The 5 Moves the Denver Broncos Must Avoid in Free Agency
John Elway and the Broncos orchestrated a very successful free-agent period last March with the crown jewel being the acquisition of veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning led Denver to a 13-3 season with the No. 1 seed in the AFC heading into the playoffs.
Both sides of the ball showed vast improvement from the previous season and it appeared the Broncos were on a path to the Super Bowl in New Orleans. However, Denver picked a really bad time to collectively have a bad game.
With the NFL combine in the books, it is now time to officially look to build the Broncos roster by filling in some holes and deficiencies from last year's squad. Elway has shown that he is smart when it comes to free agency and Bronco fans hope that trend continues in the 2013 season.
Here is a look at some potential moves the Broncos should avoid during the free-agent period, as they could negatively affect Denver moving forward.
Losing Ryan Clady
The Broncos have yet to officially place a franchise tag on star left tackle Ryan Clady. But they will.
At the present time, Clady is not willing to sign that tender, which comes with a salary of roughly $9.6 million for the 2013 season.
When asked about his signing plans on ESPN radio in Denver, Clady's response was "Not right now. I'd try to get done something by the summer, and if not, eventually, yes, I will sign. But as of right now? No."
Clady is seeking the same type of money that top-paid players at his position are currently making, and if he doesn't get it, could hold out until training camp according to the same article at ProFootballTalk.com.
The bad news for Clady is that he doesn't have a whole lot of leverage right now. He is currently rehabbing from shoulder surgery on his right rotator cuff that will put him on the sidelines for potentially the majority of this summer's activities including mini camp and OTA's.
Protecting 37-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning is one of the highest priorities the Broncos have as an organization for 2013. With Clady being one of the league's best at executing this protection, it is imperative that Denver does everything it can, within reason, to retain him.
Overpaying for a Wide Receiver
A large amount of Bronco fans are calling for Denver to bring in a big receiver during free agency for the 2013 season.
While I do not disagree that adding some depth at the receiver position is not out of the realm of possibility, using a decent chunk of their cap money on a wideout, should be.
The tandem of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker combined for 2,498 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns during the 2012 season. Brandon Stokley also had a solid season in the slot with 544 yards and five touchdowns.
The Bronco receiving corps as a whole finished out the season ranked sixth in the NFL and is only going to get better with age and experience catching the rock from their future Hall of Fame signal-caller. There is no need to bring in someone with a larger paycheck like Wes Welker or Mike Wallace when Denver's cap money could be utilized to fill more severe needs.
Keeping D.J. Williams in His Current Contract
D.J. Williams' current contract reads like the money of a starter without actually being one.
If Denver retains him at his current pay structure, he would cost the team $7.732 million in cap space which includes a $6 million base salary. It would be highly unlikely if D.J. Williams remains on the roster under his current deal for the 2013 season.
Wesley Woodyard enjoyed a tremendous 2012 season filling in for Williams, who spent the first nine games of the season suspended by the league. Woodyard led the Broncos defense in tackles with 117 on the season, making Williams' case to keep his contract a tough one.
Look for Denver to either restructure Williams' contract to coincide with his reduced role, or decide to release the linebacker, making room for other free-agent transactions.
Not Re-Signing Kevin Vickerson & Justin Bannan
The Broncos had a very successful 2012 when it came to free agents. Aside from the obvious success of Peyton Manning, the Broncos signed several other quality guys who contributed heavily to the season as well.
Gambling on players like Dan Koppen, Justin Bannan and Keith Brooking paid off on a big way in providing depth for Denver this past season. Signing all of them for a veteran minimum was a sound decision for Denver's front office and proved to be one of the keys to their success.
Denver will most likely address the need to improve the defensive tackle position either by signing a quality free agent or even drafting a young guy that can compete for that starting role on the line.
However, retaining both Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson at their current price tags is not only affordable for the Broncos, but a great investment in solid players who can provide the depth a playoff contending team needs.
Skipping on a Safety
Even though there are many safeties of interest in this year's NFL draft class, bringing in an explosive hard hitting, experienced guy through free agency would be an immediate upgrade to Denver's defense.
If Denver is serious about making a deep playoff run in 2013, it must improve at the safety position. It got killed on the deep ball in the playoffs and could continue to do so in 2013 if it does not address the glaring weakness at free safety this offseason.
With the amount of money Denver could potentially gain from a few releases and restructures, it would allow it the opportunity to pursue a top tier guy for its secondary. The list of free-agent safeties that have the possibility of being on the market in March is indeed a deep one.
To rely on Rahim Moore and Jim Leonhard to defend against quarterbacks like Tom Brady or even Joe Flacco next season would be a big mistake on Denver's part; potentially placing it on the golf course at the same time next season as well.