Getting to the Super Bowl is one of the best feelings in the world for NFL players.
On the completely other end of the spectrum, losing the big game—especially by a 35-point difference—is not only demoralizing but almost a worse feeling than not even making the playoffs.
That is what the Denver Broncos are going through after getting curb-stomped by the Seattle Seahawks by a final of 43-8, the third-largest point differential in Super Bowl history, according to ESPN Stats and Info:
But like other Broncos teams of the past that suffered huge losses, Denver now has to pick up the pieces and look forward to the 2014 regular season and hopefully 2015 playoff run that is certain to take place.
Before the draft process, minicamps and offseason workouts begin, here is what the Broncos need to do to reach the Super Bowl yet again next February.
Denver's defense this season finished 19th in yards and 22nd in points scored per game. Not exactly great numbers to balance out the No. 1 offense in the NFL.
If the Seahawks have proven anything, it's that a great defense can be formed through the draft. According to both Matt Miller of Bleacher Report and Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Denver will go with a defensive player in the first round, though they disagree on the actual prospect.
Though Von Miller will be back from his season-ending injury, going young in the draft will not only help the Broncos this year but in the future. Trent Murphy out of Stanford was the suggested pick in the first round by Miller, which would fit in perfectly with the Broncos' needs on defense.
In the past, the Broncos have relied on bringing in players like Welker and even Manning in free agency, but drafting players can build a foundation for future championships.
Find Gems in Free Agency
There are quite a few of the best players from the 2013 season who will be available on the market this offseason. But don't expect the Broncos to sign a player like Greg Hardy or Jairus Byrd to help defensively.
Without a lot of money to go out and spend on free agents, bringing in a player like Captain Munnerlyn or Vontae Davis could be an actual possibility.
And it also appears Denver could lose Eric Decker to free agency, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
With Nicks on the market along with Jeremy Maclin and Anquan Boldin, the Broncos could look for a short-term replacement while drafting another receiver in the middle rounds.
Regardless of which players they ultimately try to draw in from the market, getting the job done on the free-agent market will be crucial to their success in 2014.
Re-Sign Knowshon Moreno or Eric Decker
It appears Manning will be coming back in 2014. Though nothing has become official yet and his return is pending a neck exam, Manning likely won't be riding off into the sunset with the 2014 Super Bowl being his final game.
According to Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today, Manning sounded confident in his abilities prior to the final game of the year:
I feel better physically. I've been rejuvenated playing under a different offense, playing with new receivers, because it keeps me stimulated every day. So I certainly would like to keep playing.
So with the 38-year-old quarterback—when the 2014 season starts, anyway—back in a Broncos uniform, he will need his offensive weapons back as well.
While Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker are still under contract through next season, the attention will be fully on whether or not Denver plans to sign running back Knowshon Moreno or Decker.
The two playmakers will come at a high cost on the market, though, after both had exceptional seasons. Both finished with over 10 touchdowns, Moreno proved he was both a good running threat and pass-blocker, and Decker was the second-best receiver behind Demaryius Thomas.
With a good receiving corps outside of Decker and Montee Ball on the roster to replace Moreno, the Broncos could move on without one of the two. But without both for next season, 24 total touchdowns would be lost in free agency.
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