They remember free-agent busts like Simeon Rice, Sam Adams and Daryl
Gardener, and want to focus on building through the draft.
"Most people are protecting their players right now and it's getting harder and harder to get any quality free agents because you're overpaying for guys that people don't really want," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "They have holes in them. You better do it through the draft, and maybe free agents and not overpay."
The past three drafts have been solid for the Broncos, especially the 2006 draft that produced four standout players. The process may be slower, but the free-agent market dictates it. Many teams are locking up their own players before they hit free agency, sometimes using the franchise and transition tags to deplete the market.
Many teams, including Indianapolis, have built through the draft and sprinkled in a few key veterans through free agency or trades.
"I think that's the direction a lot of teams are going in," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said.
Denver won't avoid free agency altogether. They have plenty of holes, including at receiver, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, linebacker and safety, and won't be able to fill all their 2008 needs through the draft.
--S John Lynch will return for another season in Denver after agreeing to a pay cut. He was due to make $3.12 million next season, a figure that would have led to his release.
"I could probably go make more money elsewhere in the free agent market," Lynch told Denver-area media outlets. "And I had really gone to bed excited about that.
"And then I woke up thinking, 'What am I doing?' I've got four kids who are happy here. I've found a home here and I didn't want to be one of those guys going from team to team. I felt I had earned what I had coming to me but sometimes you have to step back and look at the big picture. And the big picture to me was: I had to find a way to make this work."
--The Broncos gave low tenders to their three restricted defensive back free agents: cornerbacks Karl Paymah and Domonique Foxworth and safety Hamza Abdullah.
Giving Abdullah a low tender is a bit of a risk. He was a seventh-round pick and that's what the Broncos would get back as compensation if they don't match any offer he might get.
"I would definitely expect Hamza to be valued by other teams in the market for safeties and we will evaluate those opportunities as they
come," said C.J. LaBoy, Abdullah's agent. --The Broncos hired Jedd Fisch as their new receivers coach. Fisch had been with the Ravens. He replaces Jeremy Bates, who was promoted to passing game coordinator.
--The Broncos cut wide receiver Javon Walker, who was due $5.4 million in bonuses this offseason and is coming off another knee surgery.
--Kicker Jason Elam spent the week leading up to free agency waiting for substantive talks with the Broncos, but there weren't many negotiations. Both sides expressed that they wanted to get a deal done, but Elam has always expressed that he won't be bitter if the Broncos decide to go in a different direction.
"I've always said, whenever I finish, my main hope is that I can go upstairs and shake everybody's hand and everybody feels good about everything," Elam said late last season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY
One thing the Broncos won't have to worry much about is their own crop of free agents. Aside from kicker Jason Elam, who wants to stay and probably will, there are no key members of the team's nucleus up for free agency. Defensive end John Engelberger and safety Nick Ferguson are probably the top two after Elam, and Engelberger singed late Thursday night.
What the Broncos will have to decide is what to do with a couple of their key offensive players who are due large bonuses this offseason.
Running back Travis Henry could come back with a restructured contract.
Receiver Javon Walker was released.
1. Defensive line: The Broncos made some strides last year, finding young linemen that can hopefully help them for years to come. But for a team that struggled to stop the run most of the season, more linemen are needed to help that turnaround.
2. Linebacker: D.J. Williams had a solid year in the middle, but might have been miscast. If the Broncos can find a good option at middle linebacker, Williams might move back outside. Depth at outside linebacker might also help.
3. Wide receiver: With Javon Walker released, the Broncos needed someone to go with Brandon Marshall Brandon Stokley is a good third receiver, but the Broncos don't want him to be a full-time starter.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--TE Stephen Alexander is very unlikely to be back, he will probably retire.
--K Jason Elam will probably be back; both sides are interested in having him return.
--S Nick Ferguson was benched last year and finished his second straight season on injured reserve. He will look at his options in free agency.
--FB Cecil Sapp should return, he's a versatile performer who fits the Broncos offense well.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--C Chris Myers (tendered at $927,000 with 6th-round pick as compensation) filled in well for Tom Nalen last year, and his versatility will be an asset even if Nalen returns at 100 percent this season.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban: UFA; $1.2m/1 yr.
--S Hamza Abdullah: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--DE John Engelberger: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Domonique Foxworth: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--TE Nate Jackson: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Karl Paymah: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--OT Erik Pears: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Ian Gold (released).
--LB Warrick Holdman (released).
--OT Matt Lepsis (retired).
--WR Rod Smith (retired).
--WR Javon Walker (released).
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