Denver added safeties Marquand Manuel and Marlon McCree, linebackers Boss Bailey and Niko Koutouvides and receivers Keary Colbert, Samie Parker and Darrell Jackson in free agency. Parker and Jackson were signed less than two weeks before the draft, which is probably a sign that the team will go in another direction in the draft. However, if they consider a player like Miami (Fla.) safety Kenny Phillips or California receiver DeSean Jackson the best available, they could still go that route. Jackson is a possibility because the Broncos covet a top-notch kick returner.
More likely, Denver will address a few needs. Offensive tackle is a possibility with the 12th overall pick. Offensive tackle Matt Lepsis retired this offseason so the Broncos will have a new left tackle. Vanderbilt's Chris Williams would seem to be a good fit if he is available. Defensive tackle is still a huge need, but Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis should be long gone by the 12th pick and no other defensive tackles are probably worthy of being selected in the first half of the first round.
One remaining need is running back, and there will be talented options available when the Broncos are on the clock. Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall will be a strong consideration in the first round. If he is gone, the Broncos could take a chance on Oregon's Jonathan Stewart.
The running back class is deep enough, and the Broncos have had so much success with lesser-name backs through the years, that they could wait until the middle rounds to select a running back. The team is looking at running back because their situation is not too solid. Travis Henry is coming off a controversial and injury-plagued season. Denver doesn't believe Selvin Young can be a workhorse running back because he couldn't stay healthy.
The Broncos have usually been active with their first-round picks, scouting trades to move up or down. They've moved up a few times in the past few years, and it's a possibility they do so again if there's a chance to draft Dorsey or Ellis.
Trading down is another option, especially if players who fill their biggest needs such as Williams and Mendenhall are off the board. The Broncos have plenty of picks in this draft, but also a lot of needs, so gaining extra picks could become the ideal scenario.
Because the Broncos have needs at a lot of positions -- quarterback, tight end and cornerback are the only positions with acceptable depth going into the draft -- the later rounds will be important. The Broncos don't have a third-round pick, but have two picks each in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds.
Denver usually drafts offensive linemen in the later rounds, where they have successfully found players who fit their zone-blocking style. A running back, if not on the first day, seems like a pretty good bet for the Broncos before the draft ends. The Broncos could also try to find a top returner in the later rounds if they don't address that early in the draft. It wouldn't be a surprise if Denver selected a punter or kicker, two positions that are wide open.
The defensive side needs to be upgraded. Although safety was addressed in free agency, the Broncos would like to get some youth there. Defensive end was addressed with Denver's first two picks last year, but they would take another pass rusher if the opportunity is there.
Following a 7-9 season, the roster is thin on depth at many positions because of free-agent failures and two poor drafts in 2003 and 2004. This year's draft is important for the Broncos to get back on track and surround some of their young nucleus with some quality depth.
--The Broncos tried out Mike Vanderjagt but didn't sign him. They need a kicker after letting Jason Elam sign with Atlanta, and have informed Matt Prater, the only kicker on the roster, that a veteran will be signed. For now, the Broncos are taking a wait-and-see approach on Vanderjagt.
"He's excited to kick in Denver if the opportunity is there," Vanderjagt's agent Gil Scott said.
--Samie Parker was a starter for a short time with the Kansas City Chiefs but never had a breakout season. The Broncos signed him, hoping that he can take that next step with them. Parker, Keary Colbert and Darrell Jackson will compete for a starting spot opposite Brandon Marshall.
--Darrell Jackson, who signed a one-year deal with Denver, has had some knee problems and will turn 30 years old this season. However, his agent Brian Mooney said he feels good.
"He's 100 percent," Mooney said.
--Denver is looking for a punter and signed Danny Baugher. Baugher has spent some time with New England and Cincinnati but hasn't punted in a NFL game. The Broncos have almost no experience at punter on the roster. Sam Paulescu has kicked in one NFL game, the season finale for Denver last year. They are looking for a punter after releasing Todd Sauerbrun late last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm convinced he'll compete for it and I'm confident he'll win it." -- Darrell Jackson's agent Brian Mooney on the Broncos' second receiver position.
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.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--LB Boss Bailey: UFA Lions; $17.5M/5 yrs, $4.35M SB.
--WR Keary Colbert: UFA Panthers: $7.3M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Darrell Jackson: FA 49ers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Niko Koutouvides: UFA Seahawks; $7.5M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--S Marquand Manuel: UFA Panthers; $4.5M/3 yrs, $500,000 guaranteed.
--S Marlon McCree: FA Chargers; terms unknown.
--WR Samie Parker: UFA Chiefs; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--C Casey Wiegmann: UFA Chiefs; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Hamza Abdullah: 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.
--FB Cecil Sapp: UFA; $645,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB; 2008 cap: $485,000.
--K Jason Elam: UFA Falcons; $9M/4 yrs, $3.3M SB.
--S Nick Ferguson: UFA Texans; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Ian Gold (released).
--LB Warrick Holdman (released).
--OT Matt Lepsis (retired).
--C Chris Myers: RFA; traded Texans.
--WR Javon Walker (released).
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