Denver Broncos Free Agency: Top Needs Team Must Address This Offseason
The Denver Broncos' late-season run in 2011 aside, this is a team that does need to focus on upgrading at certain positions in order to be considered serious contenders in the AFC.
They do have nearly $50 million in salary cap room heading into the offseason, which bodes well for their ability to make some noise.
The AFC West is going to be ripe for the picking again in 2012, so it is time for Denver to get serious about remaining the top dog in that mediocre division. A strong showing in free agency would go a long way in making this become a reality.
This piece is going to focus on what I believe the Broncos need to address in order to take that next step towards the elite in the conference.
Get a Real Starting Center
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Using advanced metrics, Pro Football Focus believes J.D. Walton is the worst starting center in the entire National Football League.
This position has taken on a new form over the course of the last decade, as the NFL has moved to a more pass-happy league. With this has come an added importance to having a really good center along your offensive line.
The Broncos just don't have that right now.
The good news is that there are a ton of solid options in free agency at this position.
I would hedge my bets on the Broncos making a play for Myers, who was one of the best centers in the NFL last season. It doesn't look like the Texans are too keen on giving him top money, which means that he should be available.
Conclusion: Chris Myers, Houston Texans
Add Another Weapon on the Outside
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Demaryius Thomas did come through big time when it counted the most last season and projects to be a really solid player moving forward.
With that said, Thomas wasn't a consistent force on the outside for the Denver Broncos; he caught just four touchdowns last season. Obviously, there were outside factors that led to this inconsistency, such as the inability of Tim Tebow to get the ball to the outside in space.
This means that the Broncos really need to bring in a veteran presence at wide receiver. There are a few nice possibilities out there.
Everyone's attention will turn to Reggie Wayne because he is going to be linked to Peyton Manning, wherever the future Hall of Fame quarterback signs. Despite playing with marginal quarterbacks in 2011, Wayne still nearly put up another 1,000-yard season. He has some tread left in those tires after all.
Plaxico Burress seems to be another solid option. He would give the Broncos that big receiving threat in the red zone, something this team was missing a great deal in 2011. The Broncos could add the veteran receiver in order to create another weapon, especially on corner fades deep in opposing teams' territory.
One under-the-radar possibility would seem to be Joshua Morgan of the San Francisco 49ers. He would fill that slot position to a tee and might come relatively cheap considering he was injured for most of last season. Morgan has the talent to succeed in the Broncos-style offense and could stretch the field a great deal.
Conclusion: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Line Help
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The Denver Broncos have the best outside linebacker tandem in the entire NFL with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Now just imagine how great they would be with a space-eater inside.
A defensive tackle, when he is doing a great job, makes the entire front seven that much better. He is able to take on double teams and open up gaps on the outside for incoming pass-rushers. This is something that has worked well for some of the best 3-4 teams in the league.
Denver doesn't run that type of defense, but the idea is the same. Get that space-eater that translates well to their scheme and run with it.
While Brodrick Bunkley, who is set to become a free agent, was good last season, he doesn't scare opposing offenses. Marcus Thomas is probably nothing better than a nice rotational player at this point as well.
Getting a player like Aubrayo Franklin would be huge for this defense. While the former New Orleans Saints' player had more success in the 3-4 scheme with the San Francisco 49ers, he does translate well to what the Broncos are attempting to build on defense.
Plus, he wouldn't be demanding a huge payday.
Other options include Derek Landri, Colin Cole, Red Bryant and Kelly Gregg. Either way, there are some nice options available for Denver here.
Conclusion: Aubrayo Franklin, New Orleans Saints
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You had to see this coming, right?
This isn't pure conjecture at this point—the Denver Broncos are obviously interested in the future Hall of Fame quarterback. After all, they were the first team to host Peyton Manning after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts.
While there is something to say about loyalty as it relates to Tim Tebow, the Broncos need to think about this situation logically. Is Manning a better quarterback at this point in his career than Tebow? If the answer to this question is yes, then Denver should definitely bring the veteran signal-caller in.
As much as I respect what Tebow did for Denver last season, he isn't better than Manning—it really is that simple.
Manning would make everyone on the Broncos offense better. When healthy, he has the ability to get the ball to the outside on a rope, which would do wonders for their young receiving corps. He would also make the Broncos running game click more, as teams couldn't throw seven or eight into the box on every play.
This would open up the offense a great deal, making Denver serious contenders in the AFC.
Now, the larger question in this equation would have to do with Tebow. Would the Broncos entertain trade offers for the young quarterback?
Let's not put the cart before the proverbial horse, Denver is going to have ample competition when it comes to signing Manning.
If they do, watch out NFL.