Broncos Update Insider - 1/14

Check out the latest on new Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as well as all the latest personnel updates in today's edition of Broncos Update Insider.

The Broncos have signed Josh McDaniels to a four-year deal to become the team's next head coach.

McDaniels, 32, becomes the 12th coach in franchise history, taking over for Mike Shanahan, who was fired two days after the end of the regular season.

"My age has never been a factor. It's never going to be a factor," McDaniels said. "It's about performance. It's about what you're capable of getting the players to do."

What McDaniels has in common with Shanahan is an offensive background. As the Patriots' offensive coordinator, McDaniels oversaw New England's record-setting attack in 2007 and was instrumental in the emergence of quarterback Matt Cassel after Tom Brady was lost to a season-ending injury in Week 1 this season.

McDaniels' hire puts the future of the talented Broncos offensive assistants in question.

Denver is coming off a season in which it finished second in the NFL in total offense. The defense finished 29th and that side of the ball will be overhauled, including some likely coaching changes.

McDaniels should prove a good tutor for quarterback Jay Cutler and a caretaker for the talented offense.

But he will have to make some tough choices on defense. Considering the Broncos feel they aren't far away from being a contender, there will be urgency to improve that unit quickly.

Denver has the 12th overall pick of the draft and could be in the running for some top defensive free agents this offseason.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Although Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said it was time to make a change, firing Mike Shanahan wasn't easy. Shanahan was with the Broncos for 21 years, including the last 14 as the head coach. He helped Denver win two Super Bowls in the 1990s.

Bowlen said he had thought about the decision for a while and made up his mind that the franchise needed a new direction.

"This is probably as tough as it gets," Bowlen said about firing Shanahan.

--As the off-season moves on, it is looking like former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan might not coach in 2009. He said he will coach again, but after he was fired he said he would take some time off before deciding when.

"I'm going to be coaching, I can't give you a timeframe," Shanahan said.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

COACHING CAROUSEL: The entire staff will have to be evaluated by new head coach Josh McDaniels. Mike Shanahan gave coordinator Bob Slowik a vote of confidence after the season, but that means little now. Slowik presided over a defense that ranked 29th in the NFL this season.

Jeremy Bates, the team's primary offensive play-caller, is young and has a good working relationship with QB Jay Cutler. He is well thought of in the organization and seems to be a good bet to stay on the staff. The Broncos finished second in the NFL in total offense in 2008.

FREE AGENT UPDATE: The Broncos took care of their biggest potential free agent in September, locking up LB D.J. Williams to a long-term deal. The team doesn't have many other pressing issues among its own free agents. C Tom Nalen is another big-name free agent because of his long career with the team, but he is unlikely to return after missing 2008 with a knee injury. LB Nate Webster, the starter in the middle this season, is another free agent.

FEELING A DRAFT: The Broncos have the 12th pick in the draft. It would be a shock if they selected an offensive player with that pick. Their young offense is pretty much set, but the defense needs work. If a top defensive end or tackle falls to them, it would make for an easy pick. A playmaking safety could also be the choice in the first round.

TEAM NEEDS

Defensive end: The Broncos drafted Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder in the first two rounds of the 2006 draft, but because neither has become a star, Denver still has a need there.v Defensive tackle: There is very little depth inside, which was a reason the run defense was so porous.

Safety: The Broncos found an intriguing prospect, Josh Barrett, late in the season, but they are still very thin at the position and have to add someone.

MEDICAL WATCH: RB Michael Pittman said he has recovered from a neck injury that sidelined him for the second half of the season. He was on a one-year contract and wants to return to Denver.

RB Peyton Hillis had a torn hamstring but should be recovered in time to participate fully in all offseason activities.

RB Selvin Young had a ruptured disk in his neck, and he will know sometime in January if he needs surgery.

RB Ryan Torain tore his ACL in early November. He should be back for training camp, but the Broncos will have to be cautious with the oft-injured back.

LB Boss Bailey had microfracture surgery on his knee. The Broncos are confident he will return at full speed, but his situation will bear watching in the offseason.



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