7 Free Agents the Denver Broncos Should Look at This Offseason
The 2013 free agency signing period will begin at 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, March 12. On that day, the Denver Broncos will be busy.
The team has a handful of free agents whom they will want to re-sign, and there are several names floating around that the team may also target. Due to their cap situation, the Broncos won't be able to bring in all seven players in this slide, but they will probably target all of them one way or another.
Denver's top executive, John Elway, has stated that the team wants to build through the draft and plug holes in free agency. This March, the team can plug in several Pro Bowlers.
QB Matt Moore (Depth)
Starting on the offensive side of the ball, the team can use a reliable backup quarterback for Peyton Manning. Youngster Brock Osweiler is said to be the team's future, but they probably wouldn't start him in Week 1 if Manning were injured in preseason.
Since then, Moore has mainly been a backup who has the skills to guide a team to a few victories when called upon. In his career, Moore has started 25 games and thrown for 5,268 yards and 33 touchdowns.
According to Sportrac.com, Moore was paid $2.75 million by the Miami Dolphins last season. If the Broncos do not bring back Caleb Hanie and/or restructure Manning's contract, bringing in Moore would be a wise investment.
RB Steven Jackson (Power Back)
The Broncos backfield is a big question mark. It remains to be seen if the team will bring back Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, but one thing is certain: Denver will be looking to add power to the backfield this offseason.
Either through the draft or free agency, the Broncos want to add bulk to their backfield this season. McGahee has played well when healthy, as has Moreno, but neither of them are reliable short-yardage options.
The only running back sure to return is second-year man Ronnie Hillman, a 5'9", 185-pound scat back that is anything but a power option. To add size to the backfield, the team should give the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson a long, hard look.
According to Rotoworld, Jackson (6'2", 240 pounds) is due to make $7 million this season but has the option of voiding his contract and testing the free-agent market, which he is expected to do. The Broncos have made splashes in every offseason since 2009 (as CBS4's Vic Lombardi pointed out), bringing in Jackson this offseason would continue that trend.
WR Danny Amendola (Depth)
Another Ram who the Broncos may target is free agent wide receiver Danny Amendola (5'11", 188 pounds), who made $1.97 million last season. In Denver, Amendola would likely become even more of a household name working with Peyton Manning.
Last season, Amendola caught 63 passes for over 600 yards and three scores in St. Louis, numbers similar to what Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas were posting before Manning arrived in Denver.
Denver's current slot receiver, Brandon Stokley, is a free agent, and Decker will be a free agent next offseason followed by Thomas in 2015. After having such great success with Manning, both Decker and Thomas will be seeking big pay days, and the Broncos may not be able to afford keeping both of them.
Bringing in Amendola now would secure having another reliable target down the road if either Decker or Thomas eventually leave in free agency. It's hard to imagine Eric or Demaryius in another uniform, but the Broncos need to prepare for all possibilities.
WR Austin Collie (Depth)
If Amendola re-signs with the Rams or lands somewhere else, another option for Denver would be Austin Collie, a fifth-year receiver who was released by the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week. Collie (6', 204 pounds) emerged as one of Manning's top targets during Peyton's final seasons in Indianapolis.
The Broncos have witnessed first-hand what Collie is capable of; he caught 15 passes for 210 yards (14.0 yards per catch) and three touchdowns in two games against them (via Pro-Football-Reference.com).
The only concern with Collie is his health.
Collie missed all but one game last season due to injury and has suffered three concussions and a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee early last season. When healthy, however, Collie has been productive.
From 2009-'10, Collie caught 118 catches for 1,325 yards and 15 touchdowns in 25 games with Manning in Indianapolis. If Denver's trainers clear him in a physical and the team believes his injury woes are behind him, signing Collie to a short-term contract with little or no guaranteed money would be a wise investment.
If he can stay healthy, Collie could prove to be a top free-agent steal this offseason. Otherwise, giving him a shot to compete in training camp with a low salary would be a low-risk, high-reward transaction.
DE Dwight Freeney (Rush Specialist)
The Broncos led the NFL in sacks with 52 last season, but the New York Giants proved during their Super Bowl runs that you can never have too many pass-rushers. For that reason, Denver will likely give free-agent defensive end Dwight Freeney (6'1", 268 pounds) a look.
At defensive end, the Broncos have a star in Elvis Dumervil and two younger ends in Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers who are both more effective against he run. Last season as a rookie, Wolfe earned a -24.5 pass rush rating and a +10.3 grade against the run from ProFootballFocus.com.
Meanwhile, Ayers has been rotated in and out as an end/tackle hybrid (similarly to Wolfe) in Denver's 4-3 defense. Adding Freeney to the mix as a situational pass-rush specialist would give opposing quarterbacks nightmares.
With Von Miller, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, and Dumervil, the Broncos sack leader in 2009, the Broncos have one of the top pass-rushing duos in the NFL. Bringing in Freeney would make them even more potent against the pass.
DB Ed Reed (Experienced Starter)
Apart from his playoff gaffe, the Broncos have a solid young starter in Rahim Moore, but veteran Mike Adams (who is about to turn 32) can afford to be upgraded. That is where the Baltimore Raven's Ed Reed may come into play.
If Reed does not re-sign with Baltimore (which may be the most likely scenario), the Broncos would be wise to pounce at the first chance to bring him in. Reed, who has a Hall of Fame resume, would provide veteran leadership for Denver's younger safeties
A ball-hawking defensive back, he would instantly provide an upgrade to almost every secondary in the NFL. If the price is right, Denver should look into Reed during free agency.
DB Charles Woodson (Experienced Starter)
If the team is unable to sign Reed, another option (and perhaps better option) is free-agent defensive back Charles Woodson, who was released by the Green Bay Packers last week. Woodson (6'1", 202 pounds) will want to land with a contender, and the Broncos fit the bill.
Denver went 13-3 in the regular season in 2012, and quarterback Peyton Manning has them poised to be competitors in the AFC for at least a few more seasons. For the Broncos, safety is not necessarily a "position of need," but upgrading across the board where possible would prove to be beneficial in their bid for a Super Bowl run.
Woodson, like Reed, is a ball-hawking safety that is a former Defensive Player of the Year and would provide great leadership in Denver's secondary. While in Denver, Woodson could also give cornerback Champ Bailey pointers on the possibility of switching from corner to safety down the road, as Woodson successfully did in Green Bay.
Woodson, who won a Super Bowl in Green Bay, would be a perfect fit in Denver's secondary. The Broncos should at least consider giving him a tryout this spring.