Denver Broncos: What's Next After the Initial Wave of Free Agent Signings?

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Denver Broncos: What's Next After the Initial Wave of Free Agent Signings?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos have arguably been the most successful team during the first wave of free agency. Titles aren’t won in March, but adding elite-level talent will help the Broncos make another run at the Super Bowl this season.

Most of their major needs have been taken care of already, but the roster puzzle they're putting together at this time is far from finished.

General manager John Elway has a clear vision of what he wants this team to be. As the offseason continues, we’ll gain more clues as to how he wants his 2014 Broncos to look.

Let’s look into the crystal ball and see what could be next for the Broncos.

 

Other Free Agents

The Broncos could certainly add more free agents if the price is right. They’ve already looked into adding more players at positions of need this offseason.

With guard Zane Beadles moving on to the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, the Broncos could be taking a look at veteran Travelle Wharton (Panthers).

He was scheduled to visit with the Broncos last year, but that was later cancelled according to Bill Williamson from ESPN.com.

Wharton was a third-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2004 under former head coach John Fox. Reuniting Wharton with Fox makes a lot of sense.

Wharton reportedly has no intention to retire, and he could be a strong option for the Broncos at left guard.

 

 

Per Mike Klis, of the Denver Post, the Broncos recently worked out free agent Will Alexander (Washington). The veteran center was recently released from Washington, and was originally drafted by Fox and the Panthers in 2006.

Adding Alexander could mean the Broncos intend to move last year’s center, Manny Ramirez, back to his more natural position of guard. It’s also possible that Alexander could play guard, as he has experience at both positions.

The Broncos chose not to sign Alexander at this time, but they may look into it at a later date.

Klis also said he believes the Broncos could show interest in free-agent centers Brian De La Puente (Saints) and Samson Satele (Colts). They could also pursue free-agent guard Davin Joseph (Buccaneers) and keep Ramirez at center.

Other players the Broncos have worked out recently include Canadian Football League running back Kendial Lawrence (Tiger-Cats) and safety/cornerback Jordan Pugh—formerly of the New Orleans Saints.

 

 

They didn’t sign either one of these players either, but it shows the Broncos still have their radar up for veterans who could help their team.

 

Draft Needs

After the first wave of free-agent signings, the Broncos still have some glaring needs on both sides of the ball. Couple that with positions that need better depth, and a draft board starts emerging for this team.

At varying times in the draft, the Broncos could look to add more and more from the following positions.

  • Middle Linebacker
  • Offensive Line
  • Cornerback
  • Safety
  • Running Back
  • Wide Receiver
  • Defensive End
  • Outside Linebacker

 

Draft Targets

With the positions of need targeted, it’s time to look at players available at different points in the draft.

At middle linebacker they could go in a few different directions. They could spend a first- or second-round picks on guys like C.J. Mosley (Alabama) or Chris Borland (Wisconsin).

If they wait until the third or fourth rounds, adding a player like Shayne Skov (Stanford) would make sense.

The late rounds of the draft could still have players with potential available at the position.

If the Broncos don’t add a middle linebacker on Day 1 or Day 2, taking a guy like Max Bullough (Michigan State) on Day 3 would be wise.

A player on the offensive line they could add is center Weston Richburg (Colorado State). He’s arguably the best player at his position, and has the ability to be a quality starter for 10 years. Matt Bitonti, from DraftDaddy.com, recently said during an interview on Ridin' Shotgun (ESPN radio) that Richburg reminded him a little bit of former Colts center Jeff Saturday.

Cornerback has to be a position the Broncos are considering. Kayvon Webster is currently third on the depth chart, but the team may want more (better) competition at the position behind starters Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.

Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) or Bradley Roby (Ohio State) would be quality additions as picks in the first or second rounds. If the Broncos wait at the position, Chris Davis (Auburn) would be a great pick near the end of Round 4. Davis would give them cornerback depth and immediately contribute as a return man.

Safety was addressed in a big way when they added T.J. Ward. He’s a violent strong safety who gives the team a swagger on defense they didn’t have last year.

In the draft, a first-round possibility is Calvin Pryor (Louisville). Like Ward, Pryor is known as a big-hitter who can intimidate opponents.

If the Broncos wait, Marqueston Huff (Wyoming) could be an option. He can play cornerback, but is likely better off playing free safety at the pro level.

It looks like 2014 could be time for Montee Ball to shine as the team’s featured runner. That means the Broncos will be looking for additional help at the position behind Ball and C.J. Anderson.

Early-round guys like Jeremy Hill (LSU) or Carlos Hyde (Ohio State) would fit the stronger ground game the Broncos are looking for. After spending a second-round pick on Ball last year, it seems unlikely the team would spend a similar pick on the running back position the following year.

Late-round prospects may be the better way to go here.

Andrew Mason, from DenverBroncos.com, lists guys like Kapri Bibbs (Colorado State), Storm Johnson (UCF) and James White (Wisconsin) as potential fits on the final day of the draft.

Another third-day pick the Broncos could be interested in is Isaiah Crowell (Alabama State). He’s arguably the most naturally talented runner in this draft class, but Crowell was dismissed from the Georgia Bulldogs after his freshman year.

Crowell has stayed out of trouble for the last two years, and his blend of size/power/speed could look good in orange and blue.

Even though the Broncos added Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, adding a rookie wide receiver could happen. This class of wide receivers is incredibly talent-rich and deep.

The second round seems like the place with most value at the position. Players like Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt), Jarvis Landry (LSU) or Paul Richardson (Colorado) may be available at that time.

Matthews and Landry have skill sets similar to that of former Broncos receiver Eric Decker. Both have strong hands and can run crisp routes, although neither has elite speed.

Elite speed is the name of the game for Richardson. He can take the top off a defense in a hurry, and Richardson plays a lot like DeSean Jackson (Eagles).

If the Broncos wait until the third day of the draft, there will still be quality (although less-talented) options.

Shaquelle Evans (UCLA) or Jeremy Gallon (Michigan) might be added to develop. They could initially compete for a backup spot as the team’s fifth-string receiver.

Defensive end may be the position the Broncos go with in the first round. Outside linebacker is also a possibility.

They added DeMarcus Ware in free agency, but the Broncos would be wise to continue stockpiling pass-rushers.

At the end of the first round, defensive end Dee Ford (Auburn) would be a great addition. He’s a bit undersized, so Ford would initially have to contribute as a part-time pass-rusher. His tenacity and multiple moves to get to the quarterback could make him an impact player in the NFL.

If the Broncos opt to go with outside linebacker, Ryan Shazier (Ohio State) could be their man. Shazier has the ability to play both outside and inside at the pro level. He tested off the charts during the pre-draft process, running a 4.36 40-yard dash at the Buckeyes’ pro day earlier this month. He could be an exciting player to watch in Denver.

Late-round pass-rushers aren’t as talented, but guys like defensive end Larry Webster (Bloomsburg), defensive end Taylor Hart (Oregon) or outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (Colorado State) all have developmental upside.

 

Restructuring Players

With cornerback Champ Bailey's release and guard Chris Kuper retirement, the Broncos freed up around $15 million in cap space. Those two transactions prevented them from having to restructure any deals.

However, that doesn’t mean the Broncos won’t restructure a few veterans before the start of the regular season.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Tight end Joel Dreessen may be a candidate for restructuring his deal. He fought through a knee injury most of last season, and Dreessen barely saw any playing time when he was healthy. He’s got a $3.1 million cap number with only around $667,000 in dead money.

Fellow veteran tight end Jacob Tamme might also be asked to take a pay cut in 2014. He has a $3.5 million cap number, with only $500,000 in dead money. Tamme is a favorite of quarterback Peyton Manning, but that doesn’t mean he’s above being asked to restructure.

Veteran defensive tackle Mitch Unrein could be asked to restructure his deal. He’s a good rotational player who is scheduled to count over $1.4 million against the cap with zero in guaranteed money.

Asking a player to restructure their contract isn't personal, it’s just business. The Broncos are savvy when it comes to salary-cap gymnastics. Restructuring at least a small handful of veterans is a distinct possibility.

 

Summary

What position should the Broncos address in the first round of the draft?

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The Broncos are building to make another run at the Super Bowl in 2014. The first wave of free agency landed them some of the biggest names in all of football.

They could still add a few free agents before the draft. Perhaps the most likely to sign in the near future is Wharton—provided the price is acceptable for the Broncos. One thing has been clear during this free agency process; the Broncos have a set price for each position and they won’t overpay.

Denver is putting together their draft board at this time. As private workouts happen, the board will get fine-tuned until the team is ready for the draft.

Before the start of the regular season, the Broncos could also look to restructure a few deals of current veterans on the team.

No matter what is next for the Broncos, it’s sure to be exciting with Elway in command.

 

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 courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey. 

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