We think they should pick: Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA
The Broncos have a chance to add a couple of young impact players, something the veteran team doesn't have in abundance. Denver traded last year's first-round pick to Washington to add extra picks, including the Redskins' first rounder this year. The Broncos have the 22nd and 29th overall picks. Denver could also trade one pick for a veteran.
Denver needs to add playmakers on offense. That could be addressed in free agency but the Broncos could help themselves by picking some offensive talent this season.
The Broncos have plenty of questions on offense. They released running back Mike Anderson, last year's starting tailback and 1,000-yard rusher, although Denver never seems to lack a productive tailback because of coach Mike Shanahan's system. But the Broncos will likely consider a tailback in the draft.
Denver also needs players to catch the ball. The Broncos released tight end Jeb Putzier, which leaves them short at tight end. Putzier was third on the Broncos in receptions and receiving yards last season. A tight end in the first round, either UCLA's Marcedes Lewis or Georgia's Leonard Pope, is a possibility.
Rod Smith is still a productive receiver but will be 36 years old this season. Denver doesn't have a proven third receiver, which wasn't a big deal last season when the Broncos used Putzier often in two tight-end sets. The Broncos like former first-round pick David Terrell, who was inactive almost all of last season, but could add another receiver.
On defense Denver doesn't have as many pressing issues but could use young depth at almost every position except cornerback. Last year the Broncos used their first three draft picks on cornerbacks, so they should be set at the position for a couple years.
However, the Broncos will likely draft a safety. Both of their starters, John Lynch and Nick Ferguson, are over 30 years old. Sam Brandon was re-signed before he hit free agency to be the primary backup, but Denver could use another young safety to groom for a starting spot down the line.
Denver probably won't draft a defensive lineman who will immediately step in the starting lineup, but the Broncos released end Trevor Pryce and don't have a lot of young depth on the defensive line.
The Broncos could also look for a linebacker in the later rounds. They are set in the starting lineup with Al Wilson, D.J. Williams and Ian Gold, but there aren't any young players who are pushing for a starting spot. Denver didn't have any injuries last season at linebacker so depth never became a pressing issue. The Broncos used a 2003 second-round pick on Terry Pierce, but Pierce never developed and was released after two nondescript seasons.
The Broncos have a lot of draft picks this season, including an extra first-round pick, and they also expect to get some compensatory picks after losing safety Kenoy Kennedy and end Reggie Hayward to free agency. This draft is important for getting a few young players that can start in a few years, especially after 10 picks in 2003 resulted in only one player who is still on Denver's roster.
--Denver agreed to a restructured contract with Courtney Brown, which will run through 2009. Brown had a large option bonus due in March and his base salary was set to jump from $540,000 to $1.4 million this year, so the Broncos saved some salary cap room by renegotiating Brown's contract.
Brown stayed healthy for most of last season, playing in 14 of 16 games. He was held out of Denver's regular-season finale, which meant nothing to their playoff seed.
--The Broncos hammered out a deal with running back Ron Dayne on Saturday. Because Mike Anderson was released, Dayne has a strong chance to start for the Broncos if they don't add a tailback in free agency.
Dayne played well in limited duty behind Anderson and Tatum Bell last season. He is bigger than Bell and the Broncos think his downhill running style fits their offense well.
--The Broncos did well to re-sign most of their key free agents before the free agency period began. Denver can focus on adding pieces to their AFC West championship team when free agency begins, and they should be active in the open market.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LB Keith Burns is Denver's best special teams player, and he should re-sign with the team.
--LB Patrick Chukwurah is an athletic player who can back up at linebacker, play end in pass-rushing situations and will also play special teams, and the team will look into re-signing him.
--RB Ron Dayne fits the Broncos' offense well, he just didn't get many opportunities because Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell were ahead of him. Denver would like him back.
--TE Mike Leach is a solid long-snapper and has re-signed with the team.
--DT Monsanto Pope fell out of favor last season and was inactive most of the year. He could come back and compete for a roster spot in training camp.
--DT Gerard Warren had a good first year in Denver, and was re-signed to the team Saturday
--S Chris Young was injured last season, but he was a promising player and could return.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--WR Charlie Adams had a decent season as Denver's third receiver and will be back.
--LB Louis Green is a good special teams player who fills a role for the Broncos.
--DT Demetrin Veal had a good season as part of Denver's rotation. He is a good interior pass rusher that the Broncos like.
--S Sam Brandon: Potential UFA; terms unknown
--DE John Engelberger: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, $750,000 SB).
--OT Matt Lepsis: Potential UFA; $25M/4 yrs, SB unknown.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
--RB Mike Anderson (released).
--DE Marco Coleman (retired).
--DE Trevor Pryce (released).
--TE Jeb Putzier (released).
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
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