The Broncos set out to re-sign three of their own key free agents before the free-agency period began: Warren and offensive linemen Tom Nalen and Matt Lepsis. Nalen and Lepsis signed well before the free-agency period began. Warren took some more time, going into the first day of free agency.
But Warren wanted to return to Denver and the Broncos were willing to facilitate it, giving him a $36 million contract over six years. Warren said repeatedly during last season that he didn't want to go anywhere else, turning his career around with the Broncos after some disappointing years in Cleveland.
"I opened eyes around the league, but I was wanting to impress this organization more than anyone else," Warren said.
The Broncos didn't want to let Warren go because they had been looking for a stout interior lineman after years of using castoffs in the middle. Warren didn't have great stats in 2005 but he occupied blockers and allowed Denver's talented linebackers to get to the ball.
The Broncos released end Trevor Pryce, who eventually signed with Baltimore, so re-signing Warren was important for the defensive line. Denver rebuilt its defensive line last year and didn't want to spend this off-season doing it again.
The Broncos coaches have said they want to spend time in the off-season devising ways to best take advantage of Warren's abilities.
"Gerard joined our team in 2005 and made an immediate impact on the defensive front," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said.
"Players of his ability are very difficult to come by, and ensuring that Gerard remained a Bronco was one of our top off-season priorities."
--The Broncos moved up 14 spots -- from 29th overall to 15th -- in the three team deal that sent John Abraham from the Jets to Atlanta. The Broncos swapped first-round picks with Atlanta this year, and now have two selections in the top 22. They also sent middle-round picks to Atlanta in 2006 and 2007.
--Tight end and long snapper Mike Leach signed a four-year contract with the Broncos. He has been solid for Denver in that role, and the Broncos didn't want to lose him.
"Mike has been a consistent and reliable asset to the Broncos over the past few seasons," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said.
--The Broncos were interested in wide receiver Terrell Owens, who finalized a deal with Dallas over the weekend. Denver officials met face-to-face with Owens shortly after the season ended. Denver needs to add a playmaker or two on offense and there aren't many options left in free agency now that Owens is off the market.
--Denver had shown some interest in quarterback Gus Frerotte, who was released by the Dolphins and signed with St. Louis. The Broncos like athletic third-year backup Bradlee Van Pelt but they had also tried to sign Frerotte last year.
--The Broncos would like to bring in a veteran to replace end Trevor Pryce, who was released and signed with Baltimore. They were involved in the trade of John Abraham, but only as a the third party that facilitated his move from the Jets to Atlanta. The Broncos wanted end Andre Carter, but Carter signed with Washington.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We feel he has finally found a place where he can showcase his talent." - Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist on running back Ron Dayne.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos have a couple of positions to address, but foremost might be finding some firepower on offense. Denver released its leading rusher, Mike Anderson, and its third-leading receiver, tight end Jeb Putzier. The Broncos had some interest in running back Jamal Lewis, but he re-signed with Baltimore. Many of the top playmakers on the market were snapped up shortly after free agency began.
Denver has one need on defense, and that is finding an end to replace Trevor Pryce, who was released.
--DE Kenard Lang signed a three-year deal with Denver on Friday. Terms were not disclosed.
--DL Amon Gordon was claimed by Denver off waivers from Cleveland.
1. Wide receiver/tight end: The Broncos already didn't have many dangerous pass catchers, and then they released tight end Jeb Putzier. Denver, which had shown interest in receiver Terrell Owens, will likely look at the draft for some help now.
2. Running back: Denver released running back Mike Anderson, a 1,000-yard rusher last year. Denver likes Ron Dayne and still has Tatum Bell, who almost reached 1,000 yards last season, but the Broncos will likely look for tailback depth in the draft.
3. Defensive end: Trevor Pryce was released and the Broncos need to find an end that can rush the passer. Kenard Lang was signed Friday, yet another former Cleveland defensive lineman to land in Denver. But he is a nine-year veteran whose best days are behind him. The Broncos still need to add young depth here.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Keith Burns; LB Patrick Chukwurah; DT Monsanto Pope.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): S Chris Young.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: WR Charlie Adams; LB Louis Green; DT Demetrin Veal.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: S Sam Brandon; RB Ron Dayne; DE John Engelberger; LS/TE Mike Leach; OT Matt Lepsis; DT Gerard Warren.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: DL Amon Gordon; DE Kenard Lang; LB Nate Webster.
PLAYERS LOST: RB Mike Anderson; DE Marco Coleman; DE Trevor Pryce; TE Jeb Putzier.
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