Broncos Update Insider - 3/12

Brandon Marshall is not yet a Seahawk and likely won't become a Bengal, and the Broncos have to be wondering what will happen with the Pro Bowl receiver.

The Broncos have said all along that Marshall could return, but then offered him just a first-round tender. That was a clear indication the Broncos were ready to move on if a team wanted to give them a first-round pick.

Finding a suitor hasn't been that easy. Seattle had Marshall in for a visit right away, but didn't sign him to an offer sheet, and didn't appear on the verge of doing so. The price would be steep.

Seattle holds the sixth overall pick of the draft. Giving that up, plus a contract to Marshall -- who has been suspended by the NFL for off-field issues and had some disruptive moments last season -- is quite a commitment. The Broncos haven't shown signs of accepting lesser compensation in a trade, but the lack of another suitor limits their options.

The Bengals were rumored to be discussing Marshall but never brought him in for a visit and signed Antonio Bryant. Other teams could join the bidding, but until they do the Broncos don't have much leverage with the Seahawks.

Denver's leverage would be that they could bring Marshall back, but that might cause problems. Marshall has been unhappy with his contract and had a rocky 2009. The Broncos haven't shown any signs they want to give Marshall a long-term deal, and it's tough to imagine Marshall being happy with a tender of less than $3 million.

Last year, when Marshall wasn't happy, he criticized the training staff for how it handled his hip injury in 2008, held out of all offseason activities including a mandatory minicamp, was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team in training camp after he acted out during practice, and was deactivated and criticized by coach Josh McDaniels when he and Marshall disagreed about the severity of a hamstring injury in Week 17.

So when the Broncos insist Marshall could return, it would be at a big risk that Marshall could play in 2010 without being a distraction. The odds of that didn't get better after the Broncos did not offer him the highest tender.

The process could continue into late April. The Seahawks own the 14th pick -- which they acquired from the Broncos last year for a 2009 second-round pick -- which could be discussed at some point in the process. However, if the Seahawks are the only team bidding, even the 14th pick seems a bit steep.

How Denver handles this situation will be a big factor in determining the success of their offseason. The Broncos can't afford to give away Marshall, one of their top players, without getting fair compensation. The lack of activity is not a good sign, though.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--The Broncos wanted to get bigger on the defensive line, and it doesn't get much bigger than nose tackle Jamal Williams. Williams was cut by San Diego, but signed a three-year deal with the Broncos a few days into free agency.

Williams has always played well against the Broncos, especially because his 348-pound frame was tough for Denver's undersized offensive line to contain.

--The Broncos have not been shy about tapping into a pipeline between New England and Denver, and did so again by signing defensive end Jarvis Green. Green immediately becomes one of Denver's best pass rushers on the line, and will start right away at end.

--The Broncos wore down on the line last year, the first season the team ran the 3-4 scheme.

--Justin Bannan hasn't been a starter for most of his career with the Bills and Ravens, but will have every chance to start in Denver. The former University of Colorado star provides some good size on the defensive line for the Broncos after becoming the team's first signee in free agency.

"Justin will fit into our scheme very well, and having played his college ball at Colorado, he's thrilled to return to this state as a Bronco," Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said.

--The Broncos cut defensive end Kenny Peterson, a starter all last season. He was pushed out after the team signed Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green as it remakes its three-man defensive line. The Broncos were very poor against the run late in the season and felt a big change was needed.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Besides being a quality football player who is versatile, tough and smart, Justin Bannan is a quality person. He is the type of player we are looking for as we build our football team." -- Broncos general manager Brian Xanders.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos were once again aggressive in free agency, targeting players they thought fit their scheme and pursing them early in the process. The team signed two players on the first day of free agency and two more less than a week later.

The Broncos will continue to add as necessary in free agency, but labor unrest and the possibility of a work stoppage in 2011 could curb their spending a bit.

OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Broncos signed three defensive linemen in free agency, which fills a major need. Denver didn't draft any linemen last year because they didn't know how 4-3 linemen would transition to playing in a 3-4, so it appears the team would rather get proven veterans for the line.

The Broncos haven't signed an offensive player yet in free agency, aside from re-signing a couple of their own players, and work needs to be done on that side of the ball. Expect the team to make a couple additions before the draft.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Wide receiver: The Broncos don't know what will happen with Brandon Marshall but need some new blood. The team especially needs a receiver that can stretch the field, something it lacked in 2009.

2. Center: The Broncos can probably convince a veteran who wants to start to come to Denver. The starting job is wide open after the team released Casey Wiegmann.

3. Guard: Although the Broncos could go with Chris Kuper and Russ Hochstein again, if Hochstein is healthy and nobody offers the restricted free agent Kuper a contract, they could still add at this spot.

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.
--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.
br> RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*OLB Elvis Dumervil (tendered at $3.168M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) should be a high priority for the Broncos after leading the NFL in sacks.
--*G Chris Kuper (tendered at $2.521M with first-round pick as compensation) 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 (tendered at $2.521M with first-round pick as compensation) will probably be shopped in a trade after a tumultuous 2009 season.
--*QB Kyle Orton (tendered at $2.621M with first-round pick as compensation) 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.
--*TE Tony Scheffler (tendered at $1.176M with second-round pick as compensation) appears to be on his way out of Denver after attitude problems led to him being deactivated for the season finale.

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

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--G Russ Hochstein: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Brandon Lloyd: UFA; terms unknown.
--K Matt Prater: ERFA; terms unknown.
--*DE Le Kevin Smith: Not tendered as RFA; terms unknown.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--RB J.J. Arrington: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Justin Bannan: UFA Ravens; $22M/5 yrs, $6.3M SB.
--DE Jarvis Green: UFA Patriots; $20M/4 yrs.
--CB Nate Jones: UFA Dolphins; $4.33M/4 yrs.
--NT Jamal Williams: FA Chargers; $16M/3 yrs, $7M guaranteed.

PLAYERS LOST
--LB Andra Davis (released).
--OG Mitch Erickson (released).
--RB LaMont Jordan (released).
--DL J'Vonne Parker (released).
--DE Kenny Peterson (released).
--C Casey Wiegmann (released).



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