Although the Denver Broncos finished the 2012 season on an 11-game win streak, as the top seed in the AFC and tied for the best record in the NFL, it's still a good idea to look ahead to the offseason.
It's an exciting time to be a Broncos fan, but there are important decisions to make in the offseason (hopefully after winning the Super Bowl).
Whom should the Broncos absolutely keep and whom should they let walk away?
Willis McGahee is an 11-year veteran who is under contract for 2013, but Knowshon Moreno, who took over the running back position when McGahee suffered an injury in Week 11, is also under contract. McGahee was the starting running back until his season-ending injury, but he was having trouble with ball security until that point, with five fumbles.
After McGahee's injury, Moreno took over and the running back position never missed a beat. Moreno has over 500 yards and four touchdowns. He also has only one fumble.
Age is also an issue. Moreno is only 25, whereas McGahee is 31 and has suffered from knee and leg injuries over the past few years.
If Denver is looking for a running back of the future, Moreno may be the way to go. He has effectively taken over the running back position in McGahee's absence and has proven he could have a bright future with the Denver Broncos. If I were John Fox, he'd be my starting running back in 2013.
In the offseason, the Denver Broncos need to search for youth in the draft to find a young replacement for Champ Bailey. Although Bailey is still productive at cornerback, he's at the end of his career and the Broncos will need to draft someone who can take over without causing a ripple on the defense.
Bailey still has a few years left, but he will need to teach and mold a young cornerback to take his place for the future. There is a great cornerback class in 2013, with many standouts to choose from who could make an immediate impact. I believe finding a replacement for Champ should be first priority on draft night.
Center Dan Koppen will be a free agent in 2013 and the Denver Broncos are going to have to make a decision. Although J.D. Walton has been the starter, Koppen took over in Week 4 after Walton broke his ankle. At that time, the Broncos offense wasn't playing well and the team was 2-2.
Since Koppen took over, the Broncos have gone 10-1 and he has only allowed one sack. In the past, Koppen's teams finished in the NFL's top 10 offenses seven times.
Even if the Broncos decide to stick with J.D Walton as the starter, it would be smart to re-sign Koppen as well, especially since Walton had injury issues most of this season. Depth on the offensive line is always a good thing in order to be prepared for anything.
Ryan Clady, the man who has done a magnificent job protecting Peyton Manning this year, will be a free agent in 2013. It would not be a good move to let this man walk away from the Broncos with anything less than a long-term contract.
At the beginning of the season, talks of an extension stalled and were put off until the offseason in 2013. Clady used the 2012 season to prove he's deserving of a long-term contract. Clady has started in all games and has just one false start and one sack allowed. Clady is also one of three players from the 2008 draft to start every possible game during the last five years, proving there is no issue with injuries.
Ryan Clady will be entering his sixth year in the NFL in 2013. The question is, is he deserving of a franchise tag worth $9.6 million? As I said in a previous post, pay the man! Paying this amount is reasonable to protect Peyton Manning and keep him upright as much as possible for years to come.