Broncos draft breakdown

Unless a top defensive tackle falls to the Denver Broncos at the 12th pick, which seems very unlikely, they could use the pick on the other side of the ball.

DRAFT BREAKDOWN -- We think they should pick ...
Chris Williams
OT, Vanderbilt
Unless a top defensive tackle falls to the Broncos at the 12th pick, which seems very unlikely, Denver could use the pick on the other side of the ball. Boise State's Ryan Clady should be gone by then, and Williams -- Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler's former teammate -- could fit in that spot nicely. The Broncos could also decide to move down and add some extra draft picks.

The Broncos have other needs to fill, and defensive tackle should be addressed in the first few rounds. Denver drafted three defensive linemen last year and have other young linemen they have added to the roster, but that doesn't mean the job is complete. Instead of bringing on a host of stop-gap veterans to help on the line, which has been the case the past few years, Denver wants to build a foundation through the draft. Although the defensive tackle class isn't overly deep, there could be some second-round value there.

Having added linebacker Niko Koutouvides in free agency, with the possibility of signing linebacker Boss Bailey, linebacker won't be a huge need in the draft. Free agency could also determine if the Broncos use a high pick on a safety. John Lynch decided to return, but the Broncos don't have much depth at that position.

Other positions, such as fullback and punter, could be addressed later in the draft, where the Broncos have some extra picks. Even cornerback could be addressed. Even though Denver has Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, both are getting older, and young corners Karl Paymah and Domonique Foxworth can become unrestricted free agents next year.

One position that will be interesting is receiver, especially because the Broncos are very much interested in adding a top-flight returner. Although Cal's DeSean Jackson is not very big, don't be too surprised if the Broncos try to land him on draft day.

TEAM NEEDS
1. Defensive tackle: Without much left in free agency, the Broncos could use the draft to add some depth on the interior line. The legal situation involving Marcus Thomas also could be a major problem at defensive tackle, which is already a position of need. Veteran Alvin McKinley should return as one starter, and Thomas will probably start if he's still with the team.

2. Safety: John Lynch is back for another season, but probably only one more. The team likes Hamza Abdullah at the other safety, but he's still inexperienced and will have to make strides this season. A veteran signee could fill the gap between the present and the future.

3. Linebacker: Once the Broncos add to their linebacking corps, they'll have a better idea if they can move D.J. Williams back to his natural outside linebacker position. Niko Koutouvides could be a replacement in the middle, and Jamie Winborn will get a look at the other outside spot. Denver released Ian Gold, who was coming off a poor season, but that does make the Broncos a bit thinner at linebacker.

DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY

Denver has always been a mover on draft day. Rarely content to stay in their original draft position, and with many needs, this seems like a year the Broncos would want to move down and accumulate picks.

However, if they think there is a chance to move up and land a top defensive tackle like Southern Cal's Sedrick Ellis, they could try to get into the top 10.

Denver's problem is the class at linebacker and defensive tackle isn't very strong, so there might not be good value at either position with the 12th overall pick. There are enough other needs, such as offensive tackle, safety and a standout return man/receiver like Cal's DeSean Jackson, that the Broncos could find something useful at No. 12 and stay there.

However, given their track record, it's likely the team will want to make a move of some sort before the draft to either get a standout impact player in the top 10 or get some more picks.

PLAYER NOTES

--Denver was sticking by defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, who was arrested in Florida on March 1 for possession of a controlled substance. Police say there was a baggie with a small amount of cocaine in the truck Thomas was riding in, but Thomas' representatives insist the driver admitted possession of the bag after first denying it.

"The Denver Broncos are aware that Marcus Thomas is under investigation for possession of cocaine and was a passenger in a vehicle where cocaine was found," the Broncos said in a statement.

--The Broncos had some ties to retiring Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre's career, from beating Favre in his second Super Bowl appearance to allowing one of the top highlights from his final season, an overtime bomb to Greg Jennings at Invesco Field at Mile High.

"Brett Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of professional football," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said in a statement.

"You're judged by winning, and he's won more games than any other quarterback who has ever played. But I will remember him just as well for being such a fierce competitor and an outstanding leader."

--Linebacker Ian Gold was cut the same day as receiver Javon Walker. Gold had two stints with the Broncos. He missed a lot of tackles last season and his large salary and impending bonuses were considered too hefty for the team.

--The Broncos re-signed defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban to a one-year deal. Ekuban missed all of last year with a torn Achilles' tendon, but he was a leader in the locker room and could be a good veteran presence on the line if he is healthy.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He was the face of the Packers and a great credit to our game. It was an honor to coach against him." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

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.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--LB Boss Bailey: UFA Lions; $17.5M/5 yrs, $4.35M SB.
--WR Keary Colbert: UFA Panthers: $7.3M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--LB Niko Koutouvides: UFA Seahawks; $7.5M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Edell Shepherd: UFA Lions.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--S Hamza Abdullah: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban: UFA; 1 YR, terms unknown.
--DE John Engelberger: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Domonique Foxworth: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--TE Nate Jackson: UFA; $2M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Karl Paymah: Potential RFA; $972,000/1 yr.
--OT Erik Pears: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST
--LB Ian Gold (released).
--LB Warrick Holdman (released).
--OT Matt Lepsis (retired).
--WR Rod Smith (retired).
--WR Javon Walker (released).



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