thomas ready to bolt for the largest dollar amount, Daniels represents a more consistent receiving option and an upgrade as a blocker.
Verdict: Daniels will be a target for Denver. For him, it may come down to familiarity, which means he either re-ups with Baltimore or stays with Kubiak and follows him to Denver.
RT Ryan Harris
Harris is another obvious fit. He has had two different stints with Denver, as well as starting for Kubiak in Houston. Harris is not the same tackle that looked to be on the way to a very solid career during his early years with the Broncos, but he also hasn't played in a zone blocking scheme since he was last with Houston. Harris will, at the very least, present an upgrade as a backup tackle and at best, fill the vacant right tackle position.
Verdict: Harris represents another move that is very likely. He loves Denver and didn't want to leave the first time around. He fits in the offense and is familiar with the coaching staff. If the team signs Harris, they can cut ties with Chris Clark.
RT Derek Newton
Coincidently, Newton and Harris split time in Houston at the right tackle position. Since then, Newton has started 46-of-48 games for the Texans, while becoming a stable force on the right side. He showed great improvement this past season, finishing with a +8.9 grade according to Pro Football Focus, while playing every snap on offense.
Verdict: I can see Denver signing all three of these players, due to scheme fit and familiarity. Newton is the least likely to sign, as demand for his services will be the highest. If he comes to Denver, it is as the new starting right tackle.
Forsett enjoyed a breakout season under the guidance of Kubiak in Baltimore. Will he opt for the best contract he can get, or stick around in Baltimore where he has familiarity? Or follow Kubiak, who guided him to his greatest success?
Verdict: The fit is there and the need will always be there; you can never have enough running backs, but that will not bring Forsett to Denver. He is on the wrong side of 30 and looking for a payday. The Broncos have C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball all battling for touches, which means that Forsett signs elsewhere.
Denver let Moreno walk last season, after enjoying a career year in 2013, much to the dismay of Broncos Country. His season was cut short in Miami, but he did enjoy success running the ball when he was not injured.
Verdict: Call him a dark horse, but I can see the team bringing Moreno back. He is a fan favorite, sure-handed and most importantly, Peyton Manning trusts him. Is this to suggest that he would be the starter? Absolutely not, but a role player in the backfield? Yes. It's possible the coaching staff tries Juwan Thompson at full back, which would open up a backfield spot. A curious thought.
RT Eric Winston
Since parting ways with Kubiak in Houston, Winston has bounced around with varying levels of success. This past season, he remained unsigned, until the Cincinnati Bengals brought him in, due to injury. He played well down the stretch and will likely have a few suitors when free agency opens.
Verdict: I would consider Winston a contingency for the Broncos. He fits the zone blocking scheme, has had recent success and is familiar with the coaching staff.
RT Tyler Polumbus
Polumbus has never played for Kubiak, but he has played for Mike Shanahan, back when he was with the Broncos and for the Washington Redskins, both times in the zone blocking scheme. Polumbus is a Colorado guy, born in Denver, while playing his high school and college ball in the state. Tyler lost his starting job with the Redskins in 2014, but was one of the more steady right tackles in the league in 2013 under Shanahan.
Verdict: One of the Broncos off-season priorities is to make-over the offensive line. That starts with getting personnel that fits the scheme. Polumbus fits, and his price tag will undoubtedly be low.
OT/OG Erik Pears
Pears is another former Bronco who started 26 games at right tackle under Mike Shanahan.
Verdict: Pears is another depth guy that fits the blocking scheme, who has also started the past 32 games in Buffalo.
OG Clint Boling
Boling would represent a dream pickup for Denver. He fits the blocking scheme and brings a mean streak with him that is sorely lacking, while keeping his head on the field.
Verdict: If the Broncos go on a spending spree reminiscent of this past off-season, Boling is a guy that could be targeted.
Hudson is another dream pickup for Denver and will have a number of suitors looking to gain his services. Signing Hudson would also weaken a division opponent in the Kansas City Chiefs.
Verdict: Again, how are the Broncos looking to spend? Will Peyton Manning and Ryan Clady restructure their contracts to free up more space? Are Manny Ramirez and Chris Clark released to make way for better fits? These moves will tell if the Broncos are looking to spend again.
C Brian De La Puente
De La Puenta has been a very consistent player over the course of his career. The Broncos could do worse. Signs indicate that they want Will Montgomery back, but De La Puenta would be a solid addition. He, Montgomery and Matt Paradis could compete in training camp.
Verdict: De La Puente represents another fit at an affordable price.
Now, on the offensive side of the ball, I touched on a few things the team can do to free up cap space. First is restructuring the contracts of Peyton Manning and Ryan Clady. In Clady's case, he has quite simply been unable to live up to his lofty contract.
In two years since signing his new contract, he missed 14 games of one season, while regressing in the next. For Manning, this is not to suggest he is not worth his contract. It is to say that if he sacrificed some of his dollars, the team can put more around him. For a guy whose sole aspiration is to win another Super Bowl, this should not be too much to ask.
The other move is releasing players who are poor fits in the new offensive scheme. Two names that jump out are Chris Clark and Manny Ramirez. Both are players who lost their original starting positions during the 2014 season. By cutting Clark, the team would save $1.4M in cap space with a $225,668 dead money charge; an acceptable move, considering Clark's drop off in 2014. By cutting Ramirez, the team would save $3M in cap space, with a $166,668 dead money hit.
One last thing to look at are players who may be cut, or are potential trade candidates. Two to keep an eye on are Kory Lichtensteiger and Chris Myers. Both are former Broncos, were signed to extensions by preceeding coaching staffs, and both are potentially looking for new homes.
Lichtenstiger may be cut by the Redskins, as their cap savings outweighs the dead money charge. With Myers, who played his entire career under Kubiak until last season, would more than likely be a trade target, as he is still a premier center in the league.
As you can tell, the dominant focus here has been on the offensive line -- a tactic the Broncos will employ in reworking their offensive line.