Defense, defense and more defense could be the mantra of the Denver Broncos this offseason. Looking over this roster, many holes can be seen on the defensive side of the ball that need to be cleaned up before next season.
ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold also shares that sentiment: "With so many needs on defense, any significant dollars spent in free agency will address issues there. The coming draft class is expected to have a heavy defensive flavor as well."
John Elway spoke a lot about the team’s defensive needs at the combine podium. When asked about where his team needed to improve, he had this to say:
“I think that when you look at the numbers, offensively, you’re going to say we don’t have to get much better because you can’t put up better numbers than what we did offensively. Defensively, there were a lot of injuries over there, but we didn’t play as consistent as we had the year before. I think when you look at the Super Bowl and look at the way we played, I think there is a mentality there that we want to create that when we get down like that in a situation, we have to be able to get it turned around. We weren’t able to get it done in the Super Bowl. We had done it earlier in the year. I think there is always a mentality, and you try to create that mentality.”
He continued, “We are going to continue to evaluate players that are going to fit into our defense and our scheme and what we do and what [defensive coordinator] Jack [Del Rio] likes. Two years ago, we were in the top five in scoring and yards given up. We know it is there. We just will continue to try to stay healthy next year and find some players to help on that side of the ball.”
The Broncos have a few needs on offense. Adding a wide receiver, offensive guard, running back or tight end in free agency or the draft could be in the cards.
More needs are found on the defensive side. The team needs to add at least one cornerback this offseason. That could mean re-signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. With Chris Harris coming off a postseason knee injury, the Broncos could be interested in adding more than one cornerback for depth purposes.
Cornerback isn’t the only position of need in the secondary. Denver would be wise to get an upgrade at safety as well. The team needs to get younger, faster and more athletic at the position. This is why a guy like Calvin Pryor (Louisville) could be an option in the 2014 NFL draft.
The Broncos need to find a new “Smoke Dog” Al Wilson. They have lost some swagger defensively since Wilson was forced to retire after the 2006 season due to a neck injury. They’ll look into free agents like D’Qwell Jackson (among others) and may be interested in trading up to land an elite talent like C.J. Mosley (Alabama) in the draft.
The team also needs to add more pass-rushers. This could include more outside linebackers and defensive ends.
The Broncos can’t rely on Von Miller coming back at full strength. He suffered a knee injury in Week 16 against the Houston Texans, and his status for the start of training camp is up in the air right now.
They also can’t rely on Quanterus Smith in 2014. He’s coming back from the knee injury that cut his final season at Western Kentucky short. It will be a bonus if they can build a better pass rush with Smith as a key piece.
This is why drafting players like Dee Ford (Auburn) makes sense for the Broncos. Expect the team to also strongly pursue free-agent defensive end Shaun Phillips. He led the team in sacks last year with 10, and there’s a good possibility he would return to Denver for the right price.
Offense sells tickets, while defense wins championships. The Broncos are building to win another championship in 2014.
Note: All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. All contract information for individual players is from Spotrac.com. Draft grades all from NFLDraftScout.com. Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.