The Broncos had the best receiving core in the NFL this past season. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker each had 10-plus touchdowns in 2013 in aiding Peyton Manning to establish an NFL single-season record 55 touchdown passes.
Having said that, Decker will be a free agent this offseason, and according to Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated, the veteran receiver will test the market.
Receivers Andre Caldwell and Trindon Holliday will also be free agents.
Considering Decker's production in 2013 (1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns), the Broncos may find it hard to retain the services of their No. 2 receiver. As Burke mentioned in the aforementioned article:
Both Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas will be entering contract years in 2014, which means that the Broncos will have to set aside some money to ensure neither player reaches free agency. Locking down Decker at a massive cost would make it far more difficult to keep the Thomases in tow.
Another option for Denver: using the franchise tag on Decker. That, too, would be a large financial commitment. The receiver tag came in at approximately $10.5 million this season.
In terms of prioritizing, Decker would be at the bottom of the list as Demaryius and Julius would stand as larger priorities for the Broncos to re-sign next offseason.
If Decker were to walk, Welker could take the role of No. 2 receiver alongside Demaryius, while the Broncos find a way to utilize Julius, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen or another receiver in the slot more often.
Expect the Broncos to re-sign Holliday and allow Caldwell to walk. If they have to, the Broncos can replace Decker and Caldwell by targeting these free agents and draft prospects:
Free Agents: Anquan Boldin, Hakeem Nicks
Anquan Boldin: Over the last several years of his career, Boldin has become the quintessential No. 2 receiver in an NFL offense.
Boldin was a large reason why the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII and why the San Francisco 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship game this season.
Boldin caught 85 passes for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013 while earning a base salary of $6 million.
As unlikely as it seems right now, it is possible for Boldin to leave San Francisco in order to play with Peyton Manning and get another opportunity to win a Super Bowl. Although he had a great season in 2013, he will be 34 years old and teams won't be knocking down his door to give him a huge contract.
Similar to the Wes Welker situation of 2013, if Boldin feels disrespected by the Niners' contract proposal, he could join forces with the orange and blue in 2014.
Hakeem Nicks: A very appealing option for the Broncos would be signing Nicks to replace Decker as the No. 2 receiver.
Nicks has carved out a career with the New York Giants as a No. 2 receiver complementing Victor Cruz. The Giants receiver has two 1,000-yard seasons to go along with one year where he had 11 touchdowns.
In Nicks' contract year, he had a disappointing season. He produced zero touchdown catches in 15 games played. In spite of this, Nicks is just 26 years old and would come at a modest price for the Broncos.
Draft: Donte Moncrief
The Ole Miss receiver possesses the size of Decker and Demaryius at 6'2" and 226 pounds. Despite ranking third in school history in catches, yards and touchdowns, Moncrief is projected to be picked in the third or fourth round.
Moncrief has a thick frame with good route-running ability who is excellent in his breaks. His weakness? He lacks elite speed. That is the one big difference between a player like Moncrief and Decker.
Either way, the Broncos will need to prepare themselves for the future at the receiver position. The Broncos aren't going to be able to retain both Thomases and Decker down the road. It's just not possible with the salary cap.
Moncrief has the size to replace either receiver in the offense. With a middle-round selection, it would be at a low-risk cost.