The Denver Broncos are not in jeopardy of alienating fans with any major decisions that need to be made here.
In terms of fan favorites, the feeling toward many of the players is either lukewarm or faded from its original fervor.
The biggest task for Denver is to make sure that they are not overpaying players to stay because there is a comfort level with them, or even deciding to keep them altogether simply because they are weary of the alternatives that are affordable.
John Elway and company need to start evaluating this team with an eye that is equally trained on value as well as impact.
For the Broncos to take the AFC West again next year, they will need to upgrade and not simply hope that the players they have can continue to reach above their potential in some cases.
DT Brodrick Bunkley: Re-Signed
Bunkley got increasingly more comfortable with the defense, and it showed in his performance down the stretch.
Leave Bunkley on the roster and combine him with players like Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson, who are due to return will be a boon for the Broncos defensive line. Bunkley is the right value for Denver in free agency and leaves room for Denver to pick up lineman in the draft as well.
Estimated Contract: 2 Years, $ 3.5 Million
DT Marcus Thomas: Released
If Denver decides to bring back Bunkley—which they should—the depth chart will be a little too full for Thomas.
Assuming the health of the other defensive lineman stays on the up and up, Thomas will move on like he may have been slotted to last year in favor of Ty Warren. Not to mention Denver will be looking to add lineman through the draft all of which make the departure of Thomas the right plan.
DE Jason Hunter: Re-Signed
Jason Hunter was impressive in his limited action and proved to an above average pass rusher from the defensive end position. Everyone knows that Elvis Dumervil has had trouble with injury, and nobody expects to see it happen again, but if Dumervil does wind up off the field than Hunter is a nice option have on the bench.
He is one player that Denver gambled on and gave a chance to that paid off and could continue to pay off, provided that another team doesn't want to pay him more to give him a chance.
Estimated Contract: 1 Year, $715,000
DE Derrick Harvey: Released
The opportunity for Harvey to resurrect his career in Denver should come to an end. There is no room on the roster for Harvey, who has failed to meet expectations in both stops he has made in the NFL. Making the decision to re-sign Harvey would essentially be dead money.
LB Joe Mays: Released
I hate to make it sound like there is a grudge against Joe Mays, because there is not, but Broncos fans should have the image of Isaac Redman rumbling over Mays on several 3rd-and-short situations in the playoffs burned into their mind.
Mays can deliver the boom, but only in perfectly developed situations where Mays was lucky to find himself in the right slot. Denver needs to move on from Mays and decide if they have a player in Nate Irving, or via the draft.
LB Mario Haggan: Released
Haggan is not being released because he underperformed, was a bad teammate or rubbed the organization the wrong way. In fact, it's the opposite of all of those things.
Mario showed something great in his relief of Von Miller when the Defensive Rookie of the Year was out with injury, and since Miller is not coming out of the lineup for the next decade, Haggan might search for a chance to start somewhere.
Denver likely won't match an offer that takes Haggan elsewhere because they simply can't afford to have him on the bench for a high price knowing that the plan is for him to never see the field as long as Miller is healthy.
LB Wesley Woodyard: Re-Signed
Woodyard is the perfect depth linebacker for the Broncos, who can also fill in for spot-starting duty on occasion. He is strong and athletic and sometimes harkens back to the days when Mobley, Gold and Williams were the most athletic linebacking crew in the NFL.
His price tag is right, and hopefully he knows that Denver is as good a place for him to ply his trade as anywhere.
Estimated Contract: 2 Years, $1.5 Million
WR Eddie Royal: Released
The love affair between Denver and Eddie Royal is most likely over. Whether through fault of his own or the team's misuse, his production has dropped since his rookie season, and the offense is not projecting to be a high-volume passing game next year.
Royal is a great player and might do well to try and recapture his magic in an offense that is better developed to allow him to work in the slot. Denver is going to have trouble signing wide receivers, and even if they offered a contract to Eddie, he may not take it.
It's time for both sides to part amicably and wish each other well.
SS Brian Dawkins: Re-Signed
This is assuming that the venerable Pro Bowl safety gets the medical clearance to come back and wants to play another season in Denver. It seems likely, though, that the excitement caused by last season and the bonds built in the locker room with Dawkins might influence he and Denver to give it one more season.
When "Dawk" was healthy, he was a difference-maker in the secondary, and even off the field his impact could be seen in the flashes of brilliance from youngsters Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore early in the year.
It's not every day that a future Hall of Famer only wants to play for your team, and the Broncos should take this one up on his offer. His presence will allow them to make a one-year commitment and buy more time for Moore and Carter to become the firmly entrenched starters that Denver hopes they will.
Estimated Contract: 1 Year, $3 Million
FB Spencer Larsen: Released
Spencer Larsen worked extremely hard to find a home on the Denver Broncos roster after being drafted as a linebacker. He has a tremendous work ethic and should find a home somewhere, but for Denver's offense to really take off they need a more traditional fullback on the roster.
There are a few options available in free agency and considering Denver already re-signed Austin Sylvester, they might be looking to bring in a surefire starter and maybe another fullback late in the draft to compete with Sylvester for the honor of making the roster.
QB Brady Quinn: Released
Quinn's days in Denver are over, and it had nothing to do with his comments about Tim Tebow. The fact is that Denver made an ill-advised trade for Quinn in the first place that only served to further deepen the quarterback controversy in Denver.
Quinn may have one final chance to find glory in the NFL, but it will not be with the Denver Broncos.
TE Daniel Fells: Re-Signed
What's a game-saving catch and resulting win against the San Diego Chargers worth? A contract extension with the Denver Broncos for Daniel Fells.
Fells easily earned his keep in Denver by showing he's not a liability in the passing game and is very reliable as a blocker. If Denver is looking at the tight end position as one of need, it is only because they are unsure whether or not Julius Thomas will pan out as the receiving threat they hope he will be to compliment Fells.
Looking at the free-agent market, now minus Jermichael Finley, there isn't a lot of potential there, and Fells will be a value to come back next year.
Estimated Contract: 2 Years, $3 Million
TE Dante Rosario: Released
Rosario did an admirable job filling in for Denver when rookie Julius Thomas wen down with injury.
However, in 2012 the team will look for sophomores Virgil Green and Julius Thomas to grow into their roles even more and push Rosario off the roster for Denver. Rosario is an athletic receiver though, and will definitely get another chance somewhere in the NFL next season.
OL Russ Hochstein: Released
The clock has struck midnight on Hochstein in Denver. Despite being a McDaniels era holdover, the veteran lineman was a valuable member of the Broncos and served his team well.
However, the time for having a 35-plus-year-old lineman on the roster is over in Denver. Hochstein may hang on for another season in the NFL, but Denver needs younger, stronger lineman on their bench to help keep their rushing attack on schedule in case of injury.
OL Manny Ramirez: Re-Signed
The reason that Hochstein is moving on has a lot to do with the wise decision to keep Manny Ramirez (if the Broncos choose to do so). Ramirez offers the same center/guard versatility that Hochstein does and comes with less risk of injury and a cheaper price tag.
Estimated Contract: 1 Year, $700,000
CB Jonathan Wilhite: Released
Denver has money to spend on impact players in the secondary and using up some of it on a player whose shown their ceiling doesn't make sense.
Denver can get the same kind of contribution from other players as undrafted free agents after April, or maybe even in the same situation that brought Wilhite to Denver in the first place; signing them after another team cut them in training camp.