5 Things Denver Broncos Need to Do to Win the Super Bowl This Season
Now, this doesn't guarantee anything, because Denver still has a few pieces of the puzzle to complete before the Broncos can make a run at Super Bowl XLVII.
By that token, here are five things Denver must do to solidify a realistic shot at winning it all this season.
Sign Jeff Saturday
Bob Levey/Getty Images
According to Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network, Manning's former teammate Jeff Saturday is expected to meet the Broncos:
Team Manning about to be assembled in Denver. C Jeff Saturday has a visit scheduled. WR Brandon Stokley likely to be signed #freeagency— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 19, 2012
This would be just as big of an acquisition for Denver as Manning, because although the quarterback is the single most important position, the offensive line is the most important unit of players to any offense.
And with the center acting as the leader of the hogs up front, a five-time Pro Bowl and four-time All-Pro selection like Saturday will remind Broncos' fans of their former legendary center, Tom Nalen.
Saturday may be turning 37 years old before next season, however, he has started every game each of the past three seasons and 188 throughout his career.
With Manning taking snaps, the chemistry will continue in Mile High and the Denver ground game will remain elite.
Sign Jacob Tamme
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
According to Andrew Mason of CBS Sports via NFL Network, Jacob Tamme is expected to meet the Broncos:
Another good bit of news for Denver fans, because the Broncos need a tight end and Tamme proved well in 2010 with 631 yards on 67 receptions, including four touchdowns.
2011, though, was a down year as Dallas Clark returned a little more to normal and the Colts were without Manning all season. Still, the Broncos need a receiving tight end who can block downfield on linebackers and defensive backs.
Denver, even with Manning at the helm, cannot abandon the ground game as it was No. 1 last season. And bringing in a complete tight end who is a reliable receiver and run-blocker is needed.
Tamme provides that skill set as an underrated player, plus, the Broncos haven't had a receiving tight end since the days of Shannon Sharpe. Now, Tamme isn't anything like Sharpe, but he would be better than anyone since then.
Draft a Defensive Tackle in Round 1
Butch Dill/Getty Images
Last season the Broncos rush defense ranked No. 22, and they had no interior pass rushing presence.
No offense could consistently run the ball well on the perimeter against Denver, as guys like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were just too quick to the ball and difficult to block.
Coincidentally, Miller and Dumervil combined for 21 sacks and 106 tackles. Still, Denver allowed an average of 126 rush yards per game, and it affected the pass defense as well.
There, the Orange Crush ranked No. 18 and allowed 231 pass yards per game. Rookie defensive backs Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter fared well, but upgrading the interior of the front seven must happen.
So, enter Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox who recorded 56 tackles, five sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2011. Not to mention, but the Bulldogs played a ridiculous schedule against other SEC powerhouse like LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia.
For Denver, Cox has the ability to play a 3-4 nose guard, a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive end and a 4-3 defensive tackle. He has the size and athletic combo to make plays anywhere along the line and apply inside pressure on the quarterback.
If not Cox, then other top defensive tackles such as Michigan State's Jerel Worthy or Penn State's Devon Still will suffice. Both are more 4-3 defensive tackles or 3-4 nose guards, but can still boost the Broncos front seven.
Draft a Safety in Round 2 or 3
Yes, both Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore are safeties, however, neither have the versatility or total defensive package like Boise State's George Iloka.
Iloka for one, comes in at 6'4", 225 pounds and at the NFL combine he ran 4.66 seconds on the 40-yard dash, 4.03 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle, 11.75 seconds on the 60-yard shuttle and leaped 10'4" on the broad jump.
With that kind of size and athleticism, Iloka produced consistently well for the Boise Broncos in recording 231 career tackles, seven picks and 24 total passes defended.
He began more as a deep safety in 2008 and 2009, however, he began to play more toward the line of scrimmage as a junior and senior.
Still, Iloka has a innate ability to quickly dissect plays at the snap, drops back into a Cover 2 or Cover 3 and can man-up on tight ends, any receiver and roll down for run support. He can quickly change directions with his size and because Iloka is a sure tackler, there's a little Steve Awater in him.
Someone all Broncos fans know is high praise.
Draft a Versatile WR in Round 4 or 5
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Wide receiver-punt returner Eddie Royal joined the San Diego Chargers on Thursday after burning them a few times while with the division rival Denver Broncos.
Royal agreed to a three-year, $13.5 million contract, with $6 million guaranteed.
With that personnel loss, the Broncos need to quickly replenish through the draft.
And in the middle rounds there are three solid punt return/slot receiver Denver can target: Fresno State's Devon Wylie, Arkansas' Joe Adams or T.Y. Hilton of Florida International.
Of the three, Hilton is the most complete player with over 3,500 career receiving yards, over 400 rushing yards and almost 3,500 combined return yards, including 37 career touchdowns.
Adams is a solid receiver in his own right (2,410 career receiving yards) and had the best season from a punt return perspective than any of the three in 2011. There, Adams took 33 punts back for 321 yards and scored four touchdowns.
As for Wylie, he gained 446 punt return yards and took two back for touchdowns. Now, he wasn't nearly as productive of a receiver as Hilton or Adams, but still reliable enough to account for 56 receptions last season.
If he's available, though, Hilton must be the guy as he's proven consistency as a punt and kick returner, receiver and horizontal rushing threat.
John Rozum on Twitter.