Denver Broncos Free Agency: Keep, Walk or Tag Options for Every Free Agent
The Denver Broncos are in the middle of a run for the Super Bowl, but the 2014 offseason will be full of tough decisions for the organization.
The team has 24 players on the current roster who are scheduled to become free agents. Nineteen of those players will be unrestricted free agents.
The Broncos won't be able to keep everyone, and there will be some casualties due to the salary cap.
So who should the team keep? Which players should they let go of? Here, we will take a look at each of these free agents and answer those questions.
Robert Ayers, Defensive End: Keep
Robert Ayers was thrust into a starting role this season following the departure of Elvis Dumervil.
Though he hasn't been as feared as a pass-rusher as some felt he would when the team drafted him in the first round, he has shown improvement this season. Ayers has 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble on the season.
Ayers could draw interest on the open market, but teams will likely go after Jared Allen, Michael Johnson, Greg Hardy and Justin Tuck if they are available long before Ayers.
The Broncos need to keep the defensive line intact, and though Ayers hasn't put up the type of numbers that Dumervil did, the team doesn't have enough depth at the defensive end position to allow him to get away.
Trindon Holliday, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner: Walk
An argument can be made that Trindon Holliday could be released before the end of this season. The fact is his ball security is too much of a concern.
Yes, Holliday offers electric abilities as a return man. But how much money should a team pay for a guy who only touches the ball a couple of times a game, especially when many kickoffs are just pounded through the end zone in today's NFL?
Unless the team can figure a way to make Holliday productive as a wide receiver, there's no reason to keep him around.
However, Holliday will be an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he won't have the right to negotiate with other teams. If Denver makes him an offer of any kind, it's one Holliday would likely accept.
Stewart Bradley, Linebacker: Walk
Denver brought Stewart Bradley in during the offseason to add depth to their linebacker corps, but he didn't even get through the preseason without injury.
Denver has gotten solid play this season out of Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving and there isn't much reason to keep the injury-prone Bradley going forward.
Andre Caldwell, Wide Receiver: Walk
In March 2012, Andre Caldwell signed a two-year contract with Denver following four fairly productive seasons in Cincinnati.
In those two seasons in Denver, Caldwell has caught just 17 passes and has never been a very big part of the offense. After this season, his contract runs out.
The Broncos should focus on a young player they can develop at the wide receiver position rather than hang onto Caldwell.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cornerback: Keep
This is an easy decision and one that should be of top priority this offseason.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been an excellent addition to the Denver secondary this season and has really been their most consistent cornerback.
Bringing him back is a must, especially when you consider that Champ Bailey's salary cap number next season is 10 million. If his deal can't be reworked, Bailey could definitely be released.
Rodgers-Cromartie has proved himself this season and the Broncos need to reward him for doing so.
Quentin Jammer, Defensive Back: Walk
After a long career in San Diego, Quentin Jammer came to the Broncos this offseason to add depth to the secondary as well as to mentor young players such as Rahim Moore and Kayvon Webster.
However, Jammer will turn 35 in June and probably won't be part of the team next season. He has played sparingly this year, collecting 14 tackles.
Mitch Unrein, Defensive Tackle: Keep
After his first three years in the NFL, Mitch Unrein will be a restricted free agent this offseason. In all likelihood, Unrein will want to stay in the Colorado area where he was born and raised.
He has progressed each year for the Broncos and he plays in a position where they need depth—defensive tackle.
Unrein is a capable backup for Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson or Sylvester Williams and Denver should bring him back into the fold.
Dan Koppen, Center: Walk
It was concerning to see Dan Koppen go down with a season-ending injury early on in training camp, especially after the team brought him back due to the fact that J.D. Walton hadn't recovered from his injury.
Since then, Walton has been released and Manny Ramirez has emerged as the starting center, doing a good job this year at that position.
Chris Clark, Left Tackle: Keep
This will be a very interesting player this offseason. Chris Clark has had to play since All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady went down with a season-ending injury in Week 2.
Clark has played very well in the role, doing a great job of protecting Peyton Manning's blind side. Because of his performance, a team in need of a quality tackle may make Clark an offer he can't refuse.
Denver should do what it can to keep him, but it may not be possible.
Duke Ihenacho, Safety: Keep
This is another easy decision, mainly due to the fact that Duke Ihenacho is an exclusive rights free agent.
With the uncertain future of Quinton Carter, Ihenacho could become a key player on defense in the years to come. He emerged during training camp this summer, going from a player on the roster bubble to the starting lineup.
Ihenacho needs to refine his skills, but the talent is there.
Zane Beadles, Guard: Keep
Zane Beadles has become a fine guard for the Broncos and it may be tough for them to keep him.
Beadles will be one of the best available options at the guard position in 2014 and there will be teams that come after him. The Broncos still have Chris Kuper, but they need to try to keep Beadles.
Continuity along the offensive line is always important.
Mike Adams, Safety: Keep
Mike Adams is a player the Broncos could probably get by without, but his veteran experience can be leaned upon as well.
This season, the Broncos have needed all the help they can get in the secondary, and unless that is addressed this offseason, Adams is a player that has value.
Chris Harris, Cornerback: Keep
Chris Harris will be a restricted free agent this offseason and it would be wise for Denver to hold onto him.
He seems like he is on the brink of a breakout season. He is a very good tackler in the open field and he has picked off six passes in the last two seasons.
If and when the Broncos and Champ Bailey part ways, the duo of Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would still be a good one.
Tony Carter, Cornerback: Walk
The Broncos will have to trim their roster in certain spots, and this is one of them.
Tony Carter had a pretty good season in 2012, making big plays with his limited opportunities. He hasn't done that this season and has struggled in coverage when he's been on the field.
Carter will be a restricted free agent this offseason.
Shaun Phillips, Linebacker/Defenside End: Keep
Shaun Phillips was brought in largely due to the six-game suspension that was imposed against Broncos' linebacker Von Miller. In the process, Phillips has turned in a very good season.
His return to the Broncos depends on a couple of factors. Do the Broncos need both he and Miller? And after a 10-sack season, how much money would Phillips want?
It would be nice if the Broncos can keep Phillips, but it has to be practical.
Wesley Woodyard, Linebacker: Keep
Wesley Woodyard will be one of the most interesting Broncos to watch this offseason when it comes to whether or not he returns to the team.
Woodyard has certainly regressed from the season he had in 2012, partly due to injuries. But he provides a solid leadership presence on defense that the team would be sorely lacking without him.
Let These Guys Walk
Winston Justice, Paris Lenon, Sione Fua, Brandon Marshall, Steve Vallos and Michael Huff were all signed during the season after injuries occurred to other key players. The Broncos just brought them in for depth.
All six players will be unrestricted free agents this offseason and none of them have much of a future in Denver.
Eric Decker, Wide Receiver: Tag
Over the course of the last two seasons, Denver wide receiver Eric Decker has caught 172 passes and 24 touchdowns.
But how much of that has to do with Decker and how much is a result of the guy throwing him the ball, Peyton Manning?
Decker will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent this offseason and he could be the biggest name at the wide receiver position when he does. Because of that, Denver has a tough choice to make.
Placing the franchise tag on Decker may be the only way they can keep him in Denver in 2014, so it is a good possibility. It may be the toughest decision of the offseason.
Knowshon Moreno, Running Back: Keep
Knowshon Moreno sure played like a guy in a contract year, right?
Moreno had an excellent season for Denver—his best by far. When the Broncos drafted Montee Ball in the second round of the draft, it seemed to light a fire under Moreno.
Moreno will be an unrestricted free agent following the season and after putting up over 1,000 yards rushing, over 500 yards receiving and 13 combined touchdowns, he could be a hot commodity.
Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden could both be available on the open market, but Moreno will draw attention, making it tough for the Broncos to keep him.