• What's going on in the secondary?
• Will defensive coordinator Jim Bates be fired?
• Are there addressable problems in the offensive line?
• Can free agency help?
• And what is up with the red-zone offense?
Today, free agency.
Cynical enough yet, Broncos fans? If last year's limp to the finish line didn't give you a Rocky Mountain low, well, the uninspiring performance by the Denver front office during free agency has made "Broncos in XLIII" more resemble "Huckabee for President" than a return to the Elway days.
While other teams have been absolute busybodies in collecting players to enhance their rosters (e.g. the Cleveland Browns, the divisional rival Oakland Raiders), consolidating their cores (New England Patriots) or merely throwing scads of money at the problems (New York Jets), the holey Broncos have mostly stood pat, poker-facedly twiddling their collective thumbs.
To be fair, word from Mike Shanahan & Co. immediately after the season was that there would be no shopping spree during free agency -- the whole Sam Adams thing didn't really work out, did it? To be fair, the Broncos' stated current mission to improve through the draft is a noble one (if a tad ignoble in seemingly admitted that rebuilding is underway). Also in fairness, making the pair of high-profile re-signings Denver accomplished was a job well done (though there's a cloud for this silver lining, too; see below).
But why be fair? Heck, if football were always fair, the Broncos would have lost the first two games of the NFL season (in which they were outplayed by the likes of the Buffalo Bills as well as Oakland and required the heroics of Jason Elam), finished at best 5-11, and no one would be afraid of uttering the "R" word.
For a team with bizarre problems in the secondary like this one, why was no token play made for Randall Gay? He's 25 years old and just emerging as a solid player, isn't he? Meanwhile, the offensive line is a hodgepodge of the untested (Ryan Harris) and ancient (Chris Nalen); even though the field is thin for OLs, couldn't the Broncs have made gestures to anyone?
Of Denver's two new additions, Niko Koutouvides will surely be welcomed; safe money says the former special teamer is in the starting lineup at linebacker come Week 1. If so, D.J. Williams would likely be at weakside OLB to cover Ian Gold's empty spot. As for WR Keary Colbert, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, well ... ah, maybe Jay Cutler can squeeze something out of a underachiever since his rookie year of 2004.
(Wait a minute: The Broncos were willing to go with the plummeting Colbert, but barely cast a glance at Jabar Gaffney or Donte' "Rent Me For A Season" Stallworth? Huh?)
"Welcomed" back were Ebenezer Ekuban and John Lynch; enjoy these two while they last, Bronco fans, 'cause neither figures to be back in Denver in 2009. In fact, Lynch, a dude who would not be missed by more than a few Bronco backers after a subpar 2007 in which he turned 36 and looked it often, was this close to leaving; instead, he decided to "swallow the insult of a pay cut in exchange for a chance to play a fifth, and mostly likely final, season with the Broncos." On the plus side, this probably means that if Lynch has anything left, he'll have a heck of a year while seeking to impress as a 2009 free agent or as a glorious Bronco riding off into the sunset of retirement.
So in terms of real infrastructural improvement here, Broncos fans are left to wait for the draft; is there any team excepting perhaps Miami that so requires a nearly perfect draft to contend in 2008? Pessimistic, Denver fans? A little bit, maybe? Truth is, the tiny splash your team has made in the free-agent market makes your worries more justifiable.
For those fans, RealFootball365.com offers some advice: Eyes up, envision sunny skies and whistle a happy tune 'til then. Don't despair; remember to always look on the bright side of life...
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