Denver Broncos: Grading the Team's Offseason Moves Thus Far
Following an incredibly disappointing end to what was an otherwise great season, the Denver Broncos have been an active participant in the free-agent market, looking to acquire the pieces that will bring them a championship.
Not every decision they have made has been great, as you will soon read. But there is no question that the Broncos are one of the favorites to win it all in 2013.
From coaching moves to players leaving to new Broncos coming in, here is a look at the team's offseason moves to this point, complete with a letter grade for each.
Promotion of Adam Gase to Offensive Coordinator
Former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was one of the hottest commodities in the offseason and it was no surprise when he was given a chance to be a head coach when San Diego hired (ESPN) him on January 15.
Denver didn't wait long to name his successor, doing so from within when they promoted Adam Gase from quarterbacks coach into the position.
He has been with the Broncos since 2009 where he began as a wide receivers coach, moving up to the quarterbacks coach where he became very familiar with Peyton Manning in his first year with the team.
Gase seems ready to install an even faster offense next year with the Broncos, according to the Denver Post.
Denver could have given the position to a more high profile candidate such as Ken Whisenhunt or Manning's old coordinator, Tom Moore. Instead, it showed confidence in the soon-to-be 35-year-old Gase.
If the score is tied in a playoff game with 30 seconds to play, you'll probably never see Manning take a knee in that type of situation again.
Ryan Clady Gets Tagged
This was a move the team absolutely had to make.
With Clady becoming one of the game's premier left tackles, Denver will pay him just north of $9 million next season after placing their exclusive-rights franchise tag on him.
This allows the Broncos to do two things. For one, it assures them that Clady will be in Denver for at least next season. Secondly, they will be able to see if he can maintain the form that has made him an All-Pro after returning from offseason shoulder surgery.
Denver will have to re-negotiate a long-term contract with Clady before next season and how he responds to that injury will likely have a lot to do with it.
Clady had an excellent 2012 campaign, allowing just one sack. It would have been a very poor choice to let him test free-agent waters and Denver was wise not to.
Aside from Clady, Denver didn't have any marquee names to keep off the free-agent market. Instead, it has had to decide whether to keep certain role players in the mix.
Bruton doesn't see a whole lot of time in the defensive secondary, but he has become one of the best special teams players in the league. The Broncos signed Bruton to a new three-year deal, keeping their special teams ace.
Denver had some big decisions to make at the defensive tackle position, and it likely has more to come. Going into the offseason, it was well known that both Vickerson and Justin Bannan were both free agents and at least one of them likely would not be back.
Vickerson had 40 tackles and two sacks last season, and if he can be the force in the middle that Denver needs as a run-stopper and a guy who can collapse the pocket, it makes its pass-rush almost impossible to stop.
Colquitt has become a solid punter for the Broncos and they decided to re-sign him rather than look for a new one. Colquitt was third in the NFL last season with a 42.1 yard net average on punts.
Overall Grade: B+
The Broncos have re-signed some key members of the team, but there are still a few guys they need to think about bringing back, such as center Dan Koppen and wide receiver Brandon Stokley.
The Broncos haven't officially released many players this year, but one that they have let go was a notable one.
Despite linebacker being a position of need, the team still chose to part ways with veteran linebacker D.J. Williams, whose fate was sealed by the play of Wesley Woodyard last season during Williams' absence for nine games due to a league-mandated suspension.
Williams leaves as the eighth-leading tackler in team history with 628.
Hanie was quietly released along with Williams after serving as the team's third-string quarterback last season.
Hanie was brought in after the signing of Manning on the off chance that Manning wouldn't be able to perform after sitting out the entire 2011 season. That obviously didn't happen.
Hanie ended up losing the backup position to rookie Brock Osweiler and became expendable at that point.
Overall Grade: A
Some may argue with releasing Williams, but his time in Denver was up. Yes, the Broncos may have been able to slide him over to the middle linebacker position, but it was the right decision to let him go.
Although it's not expected, Chris Kuper could be a candidate to be let go before next season starts.
The Broncos made one of the biggest splashes in free agency so far after landing Wes Welker, signing him to a two-year, $12 million contract.
Not only did the Broncos bring in one of the best slot receivers the league has ever seen, they did it at the expense of the New England Patriots.
Welker has topped 100 receptions in a season five times over the course of his career, and he will be a major headache for opposing defenses next year.
The addition of Knighton was an excellent decision, and for the money, there probably wasn't a better one.
Knighton has played in Jacksonville his entire career, originally drafted by the regime once led by current Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
This bodes well for Knighton, who is a great run defender who has the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. Del Rio will be able to motivate him and get the most out of him.
If you watched the divisional playoff game against Baltimore, it should come as no surprise that Denver wanted to add a big name defensive back.
Rodgers-Cromartie had 13 interceptions in his first three seasons in the league with Arizona. But after moving on to Philadelphia, he was a bit of a disappointment.
Rodgers-Cromartie had three interceptions in two years with the Eagles where he spent time as a nickelback while Nnamdi Asomougha and Asante Samuel were the starters.
He will likely battle with Chris Harris for the starting cornerback spot opposite Champ Bailey, but if he is to take that position from Harris, he better be a lot more like the player he was in Arizona than the one he was in Philadelphia.
If the Broncos had a weakness on the offensive line last year, it was the guard position normally manned by Kuper. But Kuper missed more than half the season last year with injuries, forcing the team to turn to Manny Ramirez.
In his first four years in the league, Vasquez has started 54 games. His signing may indicate that the team doesn't feel Kuper will be able to overcome his injury history.
A six-year veteran, Bradley comes in to add depth to the linebacking corps.
A former third-round pick by Philadelphia, Bradley was most recently released by Arizona. He has three sacks and three interceptions in his career and will look to push any one of the starters for playing time, but he is a backup at best.
Overall Grade: A-
It's hard to argue with what the Broncos have done in free agency. They have obtained one of the best free-agent classes in the league with the signing of Welker putting it over the top.
Elvis Dumervil Drama
If there is one area the Broncos have clearly failed in this offseason, it's with this situation.
After asking Dumervil to take a pay cut from the $12 million he was scheduled to make this year, Denver has now gone to not even having him on the team. Gone are the 63.5 sacks Dumervil has piled up in his now six-year career.
The Broncos would like to bring Dumervil back at a reduced rate, but that may be wishful thinking at this point.
A report from NFL.com has just surfaced that Dumervil has been offered a contract by the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
If the Broncos lose out on their bid to bring Dumervil back, look for them to almost certainly sign Dwight Freeney or John Abraham.
Despite the Dumervil blunder, the Broncos have still had a very productive offseason.
The signings of Welker, Knighton and Vasquez were all very well thought out, calculated moves that make the Broncos a better team than when the season ended. At the end of the day, that is what you want to do.
Dumervil may not be back, but the team could still get a guy like Freeney or Abraham for a fraction of the price.
Final Grade: A-