Football fans, you are finally one week away from the start of free agency. A time when just enough action happens in the NFL to get folks through until camps start.
With several notable players receiving the franchise tag from their respective teams, it is now time to focus on those players who are actually going to be available during the free-agency period.
In 2012, John Elway and the Denver Broncos' free-agent acquisitions were extremely productive and provided a valuable contribution to their 11-game winning streak. This season could be a bit different as there are fewer holes to fill and not as many quality candidates at each desired position.
Here is a blueprint to the entire Broncos free-agency situation as we sit a week out from the market officially being open.
All salary cap information is courtesy of www.Spotrac.com.
The 2013 NFL salary cap has been set at $123 million per team in the league.
After placing a franchise tag on Ryan Clady last week worth $9.8 million, the Broncos currently have an active contract total of nearly $129.4 million. Denver is still, however, under the cap due to a $14.1 million rollover from the 2012 season.
Even though Clady has yet to sign his one-year tender, chances are he eventually will, bringing the Broncos usable cap space to roughly $7.8 million for the free-agency period.
Denver could still possibly release a few players and restructure other's current contracts, freeing up more cash to bring in some talent during this free-agency period. Depending on how all of that plays out, the Broncos could potentially have closer to the $12 to $15 million range in cap space available this offseason.
In 2013, the Broncos have a pretty decent amount of free agents who are both unrestricted and restricted.
A restricted free agent (RFA) is one who has completed three accrued seasons in the NFL and has received a qualifying offer (negotiated in the NFL collective bargaining agreement) from his old team. He is free to negotiate with other teams during the free-agency period. If this RFA accepts an offer from a new team, his old team can match the offer and retain the player, or not match and possibly receive draft-pick compensation in return.
This season the Broncos RFAs are RB Lance Ball, OL Chris Clark, P Britton Colquitt and FB Chris Gronkowski.
An unrestricted free agent (UFA) is free to sign with any team in the NFL, without their previous team owing any type of compensation. A player becomes a free agent by either being cut or if their contract expires. Players have to have at least four years of service in the league to be a UFA.
Beginning March 12, Denver has 12 total unrestricted free agents, including Ryan Clady who has already been given a franchise tag.
It is still unclear what the Broncos will decide to do with all of the guys that will hit the free-agent market next week, but we can always speculate.
Look for Denver to release both CB Tracy Porter and DT Ty Warren, who both suffered injuries and did not contribute much in 2012. Center Dan Koppen was a solid replacement at center and should be retained to once again protect quarterback Peyton Manning.
Both starting defensive tackles, Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson, should find themselves on the Broncos roster next year, as they both had great performances last season and provide solid depth to the defensive line.
As stated earlier in this article, the Broncos placed a franchise tag on All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady last week, giving Peyton Manning's blindside protector a hefty pay raise in 2013.
Clady will receive a salary of $9.8 million, which is almost triple the $3.5 million he received in 2012. Last season Clady allowed just one sack out of the 1,100 snaps taken by Manning during his incredible bounce-back season.
All Denver has to do is get him to sign that one-year tender.
Clady may decide to hold out until the start of training camp but should eventually agree to terms with the Broncos. He does not have a whole lot of leverage, as he will miss most of the summer's activities including mini camp and OTAs rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
After a highly successful 2012 season, the Broncos only have a few legitimate needs to address this offseason in order to be a Super Bowl contender in 2013.
Roster depth is always a plus and free agency is a great way to achieve that as well.
On the offensive side of the ball, Denver could use some help and depth on the line. With the injury to guard Chris Kuper, adding some big guys up front would certainly benefit this Bronco team in 2013.
Running back is perhaps the one position that is the most undetermined at this point. It is still unclear what the Broncos will do with both Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno moving forward. Whether it is through free agency or the draft, Denver will look to add more depth to the backfield or potentially bring in a No. 1 back for 2013.
Denver will also look to add some depth at slot receiver. They will probably re-sign Brandon Stokley and look for another guy to utilize in that role as well.
Defensively, the Broncos will most likely look to acquire some assistance at tackle this offseason. Denver's secondary also needs some improvement at both the cornerback and safety positions.
I do not suspect they will address all of these needs during the free-agency period. However, these are the positions Denver will most likely look to upgrade this offseason.
The Broncos will most likely stick with their two current big receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker next season, without looking to add any other big names to the position. Both Thomas and Decker have grown as receivers and complement each other and Peyton Manning well.
Free-agent slot receiver Brandon Stokley has already expressed interest in returning to the Broncos for the 2013 season. Stokley had a solid year in 2012 but will be 37 in June, so Denver will probably look to find a guy to supplement him in the slot.
A couple of guys the Broncos should focus on in free agency are Austin Collie and Wes Welker.
Collie's concussion issues are no secret, and he also missed most of last season with a torn patellar tendon. However, his prior production as a target of Peyton Manning is undeniable. In their two years together with the Indianapolis Colts, Manning and Collie combined for 1,325 yards and 15 touchdowns. He could be a great complement to Stokley in the slot for 2013.
Welker is pricey but could be phenomenal paired with Peyton Manning in this Denver offense. It is unclear whether the New England Patriots will give Welker the money he wants or decide to replace him with a cheaper option.
With a crowded Denver backfield it's anyone's guess what the Broncos will decide to do in free agency.
It is unlikely that the Broncos will go after and pay a No. 1 running back during free agency. There are some interesting options who can contribute in a running back-by-committee situation in Denver next season. (Sorry fantasy football owners.)
Chris Ivory is a guy who is not getting the sort of media attention that some of the other available backs are this season. At 222 pounds and only 24 years old, Ivory has the potential to make big plays and upgrade the Broncos backfield in 2013. He is, however, a restricted free agent.
The New Orleans Saints are extremely tight under the cap and have some big decisions to make regarding what tender they decide to offer Ivory. That will determine whether the Broncos or another team will attempt to sign him.
Defensively, the Broncos have a few positions that are in need of strengthening for the 2013 season.
After the franchise tags were handed out last week, several of the true game-changers on the defensive side of the ball are no longer on the free-agent market. However, there are still some guys available who could fit well into the Broncos defense and be solid role players.
Glenn Dorsey is a player who has potentially been in the wrong system in Kansas City and could flourish in Jack Del Rio's 4-3 defense for Denver. Dorsey knows the Broncos, and the Broncos know him.
Charles Woodson is an intriguing option, especially with Denver's "win now" mentality. Woodson successfully made the transition from cornerback to safety and would provide an instant upgrade to Denver's current secondary. The veteran leadership of Woodson and Champ Bailey, coupled with the young talent of Chris Harris and Rahim Moore would be a solid combination for Denver's defense.
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton would also be a great addition to Denver's defense in 2013. Having ties to Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville, Knighton's aggressive play style jives well with this Bronco defense. He is a solid run-stopper and is also good at clogging up the middle.
The Broncos will probably not make too many waves on special teams in free agency this offseason.
They may look to add a few role players and re-sign wide receiver and special teams guy Matthew Willis, who is an unrestricted free agent.
They do, however, have to deal with restricted free-agent punter Britton Colquitt. Colquitt had a monster 2012 season, due in part to the high number of punts he was required to do with quarterback Tim Tebow behind center.
He is a valuable member of the Broncos kicking team, and Denver will most likely place a second-round tender on Colquitt, which earns him $2.023 million in 2013. Other teams can attempt to snatch him away from the Broncos but would have to offer him potentially more cash and give Denver a second-round draft pick in the process.