Thanks to a balanced combination of youth (e.g. Von Miller) and veteran experience (e.g. Brandon Stokley), the Broncos were a dominant team last season. To insure that the team retains a solid mixture of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership, the Broncos will have to lock up a few veterans this summer.
The Broncos' unrestricted free agents include left tackle Ryan Clady, defensive lineman Justin Bannan, center Dan Koppen, wide receiver Brandon Stokley and defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson, who all started for the team in 2012. According to ESPN.com's John Clayton, the Broncos have $18.5 million in cap room, enough to give Clady a one-year, approximately $9 million franchise tag and bring back the other four starters mentioned above.
The team will also have to make decisions about exclusive-rights free agents cornerback Tony Carter and defensive tackle Mitch Unrein. In 2012, both players performed well and they would both likely come back for a reasonable price; look for Denver to retain both.
Additionally, cornerback Tracy Porter, safety Jim Leonhard, wide receiver Matt Willis, middle linebacker Keith Brooking and safety David Bruton will be hitting the market. A handful of those players (including Porter and Brooking) are not expected to return, leaving Denver money to bring back other players.
Finally, running back Lance Ball, tackle Chris Clark, punter Britton Colquitt and fullback Chris Gronkowski will all also become restricted free agents. Colquitt is the only lock to return, as he has emerged as one fo the top punters in the game. As for the others, the team may consider them expendable.
To clear up more cap room, the team may look to restructure quarterback Peyton Manning's contract. According to Rotoworld, Manning is due about $20 million next season. If the team can work out a shorter, cheaper contract for the veteran QB, re-signing players like receiver Eric Decker in 2014, Demaryius Thomas and linebacker Von Miller in 2015 will become much easier.
In addition to bringing back key contributors, the Broncos will look to make smart signings in free agency. While an abundance of cap room are re-signings, the team cannot afford to make any big splashes, but they don't need to.
Last offseason, the Broncos brought in "middle-of-the-pack" players like tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreeseen and safety Mike Adams. They re-signed players including linebacker Wesley Woodyard and Bannan, who all started in 2012. In addition to the offseason pickups, the team also made solid acquisitions in-season, bringing in Koppen, Brooking, and specialist Trindon Holliday—as has been the theme, those players became starters.
This offseason, watch for the Broncos to make more smart transactions, bringing in starters that often are flying under the radar somewhere else in the league. Money matters, and John Elway and Co. will be putting their money on the players that can help the team reach the Super Bowl in 2014.