The Broncos need to get better and younger at the middle linebacker position.
The Denver Broncos had a really good team in 2012. Peyton Manning revitalized the offense and the defense produced thanks to players like Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard. The Broncos were good enough to get the No. 1 seed and were the favorites until suffering a disappointing double overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Their schedule was not the most difficult and the AFC West was putrid in 2012. Denver’s key players also stayed extremely healthy. Things could change in a hurry and if the Broncos want to make another run they can’t maintain the status quo.
Manning will get the Broncos to the playoffs, but he’s going to need help once they are there. Certain positions didn't pull their weight equally and the Broncos will need to address them this offseason.
The Broncos need to decide if Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno are worth keeping around at their cost or if the team should look for other options. Since the Broncos averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in 2012, it would seem that they might want to look for a better running back.
Ronnie Hillman is strictly a speed back at the moment and the Broncos could really use a running back to complement him. Since the NFL is becoming an increasingly pass-heavy league, running backs are not exactly in high demand.
Finding a younger running back that can get tough yards between the tackles should be a priority this offseason. Rashard Mendenhall is one free agent out there that could fit if he can get his head on straight and he’s just 25 years old. The Broncos could also look to the draft and select a guy like Montee Bell or Stepfan Taylor in the middle rounds.
Joe Mays isn't a three-down middle linebacker.
Joe Mays and Keith Brooking aren’t permanent solutions at middle linebacker. The Broncos need to find a player that is not a liability in some way. Joe Mays is a thumper in the run game, but he’s a complete liability in coverage and the Broncos can’t leave him on the field on third down.
Brooking was decent in coverage, but he was not nearly as good in run support as Mays. Middle linebacker by committee is not exactly what NFL teams would prefer. Brooking will also be a free agent in the offseason and the Broncos will have to decide if they want him back.
The Broncos will be looking for a three-down middle linebacker who can support the run and cover. It’s rare that you can find such players in free agency, so the Broncos will have to use one of their draft picks to address this roster flaw.
Jim Leonhard was a veteran backup in 2012.
Mike Adams was a veteran stop-gap measure at strong safety and Jim Leonhard was just veteran depth. David Bruton is around strictly for special teams.
Rahim Moore had a nice year until his meltdown in the playoffs. If the Broncos face tougher competition or can’t apply as much pressure in 2011 then opponents are going to attack him in coverage.
Quinton Carter will return from injury, but the Broncos could really use more young talent at the safety position. Unless the Broncos think practice squad players Duke Ihenacho or Blake Gideon are ready to make the roster then they need to bring in a couple players for competition.
The Broncos could find a quality safety in the middle rounds of the draft like D.J. Swearinger, T.J. McDonald or Shawn Williams.
The Broncos need more depth at cornerback.
If Torrey Smith taught us one thing it’s that the days of Champ Bailey being able to shut down a wide receiver without help is over. Chris Harris turned into a nice starter opposite Bailey, but the Broncos need depth. Tony Carter will be a free agent and he was a bit inconsistent in 2012.
There are several free agents and plenty of draft picks to choose from. The Broncos don’t have to sit around and wait for Bailey to get old and hope that Harris can repeat his performance. It's possible Bailey just had a bad game and that Harris will be even better in 2013, but the Broncos should bring in several players to compete just in case.
Tracy Porter didn’t work out, but that shouldn’t stop the Broncos from dipping their toe into the icy waters of free agency for a cornerback or from drafting one in April.
Justin Bannan is a free agent and isn't getting any younger.
Justin Bannan and Ty Warren are unrestricted free agents. Kevin Vickerson is a restricted free agent and Mitch Unrein is an exclusive rights free agent.
While the Broncos should be able to bring back these players, they also might want to infuse the position with youth. Unrein and Sealver Siliga are the only two defensive tackles on the roster under 30.
There will be several defensive tackles available in free agency and also several in the draft. The Broncos should bring at least one in to compete and provide the team with youth and depth at the position.
If the Broncos are in more close games in 2013, there could be more stress on the defensive line to stop the run. The Broncos don’t want to put themselves in a bad position and right now they have the luxury of being able to be proactive instead of reactive.