The Denver Broncos go into this offseason in a better situation than most teams that didn’t make the playoffs. Finishing 9-7 and out of the postseason, the Broncos have the financial ability to patch holes on the roster, along with an assortment of choices in the upcoming draft.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1757296-combine-sale-get-5-months... Signing big names drives fans into a frenzy but Denver can field a formidable team this upcoming year with value, under-the-radar signings — akin to the deals that brought Emmanuel Sanders and Darian Stewart to Denver.
I’m leaving players like Andrew Whitworth or Kevin Zeitler off the list for a couple of reasons. Both are very good players and are obvious upgrades for any team that can procure their services. However, since they have a following and name recognition, it’s harder to make the distinction that they would be anything but a high profile signing.
Here are my top 5 sleeper free agents.
Sio Moore, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Moore is the kind of player that is a nightmare to project. Between two teams last season, Moore looked uninterested for the first half of the year before catching on with the Arizona Cardinals, serving as a reliable replacement for the injured Deone Bucannon.
Whatever team does sign Moore is going to point to his time in the desert, while keeping in mind that he looked less than impressive with the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the year.
I’ve followed Moore pretty closely since he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders out of Connecticut back in 2013. He’s always had the talent to put up solid numbers and in his one year as a full-time starter with Oakland he tallied 90 total tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
Moore’s biggest obstacle seems to between his ears but with a defense loaded with character guys like Denver's, Moore is low-risk, high-reward signing.
Klug is the type of defensive end that any team running the 3-4 covets. As a 3-4 defensive end, Klug can do everything well, including taking on double-teams and getting after the passer.
According to Pro Football Focus, Klug created 25 quarterback hurries in under 400 snaps last season. With no other credible pass-rusher on the defensive line outside of Derek Wolfe, a guy like Klug can come in right away and provide a lift.
Some will be scared off by a late-season injury that hampered his effectiveness and that for as many pressures as he had, he managed to only nab 1.5 sacks last year. But with someone like Klug in Denver, it would allow Jared Crick to go back into a rotation on first and second downs, while adding another pass-rushing defensive lineman on third downs, an element that was sorely lacking last season.
I love watching HBO’s Hard Knocks and that’s where I was introduced to Kush. At the time, the center/guard was known more for his wide-array of tank tops than his play.
Although he did impress in his time with the Rams, the lineman was one of the last players cut at the end of camp before managing to catch on with the Bears.
With an O-line decimated by injuries, Kush proved be a godsend and was able to fill in at both center and guard over the course of the season. In referencing PFF, Kush didn’t give up a sack all year and allowed just six QB hurries all season.
Still only 27 years old and getting better, Kush would provide depth at center and guard and is an upgrade if either Matt Paradis struggles to acclimate to a power-scheme or Max Garcia or Michael Schofield falter.
Tim Hightower, RB, New Orleans Saints
In an offense that figures to get even younger over the offseason, it doesn’t hurt to add a greybeard to the roster, even if it is just as a backup. It was apparent to many that once C.J. Anderson went down for the season in Week 7, the offense missed his experience and leadership.
Even with Anderson coming back and Devontae Booker looking to build on a solid rookie season, more depth is needed at running back.
Yes, the veteran Hightower is no spring chicken at 30 years old and comes with a medical history that is concerning. But, he still amassed 548 yards for a healthy 4.1 yards per carry last season in a backup role to Mark Ingram.
More impressively, Hightower caught 22 balls for 200 yards, along with being a valuable pass-protector on third downs. With Anderson’s problems staying healthy and Booker still learning the nuances of pass protection, having someone like Hightower would be useful.
Matt Barkley, QB, Chicago Bears
One of John Elway and Vance Joseph’s missions in the offseason is to find a veteran backup quarterback in the event that Paxton Lynch struggles or Trevor Siemian doesn’t improves from his first year as the starter.
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Many a teams have dealt with seasons torpedoed by an injury to the quarterback, so it behooves all in the NFL to have someone on the roster that can play at a moment’s notice.
Matt Barkley was signed after season-ending injuries to Brian Hoyer and Jay Cutler, and entered his time in Chicago as an emergency starter. Playing with a banged up offensive line and backups at the wideout positions, Barkley had his moments and nearly pulled off an upset win over the playoff-bound Green Bay Packers late in the year.
Barkley is only 26 but is already a veteran in the league. Bouncing around the past couple of seasons gives him experience in picking up a system quickly and the USC alum has the arm talent to be a quality player in the right situation.
As much as we would love Denver to make another splash in free-agency and sign some big names, I don’t see it happening. Denver suffered more from lack of depth at some spots more than not having talent.
The Broncos are best served by using free-agency to add quality depth at multiple spots, rather than adding big names that have lots of zeros on their checks. By adding solid football players and keeping the salary cap in check, Denver sets itself up nicely — not just for this year but for seasons to come.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.