Broncos Update Insider - 2/26

When the Broncos make their first pick in the NFL draft -- a first-round selection they received from the Chicago Bears in the Jay Cutler trade -- receiver will be a strong possibility if Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant is on the board.

Denver needs to add to its receiving corps, especially if Brandon Marshall is not back with the team. The Broncos leaned heavily on Marshall in the second half of last season, which is not Josh McDaniels' style.

The Broncos want to spread the ball around to many receivers, but Marshall was clearly their top choice. He caught 68 passes during an eight-game stretch before he was deactivated for the season finale. Nobody else during that time had more than 19.

"The most important thing for us is that we're moving the ball and having positive plays," McDaniels said late in the season. "Whether that be to 10 different receivers or five or three, tight ends, backs or receivers, it doesn't make any difference."

Even with Marshall, the Broncos could use another playmaker or two at receiver, especially with how much McDaniels likes multiple receiver sets.

Eddie Royal is coming off a bad season, with just 345 yards. Jabar Gaffney showed some good things late in the season, especially with Marshall sitting out the season finale, but he hasn't shown signs of being a No. 1 type of receiver in his career. Brandon Stokley and Brandon Lloyd had their moments in 2009, but weren't used much.

Bryant might not fall to the Broncos. He is widely viewed as the top receiver prospect in a draft that isn't heavy on blue-chip prospects. Also, the Broncos have other needs to fill, even if Bryant slips.

However, the Broncos will likely add to the receiving corps somehow. Using a middle-round pick on a receiver seems likely if they don't land Bryant, and they could find a veteran receiver in free agency who might be a good fit in McDaniels' system.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos finalized their coaching staff by hiring 25-year-old Brian Callahan as an assistant. Callahan is the son of former Raiders head coach Bill Callahan. He has already coached four years, but this will be his first in the NFL.

--The Broncos didn't place the franchise or transition tag on any of their free agents, but there weren't many viable candidates. The Broncos have some low-priced veterans who are unrestricted. Most of their important free agents are restricted unless there is a new collective-bargaining agreement.

--Before heading to the combine, the Broncos did not sign any of their potential free agents to long-term deals. Denver has some big names that will be restricted, such as WR Brandon Marshall and LB Elvis Dumervil, but have maintained a wait-and-see approach because of the labor situation.

--At the combine, the Broncos were to find out if they would pick 10th or 11th in the first round of this year's NFL draft with the pick they acquired from the Bears. The order will be determined by a coin flip with the Jaguars. The Broncos traded away their own first-round pick to select Alphonso Smith in the second round of the 2009 draft.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You always try to get the ball to guys who can make plays, and we've got a lot of them." -- Broncos coach Josh McDaniels on his receiving corps.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

OFFSEASON STRATEGY

--The unusual contrast with the Broncos this offseason is that while they have plenty of key free agents, they don't have many important free agents who are definitely going to be unrestricted.

So while the team waits to see what happens on the labor front, the biggest unrestricted free agent it has is guard Russ Hochstein, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Unless the team wants to reward a player like Elvis Dumervil with a long-term contract before the free-agency period begins, they might not make many signings before March.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Receiver: If Brandon Marshall returns, this position might not top the list, but either way the Broncos could use some help here. The Broncos don't have many receivers that can stretch the field, which hurt the offense in 2009.

2. Guard/center: Guard is still a major need for the Broncos, but center is a more pressing need after the team released Casey Wiegmann. The Broncos don't have anyone on the roster who is an obvious choice to start at center, so the new starter will have to be acquired in the offseason.

3. Defensive line: The Broncos could use depth at nose tackle and at both end positions. The starters were solid, but there may not be a future Pro Bowl player in the group. Denver should look long and hard at investing in the line this offseason.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--P Mitch Berger was a midseason signee who had an up-and-down year. With the late-season addition of Britton Colquitt, don't expect Berger back.
--S Vernon Fox added some depth on special teams late in the year. He could return for camp.
--OT Brandon Gorin gave the Broncos some experience at tackle but was not the primary backup at the position. Denver could look elsewhere.
--LB Nick Greisen missed all of last season with a knee injury, and his health could determine his future.
--G Ben Hamilton was benched last season, and as a better fit in a zone-blocking scheme, is unlikely to return.
--G Russ Hochstein seemed like a good fit to return after playing well at left guard last year, but a knee injury clouds his future.
--DE Vonnie Holliday was a pleasant surprise as an addition right before the season started and would seem like a good bet to return for another year.
--CB Ty Law played well after being picked up during the season but did deal with some injuries and is near the end of his career. If he is re-signed, it's a sign the Broncos don't have much faith in 2009 second-round pick Alphonso Smith.
--WR Brandon Lloyd was inactive for the first 14 weeks of the season, then surprisingly played pretty well when pressed into action the final two games. He could be brought back to battle for a roster spot.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*OLB Elvis Dumervil should be a high priority for the Broncos after leading the NFL in sacks.
--*G Chris Kuper is a talented player but was brought in under the old regime. The Broncos will wait and see what kind of attention he gets in free agency.
--*WR Brandon Marshall will probably be shopped in a trade after a tumultuous 2009 season.
--*QB Kyle Orton appears to be penciled in as the Broncos' starting quarterback for another season, but the question is whether the team wants to sign him long term.
--K Matt Prater had an excellent season in 2009 and will come back.
--*TE Tony Scheffler appears to be on his way out of Denver after attitude problems led to him being deactivated for the season finale.
--*DE Le Kevin Smith was a solid member of the Broncos' defensive-line rotation and will probably return.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--S Josh Barrett is solid on special teams and has good athletic ability.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.

PLAYERS LOST
--RB LaMont Jordan (released).
--C Casey Wiegmann (released).



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