The Good: Denver 2015
The Denver Broncos have used free agency masterfully to build one of the greatest offenses of all time in 2013, and then shifting gears and building one of the greatest defenses all time in 2015. Their focus on fit, value, and development created a dominant defense and stable offense in 2015. Statistically the Denver defense finished as a top ten all-time defense, and were able to shut down the Carolina Panther’s number one ranked offense with their blend of young a veteran talent. The secondary comprised of veterans, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward, and younger players, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby, were able to play a physical and risky style. They had the athleticism and experience to trust their corners to play tight bump-and-run coverage, while they applied pressure from the front seven. The tight coverage on the outside allowed the pass rush, led by Von Miller age 26 and DeMarcus Ware age 33, to pressure the quarterback.
Elway luring future first-ballot-hall-of-famer Peyton Manning to Denver in 2012 is the obvious example of free agency success on Denver’s offense, but the addition of key offensive linemen and skill position players can not be overlooked. Most notably the addition of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. After Wes Welker’s departure, Sanders provided Manning with a reliable and dynamic target. Sanders is a particularly impressive acquisition because he was brought in during the upswing and prime of his career. The former number two receiver in Pittsburgh, posted his first thousand yard and 70+ catch season in his first two years in Denver.
The story of the 2015 Denver Bronco offensive line, might best exemplify the cohesion between the youth and experience on the team. Considering an offensive line unit that saw their Pro-Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady go down with a season ending knee injury, Louis Vasquez as the only remaining starter from 2014. The starters included Vasquez at guard, tackle Ryan Harris and guard Evan Mathis two journeymen late additions, and center Matt Paradis and tackle Michael Schofield as two second year first time starters, was able to keep pave their way to Super Bowl 50 is remarkable. The Broncos used free agency to address the needs created by injuries and brought in two veterans, but they also drafted, developed, and trusted their second year players with the critical job of protecting 39 year old Peyton Manning.
The Denver Broncos, under John Elway, have effectively used the off season to put them in the best situation to win culminating in their Super Bowl 50 victory. Denver’s masterful use of the the off season created a roster of valuable veterans and young pieces to create a balanced, disciplined, and dynamic roster.
? FIT (19.5/20)
? Talib’s ability to play tight one-on-one press coverage against the opponent’s top receiver, allows Wade Phillips to run his attack oriented 3-4 defensive scheme.
? Talib allows the linebackers and strong safety to focus on stopping the run and rushing the passer, because he can shut down quick release passes across the middle with his aggressive physical coverage.
? Talib’s confident personality allows him to matchup with the best receivers and be able to quickly rebound mentally when he occasionally gets burned.
? At 6’1 Talib can matchup against taller receivers better than other starting corner Chris Harris who is 5’10
? Talib’s history of disciplinary issues. Talib’s intense competitiveness can sometimes lead to him focusing solely on the guy in front of him and can lead to costly personal penalties.
? Denver was ranked 28th in team penalties and Talib’s lack of self control is not congruent with Denver’s well disciplined roster.
? When so much responsibility is trusted to the top corner in the system, Talib’s occasional lack of personal control is not ideal, but his physical tools and competitive nature make him a perfect lockdown corner in Wade Phillip’s system
? Value (17/20)
? Talib’s production of 30 passes deflected and 7 interceptions in his two year career as a Bronco
? Talib’s nearly perfect fit in the system make the inflated free agency contract worth the high pricetag.
? Talib scored higher overall grades ,as as a corner, than three players with more expensive contracts- Byron Maxwell, Joe Haden, and Darrelle Revis.
? Cornerbacks are one of the most sought after positions in the offseason, and a proven number one corner carries a high price on the market
? Talib has a history of disciplinary and legal troubles. Including allegations of violent offenses dating back to his first years in the league, which can be detrimental to the team and organization if they resurface or reemerge.
? A six year contract to any NFL player at 28 is not ideal for an organization especially with $25 million guaranteed which makes it difficult to trade or release him if need be.
? 6 year $57,000,000 contract with $25,000,000 guaranteed signed in 2014
? 6th highest valued cornerback contract in NFL
? 14th highest per year salary ($9,500,000)
? 28th highest overall ranked corner in 2015
? 35th highest ranked coverage corner in 2015
? Signing Talib to a long term deal at 28 and who had a history of legal and disciplinary issues was definitely a risk, but considering the production on the field one that up to this point has paid off for Elway and the Broncos.
? Development (8.5/10)
? Talib taking on the opposing team top wideouts has allowed Chris Harris to emerge and develop as one of the best young corners in the league
? Cornerback is an extremely mental position and Harris has thrived without the pressure of being the number one corner.
? Bradley Roby the former 2014 first round pick who was considered talented but raw coming out of Ohio State has also developed behind Talib as well.
? Chris Harris and Bradley Roby are the starting corners future and eventually will need to break out from under Talib.
? Talib’s sizeable contract may keep him in the starting lineup over Roby even when Roby is ready to take over the job
? Talib has provided a perfect environment to develop two top young corners , but the concern is that Harris’s, Talib’s, and safety T.J. Ward’s contracts make for an expensive secondary and if Talib plays out his contract until 2020, Roby could be lost in free agency in 2018.
? Overall Grade (45/50) A-
? Denver added a proven veteran shutdown corner that fit perfectly in their system and not only helped them win now, but also helped the development of the future of their secondary (Harris and Roby). The long term concerns of the sizable contract, Talib’s age, and the emergence of Roby do not outweigh the immediate positive impact Talib brought to Denver making it an outstanding free agency signing.null