10 Contracts Denver Broncos Must Re-Evaluate This Offseason
The Denver Broncos have just concluded a 13-3 regular season that allowed them to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Their focus right now is on who they will face in the divisional round of the playoffs. However, it's not too early to start looking toward next season.
The Broncos will have several critical decisions to make related to the future of the team.
Whether it be re-signing a player, extending a contract or letting go of a player, there are many tough choices facing the organization.
Here, we will examine some of the contract decisions that the team must make to remain an AFC powerhouse in 2014 and beyond.
Re-Sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
After getting torched by the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoffs a year ago, the Broncos knew they needed some help in the secondary.
They took a bit of a chance on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, signing him to a one-year contract this offseason. They signed him despite him not having his best years as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rodgers-Cromartie has been the best player in the Denver secondary this season, coming up with three interceptions, one of which he returned 75 yards for a score. He's also been in on 15 pass breakups.
The secondary is still going to need all the help it can get going into next year, which makes the decision to bring Rodgers-Cromartie back an easy one.
Re-Sign Zane Beadles
The Broncos have several players who are scheduled to be free agents in 2014, and they won't be able to re-sign them all. Zane Beadles needs to be one of the guys they do bring back.
If there is one thing Denver needs, it is consistency on the offensive line. Injuries to the center position and left tackle Ryan Clady have forced the team to use backups most of the season.
Beadles has turned into one of the better guards in the NFL and was selected to the 2013 Pro Bowl. The Broncos should have him high on their priority list.
Re-Sign Shaun Phillips
After nine productive seasons in San Diego, it seemed Shaun Phillips had nowhere to go.
Denver decided to bring him in long after the free-agent signing period began, and it has turned out to be one of the best offseason moves by any team this season.
Phillips has played a significant role on defense while the team has missed Von Miller for a good chunk of the season.
With 10 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception, Phillips has put together a solid campaign. He has also been one of the team's most consistent pass-rushers.
Though he will turn 33 years old next year, Phillips is someone who gives the defense much needed depth.
Release Omar Bolden
Omar Bolden is under contract through the 2015 season, but there should be no reason he sticks around in Denver that long.
He does offer something as a kick return specialist, but the team could do much better as far as help in the secondary goes.
Bolden has a total of 27 tackles in his first two seasons in the league. The Broncos would take close to a $600,000 cap hit if they were to release him, but it's time to move on.
Extend Wes Welker
Wes Welker missed the final three games of the regular season, his first with Denver, but he is a very valuable part of the offense.
Welker has caught 73 passes and has 10 touchdowns on the year, but most importantly, he makes the offense so much more dynamic. Opposing defenses have a lot to think about when Denver is at full strength, and Welker is as touch a matchup as there is in the league.
The Broncos will have to consider his concussion history, and waiting until the end of next season to see where they stand with Welker certainly makes sense.
But keeping him in a Broncos uniform makes sense as well. Giving him another two or three years on his contract would almost ensure he retires in Denver.
Re-Sign Wesley Woodyard
This one could be tricky, because Wesley Woodyard will certainly command more than his recent two-year, $5 million contract.
While Woodyard hasn't been as good this season as he was in 2012, he is still a solid member of the defense. It was Woodyard who helped convince the organization to let long-time middle linebacker D.J. Williams go.
Along with Von Miller, Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving, the Broncos have developed a solid corps at the linebacker position. Woodyard is a big part of that group and should be kept in the fold.
Extend Julius Thomas
After a disappointing start to his NFL career, Julius Thomas had a breakout season in 2013.
Not since Shannon Sharpe have the Broncos had a tight end with the ability to give trouble to defenses the way Thomas does. On the year, he had 65 receptions and 12 touchdowns.
Aside from that, the team's other tight ends, Jacob Tamme, Virgil Green and Joel Dreessen, are all free agents at the end of next season.
The Broncos should lock Thomas up with a long-term contract now, rewarding him for an excellent 2013 season.
Release Chris Kuper
A contract worth $4.66 million is a lot to be paying a backup offensive lineman with injury concerns. That is an average of what the Broncos are giving Chris Kuper per year.
Kuper has played in just seven games in the last two seasons and just isn't worth the hefty 6-year contract he was given.
If Denver were to cut ties with Kuper now, it would only be at a $2 million cap hit, as opposed to around $6 million at the end of 2014 and even more than that at the end of 2015.
Sure, Kuper would be a good option to turn to if Denver had a guy like Zane Beadles or Louis Vasquez go down, but his current deal needs to be re-worked or he needs to be released.
Extend Terrance Knighton
At just 27 years old, Terrance Knighton could be a key piece of the Denver defense for years to come. After leaving Jacksonville, Knighton signed a two-year contract to come to Denver, and he has performed quite well.
In addition to being a solid defender against the run, Knighton has racked up three sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.
The team could pair him with rookie Sylvester Williams to form a solid interior to their defensive line for the long term.
Re-Sign Knowshon Moreno
If we were ranking these contractual decisions, this would easily come in at No. 1.
After being written off as an injury-prone draft bust by many Denver fans, Knowshon Moreno responded with a terrific 2013 season. He has really been the unsung hero of the team this year.
Moreno ran for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. On top of that, he also caught 60 passes for 548 yards and three more scores. An argument could easily be made that he should have been selected to the Pro Bowl as well.
The five-year, $17 million contract Moreno signed as a rookie is up at season's end, making him an unrestricted free agent.
While Denver has used high draft picks on players such as Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball in recent years, the key to their running game is Moreno.
Hopefully, the Denver organization recognizes that and rewards him handsomely this offseason.