The Denver Broncos moved quickly to add an impact player before free agency began, making a trade with the Detroit Lions to add two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dre Bly.
Denver needed a corner because of tragic reasons. Darrent Williams, who was the starter opposite Champ Bailey, was shot and killed on Jan. 1. The Broncos were prepared to move nickel cornerback Domonique Foxworth into the starting lineup, but Denver was able to land Bly. Bly and Bailey will be one of the best cornerback tandems in the league, and Foxworth is an able third cornerback.
The Broncos moved running back Tatum Bell and offensive tackle George Foster to land Bly. Bell had 1,025 yards in 2006 but the Broncos wanted to upgrade at tailback. Bell had injury issues in all three of his Broncos seasons, and finished last season by losing a fumble in three straight games.
Foster was a first-round pick in 2003 but never developed into the player the Broncos hoped he would become. Foster, who was a starter at right tackle, was benched for Adam Meadows last year. He got his spot back after three games when Meadows went down with a hamstring injury.
The Broncos solved one problem with Bly, but now have to address their need at running back. Denver could add a free agent running back or draft one. They would probably have to move up in the draft to land Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson -- who is probably out of reach anyway -- or California's Marshawn Lynch, the two top prospects at tailback.
The Broncos probably can fill Foster's spot in house. Erik Pears played most of last season at left tackle after Matt Lepsis suffered a season-ending knee injury. He and Meadows should compete for the spot.
--The Broncos suffered another terrible tragedy on Feb. 24 when running back Damien Nash collapsed and died after playing in a charity basketball game. Nash was signed off Denver's practice squad last season and had a good game against San Diego on Nov. 19. He rushed for 66 yards on 18 carries last season.
Initial autopsy reports were inconclusive.
"The Broncos family has suffered a great loss with the passing of Damien Nash," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said in a statement.
Cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed on Jan. 1.
--The Broncos did not re-sign guard Cooper Carlisle or defensive tackle Michael Myers before the start of free agency. Carlisle will probably leave, because the Broncos have some options to replace him. Myers will test the market and the Broncos will have to decide if they can afford to keep him. Myers and Carlisle were the only two Broncos starters that were unrestricted free agents.
--As free agency began, the Broncos were attempting to trade quarterback Jake Plummer to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but reports said Plummer decided to retire. Plummer played four of his 10 NFL seasons with the Broncos. He became expendable when Jay Cutler took over as the team's starting quarterback with five games remaining.
--The Broncos' leading returning rusher is Mike Bell, who had 677 yards as a rookie. If the Broncos can't land a better option in free agency, a trade or the draft, they would probably rely on Bell. The Broncos traded Tatum Bell to Detroit before free agency began.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am stunned and deeply saddened by this tragedy, and send my deepest condolences to Damien's family." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, in a statement on running back Damien Nash, who passed away on Feb. 24.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LB Keith Burns will probably be back. He is a good leader and a special-teams fixture. --OG Cooper Carlisle will likely test the open market. The Broncos want the versatile Carlisle back, but they have solid depth if he leaves.
--WR Quincy Morgan impressed at the end of the season on kickoff returns. The Broncos will try to keep him.
--DT Michael Myers is a solid, steady performer in the middle. Quality defensive linemen usually get attention in free agency, so the Broncos will wait to see if it is prudent to re-sign him.
--DT Kenny Peterson was inactive most weeks for the Broncos. He might come back to compete for a job in training camp.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--FB Kyle Johnson (tendered at $850,000 with 5th-round pick as compensation) has been a starter. With Cecil Sapp coming off a broken leg, Johnson will probably be back.
--FB Cecil Sapp (tendered at $1.3M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) is a talented player who fills many roles. Even though he's coming off an injury, he should be back.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Not available.
--LB Louis Green: Potential RFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Dre' Bly (trade Lions).
--RB Tatum Bell (traded Lions).
--DE Patrick Chukwurah: UFA Buccaneers; $5.5M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--OT George Foster (traded Lions)
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