Broncos Update Insider - 5/1

With the draft done and the slimmest of pickings remaining in veteran free agency, the biggest question the Denver Broncos have remaining is how -- or if -- they have improved in the front seven.

Denver came into the draft with what seemed to be a strong need at defensive line and, to a lesser extent, linebacker. The Broncos drafted Tennessee's Robert Ayers with their second first-round pick. He will start his career at end, although he could play outside linebacker.

Among the Broncos' other nine picks, they didn't select one defensive lineman or linebacker. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said he didn't like the available players at those positions in this draft.

"I don't think this was a very deep draft in terms of players that would fit our system in those areas," McDaniels said.

Denver is switching to a 3-4 defense and McDaniels said even before the draft that he had a hard time projecting how a 4-3 player would fit in an entirely new scheme. Two of the top defensive front seven players Denver passed were Texas' Brian Orakpo in the first round and Florida State's Everette Brown in the second.

The Broncos didn't stray from their draft board to fill a need. That seems like it will be a typical strategy for the team under the new regime. McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders had their targeted players an d they usually took the best one available.

McDaniels said, even though Denver had needs in the front seven, he wasn't going to reach for a player just because the Broncos had an immediate need there.

"When you get to a selection and you have a player you valued much higher than another player, in my opinion, I don't think you want to draft someone just because he plays a certain position," McDaniels said.

--The most important thing for players competing for a starting job in Denver might be coming to training camp with an expert knowledge of the playbook.

That won't be easy. For the offensive players, Josh McDaniels runs a complicated system that can change drastically from week to week. On defense, the Broncos are learning all over again, installing a 3-4 front as their base alignment.

At Denver's first minicamp, held just before the draft, the learning curve was apparent. Players made mistakes, but the coaching staff expected that.

"There's a long way to go, but there were definitely signs of progress every where we were working," McDaniels said. "There were a lot of things taught and installed for the first time."

The Broncos expect progress at upcoming minicamps, and also believe players will be ready to go at the start of training camp. In New England, where McDaniels came from, the Patriots expect smart players who can adjust quickly. That allows coaches more leverage to change schemes during the season.

The players under the most immediate pressure are Kyle Orton and Chris Simms, who are competing to win the starting quarterback job. Orton looked behind at the first minicamp, which was expected because he had only a couple weeks since he was traded from Chicago to Denver.

Simms had some extra time to learn the system, having signed in early March, and looked good at the first minicamp. Orton said he wasn't worried because he was spending a lot of time learning the plays and studying film. He said he'll be up to speed soon.

"It's something new, but the more time you put into it the more you get out of it," Orton said. "I don't think it's going to be a problem come the season."

NOTES, QUOTES
--The Broncos came in with a very streamlined draft board. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said the team pared an immense rookie player pool down to less than 100 names.

"That was our goal: Let's get the players on the board we want on our team," McDaniels said. "Let's not have 200 names up there."

McDaniels said the team never had to go to its secondary board to make a pick, getting 10 players it liked from its list of targets.

--Denver signed linebacker Nick Greisen, who has some NFL experience as a starter. He could help right away on special teams, an emphasis for the new coaching staff, and provide depth on the inside.

--The Broncos cut FB Andrew Pinnock. Denver doesn't appear set to use a fullback much under McDaniels. When the Broncos do use a fullback, it appears Peyton Hillis will be in that spot. Hillis can do many things out of that position because he is good at running the ball and has excellent hands.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am very happy with what we have accomplished here in the last two days which was to add the kind of players that will compete for spots on our team." -- Broncos coach Josh McDaniels after the NFL draft.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos will search for help at all positions in the final months before the season begins. They could use some new blood in the front seven and think there will be opportunities to add players before the season begins.

Denver said it will look into adding player -- no matter the position -- deemed a good fit. They could be actively shopping for veterans cut during the preseason with a goal of filling out the bottom of the roster.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--RB Tatum Bell finished the season with a good game against San Diego, but with a lot of tailbacks on the roster he is no sure bet to return.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban played well in 2008 but it remains to be seen how he fits into the new staff's plans.
--WR Darrell Jackson didn't contribute much in 2008 and appears unlikely to return.
--S Marlon McCree didn't play in the final eight games of the season, remaining inactive even after recovering from a high ankle sprain. He doesn't appear to be in Denver's plans.
--C Tom Nalen is likely on his way to retirement after sitting out 2008 with a knee injury.
--RB Michael Pittman played pretty well before a neck injury sidelined him, but he said he feels good and wants to play in Denver again. The new coaching staff will make a decision whether to bring him back.
--WR Edell Shepherd was out all last year with a knee injury.
--LB Nate Webster started last year and played well at times. The new staff will have to decide how he fits in their defense.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)
--RB Andre Hall (not tendered as ERFA) has played well at times and should get a shot to make the team in training camp.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--DL Kenny Peterson: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Jeb Putzier: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--RB J.J. Arrington: UFA Cardinals; $10M/4 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--RB Correll Buckhalter: UFA Eagles; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Andra Davis: UFA Browns; $5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--S Brian Dawkins: UFA Eagles; $17M/5 yrs, $7.5M guaranteed; can void to $9.5M/2 yrs.
--DT Ronald Fields: UFA 49ers; $5M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Jabar Gaffney: UFA Patriots; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--CB Andre' Goodman: UFA Dolphins; $25M/5 yrs, $10M guaranteed.
--OT Brandon Gorin: UFA Rams; terms unknown.
--LB Nick Greisen: FA Ravens; terms unknown.
--S Renaldo Hill: UFA Dolphins; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Patriots; $2.5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--OG Matt McChesney: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--QB Kyle Orton (trade Bears).
--DT J'Vonne Parker: Not tendered as ERFA by Panthers; terms unknown.
--LS Lonie Paxton: UFA Patriots; $5.38M/5 yrs, $1M SB.
--DT Darrell Reid: UFA Colts; $6.8M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--QB Chris Simms: UFA Titans; $6M/2 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2009 cap: $2.71M.
--OG Scott Young: UFA Browns; terms unknown (subsequently retired).

PLAYERS LOST
--RB Anthony Alridge (released).
--TE Adam Bergen (released).
--CB Dre' Bly (released).
--QB Jay Cutler (traded Bears).
--DE John Engelberger (released).
--QB Darrell Hackney (released).
--RB Alex Haynes (released).
--TE Nate Jackson (released).
--LB Niko Koutouvides (released).
--LS Mike Leach (released).
--S Marquand Manuel (released).
--TE Chad Mustard (released).
--CB Karl Paymah: UFA Vikings; $1.55M/1 yr.
--OT Erik Pears: Not tendered as RFA/Raiders; terms unknown.
--FB Andrew Pinnock (released).
--RB P.J. Pope (released).
--QB Patrick Ramsey: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Dewayne Robertson (released).
--WR Cliff Russell (released/failed physical).
--DT Josh Shaw (released).
--LB Jamie Winborn (released).
--RB Selvin Young (released/failed physical).





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