Denver Broncos: Matt Roth and 4 Other Low-Cost Free-Agent Targets
Following the addition of Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos have acquired several free agents, including Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen and Tracy Porter, while re-signing the likes of Joe Mays, Wesley Woodyard and Jason Hunter.
With the draft looming and much of the previously abundant cap space filled with these signings, Denver still has many holes to fill on both sides of the ball with little money to do so.
Several free agents this offseason offer the opportunity for a low-cost, high-reward signing that could benefit the team in the 2012 season.
Read on to see a list of five players that could make an impact for Denver at little cost to the team.
Earnest Graham (FB)
Since then, Graham has proved his value as both a blocker and a runner for Tampa Bay, totaling over 2,000 yards rushing and almost 1,000 yards receiving in eight seasons.
Entering his ninth season in the NFL, Graham will be 32 years old. Combined with last season's ACL injury, Graham has few suitors to drive his price higher and could be had for a one-year "prove it" deal.
Graham showed last season that there is still gas left in the tank. If he can recover from the ACL injury that prematurely ended his 2011 season, Graham could be a valuable weapon for any offense.
Denver has little in the way of fullbacks on the roster. Spencer Larsen recently signed with the New England Patriots, and the only remaining fullback is second-year undrafted free agent Austin Sylvester.
A great locker room presence and willing to do whatever coaches ask of him, Graham has the potential to be both an effective short yardage back and a punishing lead blocker for Willis McGahee and the rest of Denver's running back corps.
Justin Forsett (RB)
Still young at 26 years old, Forsett could land elsewhere and make an impact. In 2009 and 2010, Forsett ran for a combined 1,142 yards and gained another 602 yards on 74 receptions. He hasn't fumbled since the end of the 2009 season, an impressive feat given he touched the ball over 200 times between 2010 and 2011.
The Seahawks are set to move forward without Forsett at running back, having recently re-signed Lynch to a four-year deal worth over $30 million. In an offseason where many running backs hit free agency, Forsett has been an afterthought to many teams.
Denver could take this chance to grab the talented young back on the cheap as insurance for the aging Willis McGahee. Forsett would be an immediate upgrade on first-round bust Knowshon Moreno and fellow backup Lance Ball. Forsett could also contribute on special teams as a punt returner.
All together, Forsett would be a low-risk, high0reward signing if he proves to be valuable both as a returner and a part-time runner.
Jim Leonhard (S)
Free-agent safety Jim Leonhard is a talented safety who has fallen victim to the unwillingness of teams to sign an injured player and risk guaranteed money. The New York Jets have refused to re-sign Leonhard due to a PCL tear suffered last December that derailed a solid 2011 season.
Leonhard emerged as a solid starter in 2008 with the Baltimore Ravens before signing with New York prior to the 2009 season. Since then, Leonhard has proven to be an all-around solid safety in defending the pass, rushing the quarterback and stuffing the run.
Leonhard is versatile, with the ability to play both free safety and strong safety. This would appeal to a team like Denver that has a couple of young safeties in Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore who are not set at either position.
Carter and Moore saw time at both safety positions and are in the mix for starting positions, along with recently signed free agent Mike Adams. Leonhard would be an immediate upgrade on all three at safety.
Leonhard will still be undergoing rehabilitation for the PCL injury well into the summer, but should be a player that Denver keeps a close eye on. Leonhard can be a dynamic player when healthy and is still relatively young at 29 years old.
The signing of Leonhard could fill the void left by future Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins this offseason.
Matt Roth (DE)
A talented pass rusher, Matt Roth missed extensive time in 2011 due to concussions. As a result, he has seen little interest on the free-agent market.
Over the past eight seasons, Roth has registered 23.5 sacks and almost 300 tackles for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins as both a 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. In 2011, Roth registered 3.5 sacks in only nine starts for Jacksonville before being sidelined due to concussion symptoms.
Roth is versatile and could rush the passer both as a defensive end and from the SAM linebacker position if sensation Von Miller goes down. Standing 6'4" and weighing 275 lbs, Roth has exemplary size for a 4-3 defensive end while also displaying the speed of a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker.
Jacksonville GM Gene Smith recently informed Roth that he will not be re-signed and should look elsewhere for work. So far the only team Roth has visited is the Cincinnati Bengals, per Aaron Wilson of Scout.com.
Roth is still in his prime and would be an upgrade on current starter Robert Ayers at defensive end. There is currently little interest in his services around the league, and Denver could lock him up for a relatively low price for a couple years as a valuable pass rusher opposite Elvis Dumervil.
Jason Brown (C)
Denver is one such team, having lost out on signing Peyton Manning's longtime center Jeff Saturday. After Saturday signed with the Green Bay Packers, Denver looks set to move forward with third-year player J.D. Walton as the starting center.
This is a clear mistake, as Walton has been one of the worst centers in the league since he took over the starting job as a rookie in 2010.
Denver will have some competition for Brown from at least four teams, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com, but could offer the best landing spot for his services. Brown would immediately assume the starting role whereas he may have to play guard or fight for the starting role on other teams.
Brown will turn 29 prior to the start of the 2012 NFL season, and could provide a better option at center for several seasons while Walton develops or Denver searches for another center to take over in the future.