Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J Ward are players the Broncos have signed in the past three years, who were big names and who have played big roles. Louis Vasquez, Terrance Knighton, Jacob Tamme and Emmanuel Sanders are other players who were brought in, but under the radar, who have also contributed as starters.
This offseason will be different. The Broncos enter the free agent period at 2pm MST with right around $20M in cap space, but are not expected to spend as they have in the past. John Elway has made it clear that he wants to build with younger players, coming off of their rookie contracts, but the reality is the Broncos are unlikely to spend any big money on such players.
What is more likely is that the Broncos will rebuild their roster youth in the draft, where they are expected to have nine or ten picks, after compensatory selections are awarded.
Where does that leave Denver in the free agent period? I believe it leaves the team pursuing band-aids, veteran players on the back nine of their careers, who can still contribute at a high level for two years or more.
While this is not ideal to fans, with the team seemingly going all-in for one more Super Bowl run as a Peyton Manning-led team, it is the route that makes the most sense. One potential benefit of bringing in such players will be to cure the dearth of veteran leadership the Broncos lack. With an average age of 25.81, 12th in the NFL last season, the Broncos can stand to add a couple "elder statesman", so to speak.
As the Broncos are currently composed, there are needs on the offensive line--left guard, center and right tackle. The team also has needs at tight end, free safety and along the defensive line, where they are lacking depth. So, lets sit down and hammer out what the Broncos could do to cure their free agent ailments.
At the center position, there are a number of free agent options remaining after Rodney Hudson committed to sign with the Oakland Raiders. The best option on the market is Stefen Wisniewski, a young player coming off his rookie contract with starts at guard and center under his belt.
The most likely option is Chris Myers, a former Bronco who has played the majority of his career under Gary Kubiak and will come at a cheaper rate than Wisniewski. The last option stands as Will Montgomery, who enjoyed his best seasons in Mike Shanahan's offense during his time with Washington, an offense not unlike the system Gary Kubiak runs. The Broncos could re-sign Montgomery and sign Myers. Both are veterans who have extensive experience in the zone blocking system, with Wisniewski remaining an option.
At left guard, the Broncos have a few free agent options. Clint Boling represents the top option, but rumor has it that his price tag is rising, which is not surprising considering the contracts given to former Bronco Orlando Franklin and former Niner Mike Iupati.
Wisniewski represents another possibility, along with Montgomery, as both have experience at C and LG. I expect the Broncos to exhaust their options by trying to sign Wisniewski or Boling to fill the void at LG as players who represent a long-term commitment. A signing at LG should also signal the end for Manuel Ramirez, who carries a hefty salary for a player who will be a poor fit in the new offensive system.
At RT, the Broncos have a couple options they can look at to fix the line. First is Bryan Bulaga, a 25-year-old former first round pick, who has missed 28 games in the past 4 seasons. Bulaga stands as one of the top right tackles in the league, after starting 15 games in 2014 and rating as the No. 4 RT in the per Pro Football Focus.
The other option the team could consider is Ryan Harris, another former Bronco who loves Denver and has spent the majority of his career coached by Gary Kubiak. Harris would be no more than a stopgap at best and no less than a solid depth option.
If Harris is signed, the team can potentially look to part ways with Chris Clark, or move him back to his more natural LT position. Of the two options, the Broncos are most likely to sign Harris and look for their RT in the early rounds of the draft. That being said, I expect the team will take a swing at signing Bulaga, as Elway likes to go into the draft without any glaring needs.
An offer is currently on the table for TE Virgil Green to consider. With up to 15 teams interested in his services, it is smart of Green to hear them out before signing a contract with the Broncos.
When all is said and done, I expect Green will be back in Denver as the starting TE in 2015 and will finally show his immense potential as an all around player. The team also remains interested in bringing back Jacob Tamme, who as a No. 3 TE, is solid.
The other players linked to Denver have been former Texans Owen Daniels and James Casey. Of the two, I fully expect Daniels to follow Kubiak again to Denver after joining him in Baltimore last season. Casey has had a free agent visit with the team, leaving without a contract but still remains unsigned. Casey does remain an option, albeit as a contingency.
Rahim Moore remains an option to come back on a new contract for the Broncos, however unlikely it may be. The Broncos are monitoring Moore's situation and unlike the Julius Thomas situation, have been in contact with Moore's representatives.
After Moore, there's the ball-hawking band-aid by the name of Antrel Rolle, whom the New York Giants chose not to re-sign. Rolle is one of the few players who has had success in moving to the safety position, after beginning his career as a corner with the Arizona Cardinals, a trait that may be helpful, if Denver is still looking to move Kayvon Webster to safety.
While the team may look at Da'Norris Searcy and Tashaun Gipson, I doubt anything comes of it. If the Broncos are unwilling to dole out the money to keep Moore, they are unlikely to do so for Searcy or Gipson and are more likely to address this position via the draft.
2015 will mark a free agency period where the Broncos make very few splashes, not unlike 2011 when the Broncos brought in a new coaching staff. One thing to keep in mind, in the past, Denver has signed players such as Willis McGahee, Louis Vasquez, Emmanuel Sanders and Terrance Knighton,--all players who were brought in without a lot of buzz, but who paid off in spades. If we know one thing about free agency, it's that it is unpredictable.
FREE AGENCY POSITIONAL PREVIEWS
OFFENSE: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end |
Offensive tackle | Offensive guard | Center
DEFENSE: Defensive tackle | Defensive end | Outside linebacker
Inside linebacker | Safety | Cornerback
SCOUT.COM FREE AGENT RANKINGS
Position: QB RB FB WR TE OT OG C DT DE OLB MLB S CB K P LS