Free agency buzz is in the air as we are in the middle of the annual NFL combine and teams are arranging their “wish lists” of available free agents for their upcoming seasons. The Denver Broncos are no different.
The teams’ decision makers are mixing it up in New Orleans, scouting the league’s future talent pool and talking trades, deals and all things personnel.
Former first-round draft pick and underperforming running back Knowshon Moreno carries a $3.28 million hit against the salary cap, and sources say that the Broncos are mulling the prospect of releasing him.
Moreno underwent another knee surgery after the end of the 2012 season and has failed to play an entire season without injury during his time in Denver.
This most recent season, Moreno started on the bench behind 31-year-old Willis McGahee, but bypassed rookie Ronnie Hillman when McGahee was injured. Moreno finished the season with 528 yards, and just four touchdowns.
McGahee has two seasons left on his contract and has already surpassed expectations. In his 25 games in Denver, he has rushed for 1,930 yards, amassed 8 touchdowns and averages 4.6 yards per carry.
McGahee’s season-ending injury this year has raised new concerns about how much the star has left in the tank, putting his future as the Broncos’ featured back up in the air.
The Broncos’ other option is the early draft pick from 2012, Ronnie Hillman, who thus far has looked undersized and a step too slow to produce the game-breaking plays Denver wants to see out of him.
Hillman fell down the depth chart after the McGahee injury and hasn’t shown that he can be a consistent back in the NFL.
Logically, the Broncos should be interested in a free agent tailback who has produced back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons right?
The Broncos should steer clear from Shonn Greene—who has had two full seasons with over 250 carries in each to produce those 1,000-plus yard seasons—and in 2012 Greene averaged just 3.9 yards to get there.
He is a bruising back who was effective in the Jets’ ground-and-pound game, however, he has yet to really have a breakout season in his four years in the league.
Greene could be used as a backup or fill-in like Moreno did last year, but he won’t be carrying any loads.
Two years with lots of carries makes him susceptible to injury in 2013. His production will likely continue to taper off in 2013 as well.
Denver should focus their efforts in the NFL Draft to find a larger back like head coach John Fox has been known for in his Carolina days—someone with a build like DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart.
That approach will likely be less costly and have greater return than gambling on a back in free agency.