Denver Broncos: Most Underrated and Overrated Offseason Additions
The Denver Broncos had an eventful offseason.
They signed the best slot receiver in the NFL in Wes Welker. They signed the top guard on the free-agent market in Louis Vasquez. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was brought in to improve a defensive backfield that had the top cornerback duo in all of the NFL last year.
And that was just free agency.
The Broncos filled in key holes at defensive tackle, defensive end and running back by drafting such players as Sylvester Williams, Quanterus Smith and Montee Ball.
Denver was a 13-3 team last year that finished short of its Super Bowl goal in 2012.
Entering 2013, it is one of the top favorites of bringing the Lombardi Trophy home. Which of these offseason additions will likely have an impact, as opposed to the ones that won't?
Underrated: Montee Ball
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For as much attention as Ball is getting right now, there wasn't much fanfare when he was drafted in the second round of this year's draft by the Denver Broncos.
If anything, the talk was, "Why did the Broncos draft him so high?"
Ball is an underrated addition and here's why—he could be Denver's star running back for the next five years.
Ronnie Hillman is not that go-to guy—he's a change-of-pace back.
Knowshon Moreno is an occasional starter and solid depth at best, considering his skill set.
The Broncos released starting running back Willis McGahee last month, further lending credibility to the notion that Ball will be Denver's starting running back come September.
After the season is over, the question might not be, "Why did the Broncos draft him so high?" Rather, the question might be, "Why was he drafted so low?"
Overrated: Stewart Bradley
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Linebacker Stewart Bradley was never a signing that received much attention—in fact, it was only a footnote to the signings that the Broncos made at the onset of free agency, which included big names such as Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Bradley was brought in to bring competition to the open middle linebacker spot. Former starter Joe Mays and young players such as Nate Irving or Steven Johnson will also compete with Bradley for the vacant starting position.
This is an overrated signing because it is unlikely Bradley wins the starting position—the last time he was a starter was three years ago in Philadelphia, before signing with the Arizona Cardinals in 2011.
The former University of Nebraska product looks to be a camp body or, at best, used for depth purposes in case of an injury to a starter.
Look for either Irving or Johnson to win the starting middle linebacker job, with Mays likely being released and Bradley being a likely casualty also.
Underrated: Louis Vasquez
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Louis Vasquez was one of Denver's top two signings.
Because Vasquez is an offensive lineman, the Broncos' first free-agent signing of the free-agency period received little attention from the press—especially after the signing of Wes Welker.
"He's going to be a great addition for us in the offensive line, especially when you look at the health of our offensive line. Louis was a priority for us."
The former Charger has been flagged for just four penalties in his four-year career—and none since the 2010 season.
With J.D. Walton possibly out for the season, and Chris Kuper struggling to find a role with the Broncos, via Bill Williamson of ESPN.com, Vasquez's versatility of playing at guard and center will help the Broncos in 2013.
Overrated: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is young.
At just 27 years of age and having been named to a Pro Bowl in just his second year in the league, Cromartie still has a chance to find a stable residence.
After struggling over the past couple of years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cromartie gets a chance to redeem himself in the Mile High City.
Cromartie had this to say about his struggles in Philadelphia. Via Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post:
"And when you go somewhere and don't live up to the expectations, you're just looking for another opportunity like this," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I had those two seasons, where you're just trying to figure out what went wrong and work on that, you know?
Although Rodgers-Cromartie has been lining up opposite of starting cornerback Champ Bailey in organized team activities, the cornerback who started opposite of Bailey in 2012, Chris Harris, ranked as one of the league's top corners despite facing one of the most difficult tasks as a corner playing opposite of Bailey.
It remains to be seen who wins the battle of starting opposite of Bailey. But if Chris Harris shows early on in training camp what made him one of the league's best corners in 2012, it's hard to argue that Cromartie wasn't a bit of a disappointing signing—even if he becomes Denver's nickel cornerback as a low-cost signing.
Underrated: Quanterus Smith
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Montee Ball was an underrated draft selection, but the Denver Broncos may get the most value out of their fifth-round draft selection, defensive end Quanterus Smith.
The Broncos drafted the Western Kentucky product with the hope that he could replace some of the production of the departed Elvis Dumervil.
The Broncos signed sack specialist Shaun Phillips, along with drafting Smith over draft weekend in April. Both players are expected to fill the void at right defensive end.
Smith was the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision sack leader when he suffered a serious ACL injury in November, which was repaired through surgery quickly after the injury occurred.
Smith returned to the practice field in June, just six-and-a-half months months after the injury initially happened.
Smith may turn out to be just as productive as another late-round Broncos draft selection—none other than the man he's replacing, Dumervil.