Denver Broncos Veterans Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
Because of these moves, several veteran players who have been with the team will have their work cut out for them to keep their starting positions or, in some cases, their spot on the roster.
Whether it be due to poor performance, injury or a big-name free agent coming in, here is a look at six Broncos who will be facing a lot of pressure heading into the 2014 season.
The Broncos were faced with problems at the center position early in training camp last season when Dan Koppen went down with a season-ending injury.
The Broncos seemed to be panicking when they brought in Ryan Lilja and Steve Vallos off the street, hoping one of them could help out. Instead, they ended up turning to Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez had filled in the previous season at guard, starting 11 games with Chris Kuper injured.
Ramirez played well for the most part, earning the trust of Peyton Manning. It was far from the relationship Manning once had with Jeff Saturday in Indianapolis, however, and that was evidenced by a high snap on the first play of Super Bowl XLVIII that resulted in a safety.
Ramirez will have every opportunity to keep his position as the team's starting center, but he will have to earn it this year by beating out much tougher competition.
The team signed Will Montgomery as a free agent from Washington before drafting Matthew Paradis in the sixth round out of Boise State.
Quinton Carter had a very promising rookie season in 2011, totaling 56 tackles and one sack while playing in all 16 games. He also had an interception in the team's playoff win over Pittsburgh.
The trouble is he hasn't really played since then.
With the development of Rahim Moore and the free-agent signing of T.J. Ward, Carter's chances of being a starter are basically zero. He'll have to make the team as a backup.
It will be very hard for a guy who has missed all but three games over the course of the past two seasons to do that.
Joel Dreessen will be entering his third season as a member of the Denver Broncos.
After a solid 2012 campaign, he regressed last season, catching just seven passes for 47 yards. He had 34 more catches the season before.
The major reason for his lack of production was the emergence of Julius Thomas, who turned into one of the most dangerous tight ends in the NFL last season.
With Thomas and all of the options Peyton Manning has at wide receiver, Dreessen is simply not needed.
Who is going to play middle linebacker this season for the Broncos? That will be one of the biggest questions this offseason.
The coaching staff and front office would probably like to see Nate Irving prove he is worthy of having the starting position, but it has been the Achilles' heel of the defense for the past few seasons.
Lamin Barrow, a fifth-round draft choice out of LSU, may be a better option than Irving.
He is solid against the run but needs to show that he can drop back in coverage at the NFL level. If he is able to do that, Irving may see a major drop in playing time.
Ronnie Hillman had everything he could have wanted right in front of him heading into the 2013 season—and he blew it.
Hillman was the leading candidate to start the season at running back, but his fumbling problems started in the preseason. That forced the coaching staff to question their decision.
Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball eventually passed him on the depth chart, and when Hillman fumbled the ball in back-to-back games in October (he only lost one of them), he was out of the rotation.
Hillman was among the team's inactive players for most of the rest of the season and wasn't a factor in their postseason run.
Ball is clearly the featured back now and will get most of the work in 2014. But Hillman might not even be his backup.
C.J. Anderson is a tough runner, and undrafted rookie Kapri Bibbs led the nation in rushing touchdowns last season at Colorado State. Both players could easily leapfrog Hillman in the pecking order.
Hillman's days in Denver could be numbered.
With the Broncos making upgrading their secondary a top priority, a veteran player like Tony Carter could be the odd man out.
The Broncos signed free-agent cornerback Aqib Talib and followed that up by using their first-round draft choice on Ohio State's Bradley Roby.
Chris Harris is one of the best players the team has on defense, and Kayvon Webster gained plenty of experience as a rookie.
That leaves Carter to fight off former third-round pick Jerome Murphy as well as undrafted rookies Jordan Sullen and Louis Young to remain with the team.