Denver Broncos: Buying or Selling These Free Agents Re-Signing in Denver

DJ SiddiqiCorrespondent IIIJanuary 29, 2013

Denver Broncos: Buying or Selling These Free Agents Re-Signing in Denver

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    With the Super Bowl less than a week away and the Broncos (of course) not being involved in the game itself, it's time to look towards free agency and the draft for Broncos fans.

    Denver had a bright season in year one of the Peyton Manning era but it unfortunately fell short of the desired result—a Super Bowl.

    In fact, it fell way short. The Broncos lost in a huge upset to the heavy underdog Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

    The Broncos enter the 2013 offseason looking to make up for a "wasted" season by reaching their goal in the 2014 postseason—winning a Super Bowl.

    The 2013 Free Agency period officially begins on March 13th. The Broncos will enter free agency looking to retain a few guys, while having no issue with letting others go.

    There are three different types of free agents. There are restricted, unrestricted and exclusive-rights free agents. Unrestricted free agents are free to sign anywhere they want. The Broncos have the right to match any offer given to restricted free agents, while exclusive-rights guys may only sign with Denver.

    The Broncos have 16 total free agents—10 of them are unrestricted, four of them are restricted with two of them exclusive-rights free agents.

    Just who should the Broncos retain? Who are the guys they should let walk?

CB Tracy Porter (UR)

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    Porter signed a one-year deal with the Broncos and was expected to start opposite Champ Bailey. Porter did, but the problem was, he suffered from pre-seizure symptoms before the Week 6 game at San Diego. He then sat out for much of the rest of the season as Chris Harris and Tony Carter starred in his absence.

    Porter played well when he was healthy, but the issue here is: The Broncos have two young guys in Harris and Carter (also a free agent) and don't really need Porter at this point.

    Expect the Broncos to allow the former Super Bowl hero to walk without much issue.

    Buy or Sell: Sell

LB Keith Brooking (UR)

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    The 37-year-old preseason free agent pickup turned out to be the Broncos' starting middle linebacker for much of the season. Keith started 14 out of a possible 16 games after being signed in early August to provide depth for a linebacking corps that had lost D.J. Williams to a league suspension.

    Brooking played solid, and he didn't lose the team games.

    However, he was nothing more than a stop-gap replacement. The Broncos should draft a young linebacker to take Brooking's spot.

    Buy or Sell: Sell

T Chris Clark (R)

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    Really, would Broncos Nation shed a tear if Chris Clark left Denver?

    The three-year tenured Broncos tackle serves as a backup and often plays in jumbo and goal-line formations.

    Whether the Broncos retain him or let him walk will have no bearing on the result of the 2013 season for the orange and blue.

    Buy or Sell: Push

S David Bruton (UR)

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    Another valued member of special teams, Bruton had three special teams tackles while playing in all 16 games.

    Bruton rarely plays on the defensive side of the ball. With the Broncos likely retaining Moore, Adams and Carter heading into the 2013 season, the Broncos could let Bruton walk.

    Buy or Sell: Push

P Britton Colquitt (R)

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    Yes, the punter needs to be re-signed.

    It's no secret that Colquitt is one of the best punters in the NFL. Colquitt is the franchise leader in gross (46.1) and net punting (39.5) average. Colquitt ranked third in the NFL in net punting average while holding opponents to a 6.0 return average (second-best) in 2012.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

C Dan Koppen (UR)

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    Koppen was a pickup during the regular season, and he turned out to be Denver's most consistent offensive lineman not named Ryan Clady.

    The NFL veteran, who snapped to Tom Brady for nine years, started 12 of the 15 games he played in. Koppen made Broncos fans forget about incumbent starter J.D. Walton.

    With Walton under contract for 2013, the Broncos should re-sign Koppen and have him battle it out with the inconsistent Walton for the starting center spot in 2013.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

RB Lance Ball (R)

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    This guy just really doesn't have a place on the team anymore.

    The Broncos have Knowshon Moreno, Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman under contract next year. Hillman is the change-of-pace back, Moreno can do a little of everything and if McGahee is retained, Willis can be an occasional fullback and short-yardage halfback.

    Ball does a little of everything, but why retain him when you already have a guy (Moreno) who does all of those things too, and he's more explosive at doing it at the same time?

    Buy or Sell: Sell

FB Chris Gronkowski (R)

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    With the Broncos rarely playing in offensive formations that utilize a fullback, Gronkowski became an afterthought from the very beginning of the season.

    The Broncos won't retain the sparsely-used fullback going into 2013.

    Buy or Sell: Sell

WR Matthew Willis (UR)

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    The little-used wide receiver who seems to make Denver's roster every year is an unrestricted free agent in 2013.

    The highlight of Willis' 2012 season came in Week 6 at San Diego when he had a miscommunication with Peyton Manning that led to an interception return for a touchdown that gave the Chargers a 17-0 second quarter lead.

    Willis played all 16 games in 2012 and had seven special-teams tackles. Willis is a speedy receiver who is considered a valuable part of special teams.

    You can find a lot of those guys in the late rounds of NFL Drafts. I think you get what I'm trying to say here.

    Buy or Sell: Push

T Ryan Clady (UR)

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    This is Denver's offseason priority as far as team free agents are concerned. Clady earned his third Pro Bowl selection in five seasons and allowed only one sack while protecting Peyton Manning's blindside.

    Clady is just 26 years old. There are no "ifs" pertaining to Clady. The Broncos must re-sign Clady to protect the soon to be 37-year-old Manning in 2013 and beyond.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

S Jim Leonhard (UR)

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    Another veteran, like Brooking, who was picked up right before the season started for defensive depth.

    Maybe it was me, but every time this guy was on the field, it seemed like the Broncos gave up a big passing play. Leonhard didn't really provide anything for this, even as he was used in the punt returner role.

    The Broncos would be better served to draft a young safety to play alongside Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter and Mike Adams next season.

    Buy or Sell: Sell

DT Justin Bannan (UR)

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    DT Justin Bannan made his return to Denver after starting one year for the team back in the 2010 season.

    Bannan—along with Kevin Vickerson—aided in replacing Brodrick Bunkley, who had helped improve Denver's run defense in 2011.

    With Jack Del Rio in his first season as defensive coordinator, Bannan and the Broncos defense had the third-best run defense in all of the NFL. In 2011, they had the 22nd-best run defense.

    Bannan should be re-signed if his market value isn't too high during the 2013 offseason.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

DT Kevin Vickerson (UR)

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    Kevin Vickerson was merely expected to be depth along the defensive line. DT Ty Warren—who was signed by the Broncos before the 2011 season started—started the first game of 2012 before suffering yet another major injury, this time tearing his triceps yet again.

    Vickerson proceeded to start 14 of the next 15 games at defensive tackle. Vickerson had a career season—just his second season as an NFL starter—notching 40 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for loss.

    The Broncos would be wise to keep the duo of Bannan and Vickerson together for at least one more season before finding a more suitable replacement.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

DT Mitch Unrein (ER)

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    Unrein—one of two Broncos' exclusive-rights free agents—was a surprise out of training camp.

    Initially on the roster bubble as yet another body along the defensive line, Unrein became a key contributor in the defensive line rotation and notched 20 tackles on the season, along with a receiving touchdown versus Tampa Bay (12/2).

    As an exclusive-rights free agent, the Broncos will likely retain Unrein at a low cost for the 2013 season.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

WR Brandon Stokley (UR)

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    The 36-year-old Brandon Stokley—best known for his years in Indianapolis catching passes from Peyton Manning—was brought back by the Broncos after Denver had signed Peyton Manning in the offseason.

    Stokley had played with the Broncos from 2007-09 and with Manning from 2003-2006. Stokley eased the transition for Manning in Peyton's first year at Mile High by catching 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns.

    Stokley will likely play as long as Manning plays. Expect the Broncos to re-sign Stokley as Stokley's career was dead in the water for the past two seasons before reuniting with the four-time NFL MVP.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

CB Tony Carter (ER)

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    Denver's other exclusive free agent—CB Tony Carter—became one of Denver's bright spots during the Broncos' 13-3 season.

    Carter was buried on the depth chart and entered the 2012 NFL season on the roster bubble. It was expected Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter would start, with Chris Harris and free agent pickup Drayton Florence providing the Broncos with backfield depth in nickel, dime and quarter packages.

    Florence was released before the season started and Porter wound up injured for the majority of the season, which opened up playing time for the fourth-year cornerback.

    Carter had a career season as he racked up 27 tackles, 12 pass deflections, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown.

    His highlight game of the season came in Week 6 at San Diego when he aided the Broncos in completing a 24-point comeback by recovering a fumble for a touchdown and intercepting a pass on the same night.

    His 12 pass deflections led all players who did not start a game in 2012.

    The Broncos should retain Carter to play alongside Bailey and Harris in Denver's defensive backfield for 2013.

    Buy or Sell: Buy