Denver Broncos: Players to Target in Free Agency

Dan Allen@@DanVAllenCorrespondent IIFebruary 17, 2012

Denver Broncos: Players to Target in Free Agency

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    Coming out of Denver's first postseason appearance since 2005, the Broncos have much work to do in order to repeat as AFC West division champions.

    Denver's defense was good, but not great, and the offense was lackluster at best. If Tim Tebow is to succeed in Denver, he will need plenty of help from the front office.

    In order to become a truly competitive team, Denver will need to acquire several defensive pieces to shore up holes while also picking up some key offensive players.

    Denver is rumored to be in a conservative mindset heading into free agency. Much of the personnel additions this offseason may be through the draft alone with only little splashes in free agency.

    With that in mind, here are some free agents that Denver should make a run at this offseason.

QB David Garrard

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    Garrard missed all of 2011 with a back injury after being mysteriously released by Jacksonville. Only later in the season did the public find out his back issues prompted an expedited trip out of town.

    Now Garrard is on the search for a roster spot after successful surgery during the season.

    What makes Garrard relevant to the Broncos? According to his agent, he reportedly would accept a backup job.

    Garrard is a quarterback similar to Tebow in that he makes plays with his feet both passing and running. In 2010 alone, he had five rushing touchdowns while throwing for 23 scores.

    Entering next season at age 34, Garrard could serve as a capable backup and also mentor Tebow for a season or two. If Tebow could learn to play more like Garrard did in 2010, than Denver should be in very good shape offensively for years to come.

    Denver could even be an ideal situation for Garrard due to former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio's presence as defensive coordinator. Add with that, a flop by Tebow could possibly open the window for a starting opportunity, and Denver's as good a place as anywhere for Garrard.

    If Denver can't get Garrard, there are plenty of other options in free agency, such as Vince Young, Dennis Dixon and Josh Johnson, all of whom are fairly mobile quarterbacks.

WR Early Doucet

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    Most likely getting the boot from Arizona this offseason, Early Doucet is a fairly capable receiver who seemed to break out in 2011 after several disappointing seasons.

    In 2011, Doucet had 54 receptions for just under 700 yards while hauling in five touchdowns. This was in an offense that swapped between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton under center and also featured a distraction in dominant wideout Larry Fitzgerald.

    Doucet will turn 27 midway through the season, and he would be an ideal target for a multi-year contract.

    With the possibilities that Eddie Royal could leave via free agency and a lack of receivers on the roster, Doucet could quickly establish himself as a favorite target of Tebow, given Eric Decker's knack for dropping passes and Demaryius Thomas' injury history.

    Denver should have little difficulty bringing in Doucet if they pursue him, as Arizona is letting him test free agency with the hopes he gets low offers.

    Denver could swoop in and get a steal on Doucet that would benefit their pass offense.

FB Le'Ron McClain

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    With Spencer Larsen hitting free agency, this leaves Denver with only one fullback on roster—undrafted rookie Austin Sylvester.

    The solution: do what they should've done last offseason and grab stud fullback Le'Ron McClain in free agency.

    McClain, who played for Kansas City in 2011, is a great lead blocker and has shown in his five-season career that when you give him the ball, he'll get yards.

    In 2008, McClain rushed for 902 yards and 10 scores while also playing fullback—not an easy feat.

    Still young at 27, Denver could lock up McClain for several years and ensure the presence of a valuable fullback on the roster, something not seen since the departure of Peyton Hillis.

    Denver would be an appealing landing spot for McClain due to the team's run-first mentality and willingness to get a fullback involved in the game.

    Outside of McClain, Denver could also pursue Philadelphia free agent fullback Owen Schmitt.

SS Sean Jones

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    Another position of need for Denver with the possible departure of Brian Dawkins is at safety.

    Enter Sean Jones.

    Should Dawkins retire or not return as a free agent, Jones would make a capable replacement as a physical, run-stopping safety to work in tandem with Quinton Carter.

    Jones had several productive years in Cleveland in 2006 and 2007, recording a total of 140 tackles, 26 pass deflections and 10 picks. He's had a bit of a dip in production since then, but he managed 71 tackles in 2011 with the Buccaneers while playing as a physical run-stopper.

    Jones plays similar to Dawkins in that he's dominant against the run, by safety standards, and can get the quarterback to drop back into coverage when needed.

    In an offseason where many talented safeties are hitting free agency, Denver may be able to swoop in and get Jones as a very capable veteran to serve as a stopgap for Rahim Moore, or whoever John Fox tabs as the future starter.

    Another possible target would be former Jaguars safety Courtney Greene, who played for Jack Del Rio in his stint as head coach.

DE Cliff Avril

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    Set to hit free agency, Cliff Avril is a talented defensive end who will make an instant impact as a pass-rusher wherever he lands; that is, if Detroit decides against franchise tagging him.

    Entering his fifth season in the NFL, Avril has 30 sacks to his name, including 11 in 2011. He's consistently improved at pass-rushing in his career, and he could prove to further improve upon a fantastic 2011 this season.

    Avril would be an immediate upgrade from incumbent starter Robert Ayers, who only has 4.5 sacks to his credit through three seasons as a defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker.

    With Avril opposite Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller rushing from the linebacker position, Denver would have a formidable pass rush for even the best offensive line.

    If Avril ends up being too costly for Denver's tastes, another viable target could be Jaguars free agent defensive end Matt Roth, who was brought in by Jack Del Rio prior to the 2011 season in Jacksonville.

CB Brandon Carr

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    Coming off a stellar season in 2011, Brandon Carr is set to make a splash in free agency. Turning 26 prior to the 2012 season, Carr is by far the biggest reach for Denver on this list.

    However, cornerback is a position of great need for the Broncos, and it would be the most likely for the organization to shell out for an impact player in free agency.

    With four interceptions and 15 pass deflections in 2011 for Kansas City, Carr built upon a career that now includes eight picks and 63 pass deflections in four seasons.

    Denver's defense needs an infusion of young talent with an aging Champ Bailey holding down the fort. Incumbent starter Andre' Goodman has been heavily criticized for his play of late and will turn 34 just prior to the start of the 2012 NFL season.

    Undrafted rookie Chris Harris shows promise, as did Cassius Vaughn prior to injury, yet no player currently on the roster matches Carr's playmaking ability or even shows any promise to take over for Goodman.

    Carr played in a similar zone system last season in Kansas City, so moving into Del Rio's defensive system should prove to be easy. A duo of Champ Bailey and Brandon Carr would put Denver among the top of the league in cornerback tandems, with a solid core of Harris, Vaughn and Syd'Quan Thompson playing inside.

    If Carr proves to be too expensive for Denver to pursue, which is a possibility, another target is free-agent corner Carlos Rogers. Rogers also played in a zone system for the 49ers in 2011 and for six seasons in Washington, with degrees of success.

    Rogers will turn 31 next season, and while putting up fantastic numbers with six interceptions and 19 pass deflections last season, age makes him a much riskier signing than Carr.

    Still, Rogers would undoubtedly make an impact and possibly allow Denver to void the final year of Goodman's expensive contract.