Broncos Update Insider - 3/26

Kyle Orton had a good, solid season for the Broncos in 2009, but he doesn't get a lot of appreciation around Denver.

That's a major reason the acquisition of Brady Quinn caused a stir. Despite some wondering if Quinn will take Orton's job, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels nipped that controversy in the bud.

"He is our starter," McDaniels said of Orton. "There is no question."

McDaniels didn't say Orton would start this season without competition. He let Orton know that he would have to work to keep his job, although McDaniels offers similar statements about all his players.

"I talked to him right then and I told him this is a competitive thing as far as adding competition to any spot on our football team that we could," McDaniels said. "This had nothing negative to do with Kyle Orton. We are just trying to improve the competition at every spot."

That doesn't mean Quinn can't revive his career with the Broncos. One thing in his favor is a familiarity with the offense. Quinn played in college under Charlie Weis, who was offensive coordinator in New England when McDaniels was on the staff.

Although the offenses aren't identical, McDaniels said Quinn already has a good grasp of the Broncos' scheme.

"I think the basis of the terminology, he probably knows 85 percent of the terms and the words we use and the routes and all those different kinds of things," McDaniels said. "He was coached by the guy that really taught me. I think that's something that's going to be a positive for Brady."

NOTES, QUOTES

The reformation of the Denver Broncos' defense wasn't going to come without some hard choices.

The Broncos got rid of two players who started all last season. Defensive end Kenny Peterson was cut after the Broncos signed three defensive linemen. That wasn't a huge surprise, but the release of linebacker Andra Davis was.

Davis was given a specific role last year, to play on running downs. He came off the field in all nickel and dime situations. He did play the run very well, getting 90 tackles despite not playing a huge chunk of the time. He ranked third on the team in tackles and led the Broncos with 14 tackles for loss.

Yet, the Broncos apparently wanted more sideline-to-sideline speed and someone who could stay on the field on all downs like inside linebacker D.J. Williams. Mario Haggan, who started at outside linebacker last year, has played inside linebacker most of his career, and the Broncos have 2009 first-round pick Robert Ayers waiting in the wings on the outside. Haggan doesn't provide great speed, but he is a big player.

"With (Mario) Haggan, we have the flexibility to move Mario inside at Mike (linebacker), and he's every bit of 265 pounds at Mike linebacker," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "He played on the edge for us last year. We expect Robert Ayers to improve and play a bigger role in our defense this year."

The Broncos could also look at adding an inside linebacker in the draft.

The changes on the line weren't too surprising. The Broncos signed Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green to upgrade the defensive front. Peterson had 40 tackles last year but wasn't a difference maker. He was deemed expendable with all the additions.

The Broncos went through a major defensive change well before free agency began when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan left for Miami. Denver's defense improved dramatically last year, but the team felt that it needed some personnel changes to continue to get better.

The Broncos also signed cornerback Nathan Jones to likely be their nickel cornerback, which fills another need. The Broncos could continue to look at defensive linemen, either in free agency or the draft, but likely just for depth.

Linebacker is also an area the Broncos could attack in the draft.

Alabama's Rolando McClain is a player that has been tied to the Broncos in many mock drafts, and he is a possibility with the 11th overall pick.

--Kyle Orton seems to have the support of his teammates in the locker room. Despite the Broncos trading for Brady Quinn, Orton has been named the starter by Josh McDaniels.

"I think he deserves that right to come in as the starter," receiver Brandon Stokley said. "We all understand that anything can happen, but he deserves that. He played well enough last year and did a lot of good things to come into all the OTAs and camp as the starter."

--The Broncos are still waiting to see if a team will give an offer sheet to restricted free agent receiver Brandon Marshall, although the issue could drag on until the draft.

"I think you take all of your players that you feel like are part of your team -- and I do feel like he's a big part of our team -- and we're going to plan that way," McDaniels said. "I think we're not naive to the fact that something could change and if that happens we have to make decisions and we have plans for those. Some of those things we can't control."

--The Broncos have a few players, including linebackers D.J. Williams and Elvis Dumervil, who are not participating in the team's offseason conditioning program. McDaniels didn't seem too bothered by that.

"You'd love to have every one of your players there, but it's not a mandatory thing," McDaniels said. "There's nothing we can do about that."

--The Broncos have already sent personnel to London to prepare for the team's Oct. 31 game overseas against the 49ers.

"It kind of feels like a playoff-type atmosphere, I've heard," McDaniels said. "We're excited about going there and joining the 49ers and competing there in London. There is some uncertainty, but I think more than anything else there is a lot of excitement."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "To me, our conversation was quick, and to me, he embraced the concept of competing with another player." -- Broncos coach Josh McDaniels on his conversation with quarterback Kyle Orton following the team's trade for Brady Quinn.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Denver is pleased with the work it did in free agency thus far, especially shoring up the defensive line. The team thinks that beefing up the defensive line will help all aspects of the defense, including the pass rush and run defense.

The Broncos also set out to get high-character players, which they feel they did with their free-agent additions. That will be a point of emphasis in the draft too.

OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Broncos will still look at offensive linemen, particularly centers, in the draft, because that is one of their major holes yet to fill. Denver has been very quiet in free agency the past couple weeks, as have many teams.

The Broncos are spending most of their time focusing on the upcoming draft. The team has six picks, including the 11th overall pick. They could address the center position in the draft.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Center: Russ Hochstein is the in-house candidate to start, but he's not a natural center and is coming off a major knee injury. The Broncos have to do something to add to the position, either in free agency or the draft.

2. Receiver: Odds are still good that Brandon Marshall has a new home in 2010, which would create a major need. Denver hasn't signed any receivers in case Marshall leaves.

3. Inside linebacker: The Broncos released Andra Davis. Although Mario Haggan is the top candidate to take over, the team could use the 11th pick on an every-down inside linebacker.

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.

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.
--*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: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--S Josh Barrett: ERFA; terms unknown.
--G Russ Hochstein: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--*G Chris Kuper: RFA; (tendered at $2.521M with first-round pick as compensation); $2.521M/1 yr.
--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.
--QB Brady Quinn (trade Browns).
--NT Jamal Williams: FA Chargers; $16M/3 yrs, $7M guaranteed.

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



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